Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conservative in Politics, Obtuse in Grammar

David Brooks, the token conservative op-ed-page guy, is a klunky writer who writes about interesting things. He writes about the interconnectedness of minds in “A Partnership of Minds” (7/20/07).

Joint and separate possession:

Here’s an error that is not—thank God--the usual superfluous-comma error. Brooks uses separate possession: "Douglas's and Carol's selves." His “selves” should be “self.” If he thinks that sounds hokey, then he can recast to “Douglas’s self and Carol’s self.”

Pronoun-antecedent agreement error:

“…but it’s not one of those stifling, collectivist theories that puts the community…”

“That” refers to “theories,” not to distant “one.” A pronoun usually refers to the closer antecedent. So “puts” should be “put.” The grammar checker flags this error. Mr. Brooks must think he is too flossy to use the grammar checker, but he needs all the help he can get. The grammar checker is not perfect, but it’s smarter than Mr. Brooks in this instance.

Redundant adverbs:

“…very congenital…”

“It’s not exactly…”

“…how interconnectedness actually works…”

Strunk & White hates these. Graham Greene refused to use them. Brooks should abstain.

Redundant capitalization:

“…Op-Ed column…”

Mr. Brooks’s writing one does not give it capitals any more than “sports column” gets capitals.


Blogger Matt said...

It sounds hokey because it is.

Let’s say that Douglas has a child named Dave. Carol has a child named Cheryl. By your logic: Douglas’s and Carol’s child are (is?) Dave and Cheryl. Wrong.

Douglas’s and Carol’s children are Dave and Cheryl. Right.

There are two children; there are two selves. Douglas has a self. Carol has a self. Douglas’s and Carol’s selves is correct.

Still don’t believe me? While you’re recasting, try the self of Douglas and Carol. Any fool (that is, most fools; I’ll make an exception in your case) can see that the selves of Douglas and Carol is correct.

Why not try a possessive reflexive pronoun or two? Douglas and Carol did it themself. Pump that into your spellchecker if that’s your strategy for checking spelling and grammar after twenty-eight years in the game.

3:59 AM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

Your charm is going to kill you one day, dear Sugarbritches. lee

6:48 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I doubt it; worrying about the incorrect apostrophe use of an English teacher with experience of 28 years could send me to an early grave long before that.

Now, are you going to apologise to Mr Brooks? Or are you going to keep saying that you are right?

8:04 AM  

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