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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

March 31, 2009

True Facts or Real Facts

I heard this one on TV. Who am I kidding. I’ve heard this screamer plenty. It was only last night that the blog entry came to mind. My question is what are false facts? My answer is there aren’t any.

Facts are true and real by definition. My beloved American Heritage dictionary has a usage note. It says that adjectives can modify facts for emphasis. Phooey. It goes on to say, “The true facts of the case implies something different from the facts of the case, which can refer to all the particulars surrounding the case, not just to what actually happened to bring the case about.” Double phooey. What an incredibly weak rationalization.

Just the facts, ma’am.

March 30, 2009

Me and I

Pronouns are sticky for so many people. After all, they’re the only words we have that have case endings. In fact, they change form completely. Let’s deal with the one that gets murdered the most frequently: when to use I and when to use me.

OK, I is used as the subject of a sentence or a clause. For example, “I pledge allegiance.” Or, “Wherever I go, you follow.”

Me is used as a direct object and object of a preposition, For example, “He threw me in the air.” Or, “Give it to me.”

OK, those were easy and understandable. However, when there is more than one object, especially when used with a preposition, there’s a tangle. To most of you this sounds right, “Let’s keep this between you and I ” Wrong! See the preposition “between”? That means the proper word is me. Between you and me!!

One way to check whether you’re using the right form is to remove the other object and see whether it sounds right. Between I sounds a little funky, doesn’t it. Even if you wrote or said, between I and you, it still sounds wrong.  Actually, just out of habit you wouldn’t say between I and you. You’d say between me and you, and that’s sort of all right except English convention says to put yourself last in any similar construction.

Now in the future, when you’re editing your own work, which you do religiously, I know, you’ll stop when you see an I or me and make sure it’s the right word. Remember, grammar check only gives you a choice and a feeble definition. You must know for yourself which word is the right one.

That’s all a girl can ask for.

March 27, 2009

Then and Than

Then and than are not the same word, and spell checker WILL NOT catch the error. Even some grammar checkers don’t, or if they do, they tell you to choose and give a slipshod definition. Spell and grammar checkers are not the end of the editing process. Ever.

Then means at a certain time. For example, between then and now.

Than means a comparison. For example, I’d rather be me than you.

Just watch your fingers when you type, and when you edit the manuscript or project or whatever (you do that, don’t you?), keep an eye out for this very common problem.

We’ll be dealing with different than and different from at another time.

March 25, 2009

Writing Tip

After you’ve written a report or term paper or whatever, do a global search for the word that. Read the sentence. Does the sentence read just as well without “that’? Then, take it out. Remember what Strunk and White say, “Omit needless words.”

BTW, if you want to write and you don’t have The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, go get it. It’s the handiest and quickest little book on grammar and writing ever.

March 23, 2009

Where have all the copyeditors gone?

This was in the New York Daily News. Oh lord, give me strength.


Look closely at the caption. “Where Liam Neeson and her were married.” HER! HER! HER! For crying out loud, this is a newspaper, not the best one ever, but still a newspaper. So, why is some illiterate writing a caption that has the wrong pronoun as the subject of the clause? And then as if that weren’t enough, they were married 15-year earlier? How about 15 years earlier. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!

Where, for heaven’s sake, was the copyeditor? Oh, I know, newspapers don’t have them anymore because there’s spell checker. There are courses on grammar for journalists, so why don’t they take them?

Hey, colleges and universities out there, make grammar a required course for J majors or even for Mass Comm majors. Please. In the name of all that’s holy, please.

Thanks (or maybe not) to friend Laurie for this smack in the face. Oh, OK, it’s pretty funny too. Something the few remaining good copyeditors in the world can have a groan over.

March 22, 2009

Terror and Terrorism

I know I’m being persnickety. (That’s what makes me a good copy editor.) I know the media want a good sound bite, and saying “The War on Terrorism” will have them tripping over their tongues in no time. I also know that saying “The War on Terror” isn’t completely wrong. However (you knew this was coming), the better word is terrorism. Let’s turn to my trusty and precise American Heritage dictionary. The third definition of terror is “the ability to instill intense fear.” The fourth definition is “violence committed or threatened to intimidate or coerce, as for military or political purposes.” Either of those definitions apply. Yet, here I am snivelling. So, why? Aha! Look at the definition of terrorism: “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence to intimidate or coerce societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.” Well, that’s better and more to the point.

Eventually, I know either expression will lose all meaning just as The War of Drugs has. That one went well, didn’t it.

