A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
It’s contest time once again, dear readers. Your challenge: pick out the errors in the boldfaced, somewhat nonsensical and imaginary piece of fiction (fictional fiction, if you will) below, and correct each one. Note: there are no punctuation errors (not even apostrophes!), so concentrate on finding incorrect words, word structure and redundancies. And don’t edit for clarity. Just find the errors.
You may want to re-type the passage or copy it from our website—outandaboutnow.com—then insert the corrections within the paragraph and submit that. Or, you may decide to list the mistakes and corresponding corrections. Just make sure your entry is clear and understandable. The first correct—or most correct—entrant will win a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant. And, of course, the ultimate prize: your name in The War on Words.
Send entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline is July 31, 2018. The winner will be announced in the September issue.
It was 12 noon when we started out and 12 midnight when we hold up in the green, verdant woods behind the staple. We himmed and hawed about what to do next and had some ice tea while considering our quandry. Sam, who had a hair lip and was a cardshark, and Bill, who had never graduated high school, walked in my tent and then hoovered over me, siting the many incidences where I had lead us astray. I told them there point was mute. We needed to hone in on a plan. I finally reverted back to another time when we had a tough road to hoe between the three of us. I explained the whole entire situation to them, but they seemed disinterested, so I shoed them away and mentally concentrated on thinking about our future to come. I already had a pit in my stomach because we had come within a hare’s breath of getting caught. We had already killed the golden goose, and the calvary was coming after us, but that was a whole nother subject. Finally, I went outside to bring my plan to them.
Online headline in News Journal: “Battle Against Artesian Wastewater Wages on.” You simply wage a battle (no need for “on”), but it rages on.
Nate Davis, in USA Today, committed this dangler: “Coming off a Pro Bowl season, the stars seemed to be aligning for him (Saints running back Mark Ingram).” Ingram was coming off a Pro Bowl season, not the stars.
Keith Pompey, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a story about Villanova’s Mikal Bridges: “He said he mimics his game after Golden State all-star Draymond Green.” To mimic is to imitate, so this cumbersome and incorrect phrase could’ve been shortened to: “mimics Draymond Green’s game.” Or, he “fashions/tailors his game after Draymond Green’s.”
Because, Since, As
English allows us several ways to express “because.” Let’s eliminate the wordy options, such as “owing to the fact that,” “due to the fact that” or “the reason why.” “Since” and “due to” are acceptable, but avoid “as.” You will seldom see it in the works of contemporary professional writers. It’s weak, vague, and, as one commentator has noted, “has no backbone.” Example: “Let me know, as I would be happy to send additional information.”
The primary Merriam-Webster definition of “as” is “to the same degree or amount—e.g., as soft as silk, twice as long.” None of the three definitions includes “because.”
Literallys of the Month
First, we have the WDEL weatherman who, commenting on an increase in temperatures, reported: “We literally flipped the switch.”
And the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle produced two winners, according to reader Larry Kerchner:
• A TV commentator said that, after the wedding ceremony, Harry and Meghan will “literally hit the ground running.” Really? In that gown?
• Meredith Vieira, in a post-procession interview, stated, “I was literally blown away.” And yet there she was.
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Seen a good (bad) one lately? Send your candidates to firstname.lastname@example.org