Victor's Ramblings

Grammatical Ramblings.

When I'm reading an article, be it in printed form or on the net, my ability to concentrate on the author's meaning is often distracted by errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  My mind tends to dwell on the poor English. The article loses credibility.

My daughter tells me that the English language has changed since I was at school, which is about 50 years ago. Her theory is that many of the 'errors' are not  considered as such today, they merely form a part of our new, simplified and accepted way of speaking and writing.

Here are examples of some of the 'errors' that distract and annoy me.  I am keen to learn whether I am the only person in cyberspace who holds this view.
  • Machine-gun apostrophes. 
    This refers to the gratuitous insertion of apostrophes in all sorts of places where they are not needed. People today frequently place an apostrophe before the final s of a plural noun, when the standard English rule is: to make a noun plural, simply add an s at the end.   This still applies to numbers such as 1930, and acronyms such as LP and CD.

    Wrong Right
    Our pizza's are baked here by our master-chef Giovanni. Our pizzas are baked here by our master-chef Giovanni.
    The 1930's were marred by dreadful economic depression. The 1930s were marred by dreadful economic depression.
    Harry has lot's of LP's mixed with his CD's Harry has lots of LPs mixed with his CDs

    The apostrophe should only be used to indicate possession, (Mum's hat) or to mark the omission of some letters in a word or phrase ( I'm for I am).
    Correct examples with apostrophes Explanation
    This pizza's crust is far too hard. The crust belongs to the pizza (Possession)
    Harry's dog is fat and lazy. The dog is owned by Harry (Possession)
    She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes. She will be coming round --- (Omission)

    Here is an excellent article on the correct usage of apostrophes.

  • Collective nouns used with a plural verb.

    Many people seem to believe that words which describe a group of people, animals or things should be treated as plural, because there is more than one subject in the group. So they use the plural form of the verb. But there is only one group, and this is the grammatical subject of the sentence.  These 'group-nouns' are called 'collective' nouns.  If there is only a single group, the verb following must be singular. 
    Wrong Right
    The committee have decided to increase fees by 10%. The committee has decided to increase fees by 10%
    The victorious football team are coming to town to celebrate. The victorious football team is coming to town to celebrate.
    The fire-brigade attend hundreds of fires each month. The fire-brigade attends hundreds of fires each month.
      Several fire-brigades attend when the fire is catastrophic.
    The orchestra rehearse once a week. The orchestra rehearses once a week.
    Port Adelaide are playing two home games this month. Port Adelaide is playing two home games this month.
    MovieTrack Warehouse are having a monster sale.  (Genuine quote) MovieTrack Warehouse is having a monster sale.
    Our expert team are committed to having your car running at its best. (Genuine quote from publicity material issued by KMart Tyre and Auto) Our expert team is committed to having your car running at its best.

  • Complements with the verb 'to be'

    The rule that I was taught at school is - "The subject and the complement of the verb 'to be' must agree in number."  In other words, when using forms of the verb 'to be', singular subjects must have singular complements, and plural subjects must have plural complements. Words on the left of 'is'  'am'  'are' form the subject.  Words on their right form the complement. The complement describes the same person or thing as the subject. So they should both be singular, or both be plural.  The verb should also take the appropriate singular or plural form.
    Wrong Right
    There's three girls in the house     or There is three girls in the house. There are three girls in the house
    The clowns is very funny The clowns are very funny.
    There was fifty policemen in the street. There were fifty policemen in the street.
    Nitrogen and oxygen is gas. Nitrogen and oxygen are gases.

  • Incorrect singular and plural forms of words imported from other languages.
    Singular Plural Notes
    Words imported from Latin    
    Medium media The plural word 'Media ' is in widespread use these days, but many people do not realize that it is plural. They say 'One media' when they should say 'one medium'.
    Nucleus nuclei  
    Index indices  
    Agendum agenda Agenda is another plural word, often used as though it were singular. One item in the agenda is an agendum.
    Vertex vertices  
    Trivium trivia  
    Words imported from Greek    
    Criterion criteria Criteria is another plural word, often used as though it were singular. A single condition in the list of criteria is a criterion.
    Phenomenon phenomena  
    Words imported from Italian    
    Paperazzo paperazzi Since Princess Diana's death in Paris, everyone uses the word 'paperazzi'. But few realize its singular form is 'paperazzo'.