March 20, 2009

Real and Really

People mix these two words up all the time. How often have I heard, “You look real nice.” Phooey. Real is an adjective. Really is an adverb. They have different jobs. Remember (or if you never knew, learn now), adjectives describe nouns; adverbs describe verbs, other adverbs and adjectives. So, in the example real, the adjective, is wrong because it can’t descibe an adjective (nice); really is right because it can describe an adjective. The sentence then is, “You look really nice.” Thank you; I think so too. I think I also look very nice, but that’s for another day.

March 17, 2009

See Saw Seen

I was talking to my friend Mike last night, and he said the screamer that sends him through the roof is “I seen.” He’s got that right. This formation is ubiquitous. I guess it happens because see is an irregular verb. The parts of see are: see saw seen. So, if you use it in a sentence, it’s: I see I saw I have seen.

“I seen” is just plain wrong, so cut it out.

BTW, my friend has his own blog on LA history and ghosts of LA. If you’d like to see it, go to www.mimlay.com. It’s really quite impressive.

March 16, 2009


The other day I was driving down Farifax and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a sign in front of an equity-waiver theater (oh, sorry, theatre, the way the Brits spell it. It’s pretentious, but I’m told by one who’d know that Actor’s Equity requires the British spelling in all its contracts. I say to Actor’s Equity, get a grip.) that said “In Memorium.” Apparently, someone the actors and others cared for had died, and they were expressing their sadness. Just not enough to spell memoriam right. Sheesh.


March 12, 2009

well and good

In general, adverbs seem to be disappearing. Adjectives are replacing them, and grammatically it’s wrong. The one that chafes me the most is using good instead of well.

One of the problems is that well can also be an adjective. As an adjective it means to look healthy. For example, you look well. It can also mean physical appearance. For example, you look well in that dress (not good although that’s what nearly eveyone says). Finally, it means everything is OK. For example, everything is going well.

Well the adverb means to do something satisfactorily. For example, Lincoln split that log well.

Well, well, well really is a deep subject. Ha, I just amused myself.

Good is always an adjective and means average or above average. For example, you’re in a good mood.

Ok, then, remember the word good is always an adjective, so it can’t modify a verb because that’s what adverbs do. Do this and we’ll all be good.

Important Note: The only one who can use good as an adverb is James Brown, and since he’s not strictly speaking about his health, good is good. He feels good; he told you he would. i-feel-good

March 11, 2009

Apostrophe Catastrophe, Part Deux

This screamer I see everywhere: ‘009. The little mark before the numbers is supposed to be an apostrophe, but most times it isn’t; it’s an open single quote. This mistake started to happen when we all went to desktop publishing. Computers don’t know when it’s supposed to be an apostrophe or an open single quote. It’s the same key. Well, on Macs there’s a special character: Option Shift ] (bracket). On PCs just type a letter, type the apostrophe, then delete the letter, and there’s the apostrophe. Easy peasy.

March 8, 2009

its and it’s

Well, after my IP finally fixed itself (down for 3.5 hours), we can talk about those two little words. They may be little, but they trip people up all the time.

It’s means it is. The apostrophe means that letters are missing; in this case an i. For example, it’s a nice day.

Its means belonging to it, a possessive.  For example, its tentacles reached out for the unsuspecting diver.

Now, you know.

March 5, 2009

The Apostrophe Catastrophe

Today, I didn’t even try to load my pages. Too much frustration.

I’m not too frustrated to whine about the misuse of the apostrophe. How we got into this mess, I have no idea. Let me say this loud and clear: Apostrophes are very seldom used to make plurals. I know the majority of the population thinks it’s right. It ain’t.

So, in the interest of clarity:

The apostrophe indicates letters are missing, e.g., can’t. An N and an O are missing. Actually, there are more rules about apostrophes, but you can look at them in Punctuation, when and if I get it loaded.

My main point is don’t make plurals with the apostrophe. People like to do it, especially with surnames: the Clark’s. Oy vey. It’s the Clarks. Remember this for the end of the year holidays. When you’re addressing your envelopes, the Clark’s is a no-no.

Now, you know.

March 4, 2009


Ta-da. I figured out the template upload/download/everywhere you go load.

every day everyday

OK, since I can’t figure out how to get my pages loaded or the template I want loaded or even how to get the name of the blog in that blue space, I’ll do this because this I know how to do. Oh, and how do I get rid of the two “Abouts”? One will do.

Every day and everyday do not mean the same thing and are not interchangeable. Everyday (one word) means ordinary, commonplace. Every day (two words) means on a daily basis.

Now, you know.

March 2, 2009

Welcome to Prose Parade

I named my blog Prose Parade because I live in Pasadena near the Rose Bowl, and I’m a copy editor and writer. Cute, huh. Well, they can’t all be gems.

Eventually, the blog will have several pages with information on the parts of speech, the parts of a sentence, spelling, punctuation, and syntax and style. Also, every day I’ll post my daily rant about the screaming grammatical errors I see and hear in my everyday life.