Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mauling Pronouns on the Oberman Show

Mr. Keith Oberman:

I liked your comments on the failure of the president and the Congressional leaders in the Iraq war. But you should have said, “to him or her,” “not to he or she.” The preposition takes the objective case.

For mauling pronouns, you, sir, are today's Worst Person in the World.

lee drury de cesare

lee drury de cesare

Monday, May 21, 2007

NYT Editorial Makes Comma and Style Errors

This NYT editorial features the most frequent comma error, redundant commas, and most frequent style error, passive voice.

Why This Scandal Matters

Published: May 21, 2007

It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on.

The trailing adverbial “while” clause is restrictive: no comma.

. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and [until] the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.

The comma after “gone” splits compound adverbial clauses. A comma goes between two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction, not between two dependent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.

They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections.

Redundant comma splits a compound verb.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so.

“Were pressured” is a passive verb that hides actor(s). Who pressured the United States attorneys? “The White House and Republican party pressured the United States attorneys…”?

The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, that they investigated important Republicans, or that they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

Passive verb hides the actor: Who purged the nine prosecutors? Include the subordinating conjunction “that” before each subordinate clause in a series to emphasize parallel structure.

A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis comma and John Cragan COMMA of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

The non-restrictive prepositional phrases identifying the two professors get commas around each prepositional phrase.

A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states.

The “or considered for dismissal” is the second part of the compound past-participial phrases modifying “prosecutors”: no commas.

Young operatives like Ms. Goodling were apparently allowed to hire and promote based on party membership. Political appointees cleared the way for laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters, and brought litigation to remove Democratic-leaning voters from the rolls.

Passive verb hides the actors and deprives the reader of information: “allowed” by whom”? The redundant comma after “voters” splits a compound verb.

As a result of the purge, Tim Griffin, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, was installed as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas. Rachel Paulose, a 33-year-old Republican activist with thin prosecutorial experience, was assigned to Minnesota.

More pussyfooting passive verbs that hide the actor: “was installed” by whom? “was assigned” by whom?

But it also needs to insist on new leadership that will restore the department’s traditions of professionalism and impartiality, and re-establish that in the United States, the legal system does not work to advance the interests of a political party.

Redundant comma splits a compound verb.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Scot Lehigh's Misplaced Modifier

A woman in the House?

But this state has only ever sent Modifier goes here.three women to Congress –

Misplaced modifier: writers misplace “only” about 99.9 percent of the time. It should go before the word or phrase it modifies.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Local Talent: Steve Bosquet of the SPTimes Cuffs Around Language

Will lawmakers' pet projects withstand the same scrutiny they gave local budgets?

By STEVE BOUSQUET: Tallahassee Bureau Chief SPTimes
May 7, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Florida lawmakers spent the past two months criticizing cities and counties for excessive spending.

Now it's their turn to be held Wordy: Dump. accountable.

Now it’s their turn to be accountable.

The new state budget is stuffed with local projects sponsored by individual lawmakers.

Wimpy passive verb:

Edit: Lawmakers’ local projects stuff the state budget. 13 versus 6 words

They spent millions on the kinds of projects that cities and counties are preparing to cut from their own budgets under the Legislature's threat of mandatory property tax reductions. Wordy

Edit: They spent millions on projects the legislative property-tax-reductions threat caused cities and counties to cut from their budgets. 29 versus 18 words

Most of the projects are funded with one-time pots of nonrecurring money that under the state Constitution generally can't be spent for ongoing programs or salaries. Wordy - passive verb-redundant adverb

Edit: One-time nonrecurring money the state Constitution forbids using for ongoing programs and salaries funds most of the projects. 26 versus 18 words

So, while state employees won't get a pay raise, the budget includes $2-million for an expo in Wakulla County, $1.5-million for a rowing training center in Melbourne, and $50, 000 for an orchid festival in Miami. Good sentence: you get a star on the frig.

Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Boulevard, one of the state's ritziest addresses, awaits $1.3-million for "streetscape improvements." Upscale Coral Gables gets $100, 000 for a trolley depot. Frig star

Over the past eight years, Jeb Bush vetoed billions worth of projects - $449-million last year alone. He's gone, and lawmakers are as protective as ever of their right to tap the public purse for a boat ramp or a courthouse annex. Pulitzer bound

Some projects have a broad public benefit. The ones that don't are called "turkeys."

Passive verbs make boggy sentences.

Edit: Ones that don’t will earn “turkey” label.

Gov. Charlie Crist will decide which are which, using his line-item veto. He has not issued criteria for evaluating projects.

"Time will tell,” Crist said. "I think it's very important to be judicious, to review each of those items and try to have a measure if it's in the public interest."

Smiles aside, several of the governor's opening initiatives were ignored or slashed.

One problem with passive verbs is they hide the actor.

Edit: Smiles aside, lawmakers ignored or slashed several of the governor’s initiatives.

May 6, 2007

"The Legislature was beaten up by Jeb Bush in a lot of ways,” said lobbyist Ron Book. "But Charlie Crist will get plenty of what he wants and he'll get what he needs."

Ron Book gets the raspberry for that quoted passive verb; but you get the one for omitting a comma in the quote. Your forgot that for two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction get a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

Lawmakers blamed the trimming of Crist's budget priorities on tight fiscal times caused by a slide in tax collections, not on any philosophical disagreements.

Use a second preposition for parallelism.

Lawmakers still found hundreds of millions of dollars for projects in their hometowns, largely one-time expenditures for parks, water systems, courthouse renovations and anticrime programs. They paid for them using one-time money, which is largely not allowed for continuing programs. They also socked away more than $1-billion in the state's rainy day fund.

That “which” clause suffers from vague pronoun reference, thus puzzles the reader. Do you mean “by using one-time money”? What about “They paid for them with one-time money disallowed for continuing programs”? Dump those redundant adverbs. I would eschew “socked away.” The Pulitzer committee will turn up its nose at that moss-grown cliché and sniff that you are a linguistic hillbilly.

Health care advocates said Crist could have used his bully pulpit to get the bill passed. On May 1, he sent a one-sentence letter to Pruitt that said: "I respectively request your assistance in placing the following bill on the Senate Calendar for consideration."

Respectively”? It’s possible Crist said that--he's no Rhodes scholar, but I respectfully suggest you are the villain.

I will puke if I read "bully pulpit" one more time. I bet those legislative Panhandle scholars never heard the term in Tallahassee and that you will have to use flash card to teach them this locution. The use of such hoary cliches probably has sealed your reputation as the press intellectual of the capitol.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Luo's Flapping Participial Phrase, Redundant Subordinating Conjunction

With New Clout, Antiwar Groups Push Democrats


Published: May 6, 2007

But that diversity can also create some tense moments, as each of the groups have different constituencies and some of the groups are more invested in the Democratic Party than others.

Each has: don’t let an intervening prepositional phrase between the subject and verb throw you. Comma goes after “constituencies” for two-independent-clauses comma rule.

…to report back on progress being made by the Iraqi government.

Wordy: Dump flapping participial phrase.

He emphasized that the next emergency spending bill must be one “to end the war.”

If the subordinating conjunction “that” is not the subject of the subordinate clause, you may dump it. You have a cleaner, leaner sentence if you do here.

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