Monday, February 25, 2008

Les Girls Collins and Dowd Cuff Around Grammmar and Punctuation

Gloria and Lee at an early '70s conference in Houston

Op-Ed Columnist

Captive to History’s Caprice


Published: February 17, 2008

he is just giving false Hopi...

Strunk & White pleads with us not to use superfluous adverbs.

The passionate palaver about Hillary versus Barry rages on, with each side certain it is right about our fate if we end up with a President Obama or another President Clinton.

The comma after “rages” is redundant: it cuts off a restrictive trailing adverbial clause. You have a better sentence if you dump the redundant adverb "on."

She could simply say he’s all cage and no bird.

Redundant adverb should disappear : Strunk & White.

But is she right, that he’d be a callow leader, too trusting of Republicans, dictators and terrorists?

The redundant comma after “right” cuts off a restrictive adverbial clause modifying the predicate adjective “right.” "That” clauses are almost always restrictive.

Is Bill right, that voters should not be swayed by eloquence and excitement? (Unless he’s running.)

The comma after “right” is wrong for the same reason as above.

The parenthetical “unless he’s running” is not a sentence so should not have a capital or period inside the parentheses. Solution:” …excitement (unless he’s running). Or this would work: “…and excitement—unless he is running.”

Or is Obama right, that Hillary would ensure that the acrid mood of the last 15 years would continue to paralyze Washington, appall Americans and shrink our standing in the world?

The comma is wrong for the same reason as the above two citations.

I covered W. promising a humble foreign policy and no nation-building.

“W’s promising”: possessive before the gerund. This is the umpteenth time I have pointed out this error. Your style manual cites it.

Voters try to figure out who they trust to have life-and-death power over them

Dowd joins Collins ( below) in cuffing around the objective pronoun: “who” should be “whom,” object of the verb “trust.”

…or how they will be buffeted by the caprice of history, and the randomness of crises.

The comma after history is unneeded: it splits a compound object of the preposition “by.” The passive verb weakens the sentence: "...or how history and the radomness of crises will buffet them."

They inevitably get hit with trouble that they never could have imagined or prepared for, and that can trigger self-doubt and self-destruction and self-pity.

“Inevitably” is a redundant adverb that should go.

Why didn’t J. F. K. simply toss out the C.I.A. plan developed under Eisenhower to send 1,200 exiles to overthrow a popular Cuban leader with a force of 200,000?

“Simply” is the style-killer redundant adverb.

She knows now that being obstructionist and secretive don’t work.

Here’s a grammar felony subject-verb agreement error. The subject of the verb is one gerund phase with two adjectives “obstructionist” and “secretive” The verb should be singular:” doesn’t work.”

The Mittification of McCain
Published: February 16, 2008

The Mittification of McCain


Published: February 16, 2008

The Senate votes on a Democratic economic stimulus plan, which would give more help to the unemployed, veterans and senior citizens than the version President Bush wants.

The comma after "plan" cuts off a restrictive adjective clause unless the Democrats have had only one stimulus plan since the beginning of time.

McCain’s inconsistency is actually nothing new.

"Actually" is the redundant adverb against which Strunk & White pleads. This one makes Collins sound like a California valley girl.

McCain opposed the tax cuts as unwise and unfair, and then opposed getting rid of them under the theory that it would be a shock to the upper-income people who benefited from them and never noticed they were scheduled to expire.

The comma after "unfair" splits the compound verb "opposed" and "opposed."

…being has to remain on the books for all eternity.

My ear says dump "all"; it's wordy and spoils the music of the sentence. Somerset Maughm admitted he had no ear for the music of language. The affliction must be like my oldest's sister not being able to carry a tune. We used to run from her when we wanted to harmonize.

The senator from Arizona is clearly unhappy about the possibility of having to run against Barack Obama, who he has disliked ever since Obama had the temerity to present himself as a campaign finance reformer without McCain’s permission.

"Clearly" is the despised redundant adverb.

