Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pronoun Problems, Passive Verbs, Wordiness SPTimes Editorial

Gentle Editorial Pooh-Bahs:

Your grammar and punctuation corrupt the children and frighten the horses.

Both alarm even senior citizens, who need no more shocks to frail systems in sunset years. The CDC confirms that septuagenarians who learned grammar and punctuation when literacy was still in vogue succumb to organ failure when reading such clotted prose festooned with grammar-punctuation errors as you produce below.

A neighbor condo dweller left a note on my doorstep that greeted me when I returned from a trip. It asks for comment on your abuse of pronoun-antecedent agreement. I forward these notes snail mail so that you can deposit them in the Editorial-Board vault to exhume and ponder during hair-shirt-prayer-and-repentance grammar séances at Mainstream Press high holy season.

Pray allow a homily by this 28-year-veteran English teacher and battler to sustain language so that we don’t regress to caves, grunt to communicate, and pick fleas off each other.

I insist that professional writers have no excuse for ignorance of the tools of their trade: grammar and punctuation. The ones who write for newspapers have no excuse for fit-to-bust editorial outpourings in pompous ex cathedra download expatiating on ethics and blah, blah, blah.

Having just returned from another Chicago Lyric Opera Ring Cycle, I recognize the morphology of the group to which I address this note. You editorial guys (and you are mostly y-chromosomers, leavened with but one or two Aunt Toms) exult in your perch in Woton’s Valhalla gods’ gated community. You get a ton of money to write verbose, illiterate sermons for hoi polloi, who, you flatter yourselves, hang on your words. You err. Your average reader skips editorials for sports and funnies, leaving you to affront the few above-average readers who trudge through your infelicitous lucubrations.

Isn’t there anybody at The St. Pete Times who knows grammar and punctuation? Isn’t there someone who can shrink flabby prose to more comely style than that below? I bet gems of language erudition labor in the bowels of the Nibelungen reporter caves, paid pittances and browbeaten by y’all Valhalla Lords-high-everything-else when you sweep through their realm on ascent to your big-shot aeries, where you confer on ways to torture political cravens who come to cower before your majestic presence and sweat out endorsement grillings or target-practice throwing spitballs into your garbage cans whilst pondering eschatological mysteries, The Meaning of Life, and whether the BUCs will go to the Superbowl.

Recruit one of these literate, low-paid Niblungen to edit your stuff. Pick one unafflicted with a tin ear for the music of language. In a pinch, send me language quandaries. Put them in the pumpkin at the northwest corner of my condo’s parking lot.

I shall use this editorial as cautionary example in my Grammargrinch blog. You can’t be serious when you copyright a spiel with flagrant grammar errors. The Chicago Manual of Style affirms that bad grammar resides outside copyright protection.

lee drury de cesare

Main problems: grammar; wordiness; passive verbs

The Bush administration might not appreciate the difference between campaign events that are paid [D1] for through private donations and official events put on [D2] with the public's money, but the Constitution surely [D3] does.
Everyone, regardless of their [D4] political affiliation, has a legal right to expect equal access to one of Bush's public presidential appearances. The First Amendment guarantees that government will not exclude anyone based on their[D5] political leanings. But disturbing reports have arisen around the country [D6] that entry into one of the president's Social Security speeches is being manipulated [D7] to keep out those who don't already support the president.
In Denver, three people were ushered [D8] out of a recent Bush speech because they had come in a car that sported a "No More Blood for Oil" bumper sticker. The group had done no protesting at the event, [D9] but were physically[D10] removed by a man who they thought was a Secret Service agent but came to learn [D11] was a local Republican staffer.
A similar incident occurred at the University of Arizona where a student with a "Young Democrats" T-shirt was barred [D12] from attending Bush's forum on Social Security. His ticket was crumpled [D13] up by a staff member. And in North Dakota, a blacklist of 40 people who were known progressives was used [D14] to keep them from attending a Bush speech.
This mind-set - that events must be sanitized so that no critics are anywhere near the president - permeated Bush's re-election campaign and has infected his administration. When Bush came to the Tampa Convention Center in February to tout his Social Security plan, tickets were passed [D15] out primarily through Republican Party groups and the offices of Republican elected officials. A spokesperson for Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, whose district encompasses the Convention Center, said that their[D16] office did not receive any tickets for the event and has never received tickets for any event put on by the Bush administration.
It is apparent that [D17] Bush and his handlers are afraid to allow even an inkling of dissent in the audience. By avoiding legitimate questions, sticking with those that are staged and scripted[D18] , and filtering out anyone who isn't willing to cheer the the [D19] president, the administration creates the illusion that the American people are fully behind the president.
373 words; 56 percent passive verbs


The Bush administration conflates private-donation and public-money events. The Constitution doesn’t.

Regardless of political affiliation, citizens deserve access to Bush’s public appearances. The First Amendment undergirds this right. Disturbing reports say the president’s handlers admit only supporters for his Social Security speeches.

Guards evicted three Denver citizens because their car sported a “No-More-Blood-for-Oil” bumper sticker. The group had not protested at the event, but a man who they thought was a Secret Service agent removed them. They later learned he was a Republican staffer.
At the University of Arizona, a staffer crumpled a student’s ticket and barred him because he wore a “Young-Democrats” T-shirt. In North Dakota, Bush operatives blacklisted and banned 40 progressives.
Shielding the president from criticism at these events repeats his re-election campaign. This mind-set infects his administration.

Republican Party groups and Republican elected officials received tickets to Bush’s February visit to Tampa Convention Center. The office of Jim Davis, D-Tampa, whose district includes the Center, says it has “never” received tickets for a Bush-event.

Bush and handlers fear even mild audience dissent. By sticking to scripted questions, avoiding legitimate ones, and excluding any but the president’s cheerleaders, the administration creates the illusion that the American people fully support the president.

204 words; 0 passive verbs

[D1]Passive verb


[D3]Redundant modifier; reread Strunk & White

[D4]Pronoun-antecedent disagreeing

[D5]Pronoun-antecedent disagreement

[D6]Redundant modifier



[D9]No comma Don’t divide a compound verb with a comma.

[D10]Redundant modifier: Read Strunk & White again.

[D11]Review your 9th-grade grammar text on wordiness.



[D14]PV and wordiness


[D16]PN-antecedent disagreement



[D19]Repeated word
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