Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chair "Buck" Mauls the Language He Purports to Protect

Representative “Buck” McKeon and all members of the House Education and Work Committee:

I read that you are one of the most outspoken advocates for an English-only language provision that forbids printing ballots in any language except English. The ability of people with such sentiments to handle English themselves always interests me as a retired college English teacher. So I checked your site randomly to see how well you use Standard English yourself.

I often wonder whether this invoking English-only barriers for immigrants comes more from the prejudice of xenophobia than from reverence for the language. If people are concerned enough about language to dictate its use to others, they should demonstrate more competence in their own treatment of the English tongue.

Below are excerpts with the mistakes flagged and explained.

lee drury de cesare
Madeira Beach, FL 33708

This website not only allows me to listen to what you have to say, it is also intended to be a resource for YOU.

You have committed a grammar felony in this construction: the dreaded comma splice. You should have a period or a semicolon after “say.” The use of all capitals for emphasis is comic-book, sophomoric practice. Change “YOU” to “you.”

This flexibility is essential, particularly in California, where the state has already reduced class size and there are thousands of emergency credentialed teachers in the classroom.

After “size,” you violate one of the simplest comma rules: one should put a comma between two independent commas joined by a coordinating conjunction. “Emergency” and “credentialed” modifying “teachers” are two words that act as a single adjective before the noun. They thus get a hyphen (emergency-credentialed teachers”) for clarity. One notes that you use this convention sometimes and sometimes ignore it. Be consistent.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan, good-faith negotiations that took place in recent weeks, as the bill neared House consideration, are quickly falling victim to election year politics.

The adverbial clause is restrictive: no commas.

The “Raid on Student Aid” is a clever – yet completely disingenuous – slogan orchestrated by opponents of congressional efforts to rein-in runaway entitlement spending under the Deficit Reduction Act.

You wrongly hyphenate “rein-in.” This construction is an open compound.

First, some clarification about the purported “Raid”: Opponents of reform have lashed out at the Deficit Reduction Act’s provision allowing a fixed 6.8 percent interest rate on student loans to take effect on July 1, 2006, as already planned under current law, to provide students certainty in the future.

There is no reason to capitalize “Raid.” The comma after “law” is redundant: it cuts off a restrictive infinitive phrase.

Before coming to Congress, Rep. McKeon served on the William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1987. During that time, the city of Santa Clarita was incorporated and its citizens selected McKeon as a member of the city council.

You again omit putting a comma between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.

Santa Clarita expanded its sheriff’s and parks programs and earned a reputation as one of the safest cities in America.

Be consistent: Either treat “sheriffs” and “parks” as attributive nouns with no apostrophes; or treat them both as possessive with apostrophes: “sheriffs and parks programs” or “sheriffs’ and parks’ programs.”


Blogger Matt said...

>After “size,” you violate one of the simplest comma rules: one should put a comma between two independent commas [sic] joined by a coordinating conjunction.<

Geez, Lee. You rant about people who insert commas incorrectly. You insert the whole word itself incorrectly! Fantastic!

The rule obviously is not as simple as you maintain. Either this is the case or you are just too incompetent to cite it accurately.

Oh, and "... joined by a coordinating conjunction" is a limp (as you would write) passive verb.

... one should put a comma between two independent clauses that a coordinating conjunction joins.

Oh lovely; active is so much better. You agree, no?

2:33 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

>Below are excerpts with the mistakes flagged and explained.<

Flagged and explained by whom? Surely you could have avoided the passive voice here! You have hidden the culprit behind a passive verb. Oh, no!

2:41 AM  

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