Ms. Collins joins Ms. Dowd in backhanding the objective case for “who.” Maybe they are trying to gain admittance to the masthead boys’ treehouse by cuffing around “whom” to sound rough and tough.

And the fact that the 46-year-old Obama keeps referring to the 71-year-old McCain as a military hero, in tones that suggest the conflict in question was the Spanish Civil War, doesn’t help.

“The fact that” is a cliché and usually inaccurate. It is here.

The commas around "in tones..War" are redundant: they cut off a restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase.

After all the questioning was over, the Democrats felt Clemens was a liar and the committee chairman called Brian McNamee, his weaselly ex-trainer, “very credible.”

This is the rare omitted comma needed before a coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses. I know Ms. Collins is not an Aunt Tom because she wrote a good book on women’s struggle. But she must stop the "chairman" linguistic discrimination and convert it to "chair" so that we sisters can enter the language. Language not only reflects reality; it also perpetuates it.

Meanwhile, the Republicans on the committee said McNamee was an unreliable drug dealer and their leader suggested Clemens was the victim of a “lynching.”

Compound sentence needs comma after "dealer."

health care negotiations

“Health-care” should be a hyphenated adjective before a noun.

Do you wonder if this is really going to work when the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was posturing for network news and still couldn’t even agree on whether Roger Clemens is a jerk?

Two redundant adverbs blight this sentence. The first one is the deadly California valley girl patois. Dump them.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Left: Taken at the Women's March for Choice, at which we had a million march to protect women's right to abortion. To the right is my husband of 51 years at the wedding of a young woman in San Diego who was our first baby born in the old Tampa NOW after we formed it. She grew up to be a gynecologist who must dodge the anti-choice crazies, which is why I don't give her name. lee

At last somebody who will let me use his name pops up. I met this young man at the teacher protests at the board against the extra period that Elia downloaded on the teachers without warning.

My belief is that it is liberating to attach your name to what you say and what you do. In reputation lies safety is my view. And people like Elia and her hangers on, which include the board, will never crumple to dust unless we fight and fight in the open. Hats off to Bruce. lee

It was nice to see your e-mail, and to know that you are still fighting for our students. Teacher morale is lower than I can remember in my 23 years of teaching, and many great educators have quit the system rather than put up with the exploitation. It seems the only hope we have is to change the board, for our superintendent gets little resistance from the present group. Some well placed reporting on the issues raised in your note would help shake things up a bit. I will be more than happy to discuss the issues with any interested reporters. Keep in touch. Bruce

By the way, I was punished severely for speaking out. I lost my dual enrollment classes and was given regular level world history to teach. I taught honors level for 16 years, but those classes were given to first and second year teachers who were more cooperative with our administration. Many others were punished as well. It has been a rough year, but we will get through it with our dignity intact. Since the arrival of our present APC dual enrollment has shrunk to one class of Freshman English, whereas we used to have classes in science, social studies, math and English. We do have ten sections of AP Human Geography, though, for ninth graders. Remember, Ms. Elia's bonus money in part comes from the numbers enrolled in AP, not how many actually pass the test. Yes I teach history. I have been at Armwood for 23 years and until the present APC arrived was considered one of the better teachers here. I still am with the faculty and students, which in the long run is all that matters. The retaliation was for speaking out against the 6/7 day. Our administration even went so far as to tell faculty members in their evaluation session to stay away from those teachers who are "cancerous to their careers". James Goeb was chosen Teacher of the Year this year, which must have been a slap in the face to the administration, for he was the most vocal opponent of 6/7.

I hoped the principals were not involved in Elia's dirty business, but apparently they are. I guess they know that they will lose their jobs if they don't play along. But wouldn't it be wonderful if just one of them stood up and said, "No, I will not punish my teachers for using their Constitutional right to free speech. We can't have a democracy unless we have free speech."

I'd like to slap those young first- and second-year teachers silly for participating in the punishment of older colleagues by taking the jobs that the principals and department heads removed from teachers such as Bruce for protesting the extra class. They are ingrateful, short-sighted little twits. lee

Use my note as you wish, just keep it honest. I don't fear any further retaliation. I am a Vietnam Veteran so what else can they do to me? I speak and perform as a highly professional educator, so if the powers that be have a problem with me then their own professionalism is in question. Keep fighting for our children. Bruce

Elia Reigns Cracker Jack Queen

Press Release for Immediate


Tampa, Fla. (February 14, 2007)

Contact: Mickey Mouse or Goofy at the

Office of Hot Air at the ROSSAC administration-board bunker.

The Intergalactic Cracker-jack Gimcrack Education Foundation Group for Cracker Jack Nobels

Names Elia Superintendent of the Millennium!

–The award carries with it all the esteem that it deserves, says the Intergalactic Crackerjack Education Foundation Group for Cracker Jack Nobels;

It also carries with it a Dempsey Dumpster of Cracker Jacks dumped on Ms. Elia's ROSSAC bureaucrat bunker on the podium in the board room.


This coveted award comes from the following Elia achievements:

*Pumping up her salary to $300,000, highest among the nation’s greedy superintendents;

*Stealing her “bonus” money from the teachers’ work of raising student scores;

*Keeping her bonus money tied to how many are enrolled in AP, not how many pass the test;

*Dominating a servile board into working for her, not for taxpayers, students, and teachers;

*Letting the adulterous Board Chair La Belle Dame sans Merci Man-eater Falliero savage parents when they come to the mike in board meetings to petition for redress of grievances;

*Mauling the English language by not learning basic grammar and punctuation that the students in her education-plantation racket must pass to graduate;

*Inserting kindergarten sycophants, early-childhood suck-ups, and home-ec sadists into $100,000 plus administrative perches who often need pricey consultants with flash cards brought in to teach them how to do their jobs;

*Laughing all the way to the bank

Hillsborough County Intergalactic Cracker-jack Gimcrack Education Foundation President Daffy Duck Bill Hoffman nominated Elia for her support of the Foundation and its programs.

Daffy Duck Bill specifically notes Elia’s active support for the Foundation’s Shut-the-Teachers-Out-of-All-Decisions-Affecting-Education

*Punishing teachers by such petty retaliation as messing up teachers' schedules if they spoke at the board in protest of Elia’s dumping another class onto teachers’ daily class load in the Elia sneak attack not opposed by the supine board;

*Making the Professional Standards Office the Hillsborough County Schools Abu Ghraib of the state;

*Treating sniveling board members like her palace varlets;

*Gadding around the state with swelled head and hypertrophied ego to attend bureaucrat summits on how to keep teachers demoralized so that the bureaucrats can continue lord it over school populations, to jerk around school employees, and to continue to raise their salaries because they have received so many Crackerjack prizes from other bureaucrats for achievement of Foundation goals of ripping off the teachers and reducing them to ciphers even though they and their students are the reason why there are schools in the first place.

*Training school-board members to mimic Pavlovian dogs’ automatic acquiescence every time she whistles that it is time to jump. These performers of doggie tricks are the duty of

Jennifer Faliero, Chair

Carol W. Kurdell, Vice Chair

Doretha W. Edgecomb

April Griffin

Jack R. Lamb, Ed.D.

Candy Olson

Susan L. Valdes

Elia received the award in the category of districts larger than 50,000 students. And in districts where the obsequious board members don’t give a damn about students and teachers.

Thunder! Lightening! Drum rolls! Ta tum-de diddle dum!

Backing up of the Cracker Jack dump truck to unload a gazillion Cracker Jacks on ROSSAC. Crash! Crunch! Grind! Pulverize! Macerate! Obliterate! Detonate! Entomb! Spread on the Sands of Time at Ozymandius' tomb!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Lament arrives in the mail below:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post " Ms. Elia:...":

They will never answer, because they have no defense. They are just blatantly doing as they please and to hell with the taxpayers. They will continue this unless more and more people start criticizing them.

Publish this comment.

Reject this comment.

Moderate comments for this blog.

Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 4:28 PM

My dear, do not despair. A granny with ten grandchildren for whom to make the world a place better is on the case. lee

I see below that I misfiled a piece that should have gone into my Grmmargrinch blog. It critiques the grammar and punctuation of the Washington Post and NYT and has a lively readership. I will leave this misfiled piece on Casting-room-couch to remind what skills a good English teacher at HHH and a great Latin teacher there gave me fifty years ago.

Teachers affect eternity: not administrators, not board members but teachers. Teachers must remember this legacy and cast a cold eye on the C-student didoes of ROSSAC and never fear to ream out those clowns that think the universe moves when they tell it to. lee

copy editors as villains

I yearned to meet Times copy editors responsible for letting slip by punctuation—and sometimes grammar--errors. I thought were not sufficient copy-editors to catch all errors I see The Times’s pages. Now I discover that the place swarms with them: 150. After reading the punctuation lucubrations of the army of Times copy editors in this piece, I discover that the copy editors need copy editors.

All 150 are to see me in my office after class.

The copy editors’ main flaws are the ones I saw in freshman English classes before I retired: redundant commas and modifiers ensconced in wordiness. Too many commas come from these copy editors’ frail grasp of sentence structure and lagging understanding that we use fewer commas now than in the past. Wordiness comes from redundant modifiers, passive verbs, and indulgence in throat-clearing fillers.

Times copy editors should heed what Wilson Follett says on commas:

“One, the loose or open system, corresponds to the natural pauses in the voice in speaking or in reading aloud; it may be called the oratorical or even rhetorical principle…. The second code of punctuation is the tight, closed, and structural; it depends…on the grammatical--which is to say the logical—relation of the parts (page 417).

“The historical trend for the past three or four hundred years has been away from the rhetorical style of punctuation…. The drive toward lean punctuation is such that even if we still wrote the complex, periodic sentences of Johnson and Macaulay, we should punctuate them much less heavily (page 418).

I come to NY for the Met’s Kirov Ring Cycle in July. Are there tours of the newsroom to see the swarm of copy editors? I will swap a lecture on redundant commas for this treat for a citizen from the outback just agog at NY sophisticates—especially the sophisticated NYT copy editors.

Ms. Perlman: Please share this greeting to all 115 copy editors from a close reader in the provinces. I live on the Gulf of Mexico: it's Chekov's "Seventh Ward."

Lee Drury De Cesare

15316 Gulf Boulevard

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Here follow my interpolations on NYT copy editors’ depredations:

But they also want to be sure that they, and thus you the reader, aren't left with a sense that they've come into the middle of a movie, or that they don't understand how something works, or that…

“The reader” is a nonrestrictive appositive: put a comma after “you.”The redundant comma after movie separates compound adjectival dependent clauses. to the Newsroom: Director
of Copy Desks Merrill Perlman
Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Monday, February 04, 2008

Kristol Mauls Commas


Published: February 4, 2008

Mr. Kristol is a conservative in politics but a profligate in commas. Is it too much to ask that a professional writer know comma lore?

lee drury de cesare

Normally reserved columnists and usually ebullient talk-radio hosts vie to express their disgust with McCain, and their disdain for the Republicans who are about to nominate him.

The redundant comma after “McCain” splits a compound object of the infinitive “to express.”

The ways of the world, and the decisions of our fellow Americans, occasionally warrant such a reaction.

Kristol splits a compound subject “ways” and “decisions” with a comma.

William F. Buckley, the father of the conservative movement, skewered liberals, but always with wit and élan.

The unneeded comma after “liberals” cuts off a restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase.

By 1980, bolstered by the growth-oriented doctrine of supply-side economics, and speaking the language of American uplift more than that of conservative despair, Ronald Reagan won the presidency.

The redundant comma after “economics” splits compound introductory participial phrases modifying “Ronald Reagan.”

Don’t tell us that it doesn’t matter if the next president voted to confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, or opposed them. Don’t close your eyes to the difference between pro-life and pro-choice, or between resistance to big government and the embrace of it.

The unneeded comma after “Court” splits compound verb “voted” or “opposed.”

The redundant comma after “choice” splits compound adverbial prepositional phrases.

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