Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bad quotes

Okay, so I'm not at home right now, so I plan to either edit this one later for analysis or leave it up for grabs for anyone who needs something to write about. ;)

"Trips on cruise ships often appeal to the elderly, which was the case in one of the deaths," Ishikawa said.

Obviously, newswriters can't edit quotes, but if you were Ishikawa, what would you have wanted to say instead, retrospectively? haha.

I'm also pretty sure that this Sheehan guy would want to take back his "cancer issues" phrase here:

In addition, a 40-year-old woman who had "cancer issues" also died at sea while the ship was en route to Hawaii from San Diego, Sheehan said

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let's Wait a While

I've often confused the difference between "awhile" and "a while" so I decided to do some research and here's what Brian's Common English Errors Website had to say about this:

When “awhile” is spelled as a single word, it is an adverb meaning “for a time."

So you would say:
"My Prince Charming was bored with me awhile."

But when “while” is the object of a prepositional phrase the “while” must be separated from the “a.”

Then you would say:
"Did you have Prince Charming's CD for a while or only after you broke up?"

The site also makes not that if the preposition “for” were lacking in this sentence, “awhile” could be used in this way:

"Did you have Prince Charming's CD awhile?"

No English errors here; just stupidity

I can't figure out if the Advertiser was just trying to be funny when they republished this AP article:
Hawaii ranked as top state to avoid collision with deer

Incidentally, we are also ranked as the top state to avoid snakebites, frostbite, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Okay, I just made that up. :P But come on!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bad Sentence III: The Editing

I pulled this from the Letters and Commentary section of Monday's Star Bulletin, and it's a mess. Frankenstein's monster was put together less randomly. There's nothing contextual here, by the way. These are the opening sentences of the letter. =(

“As a disabled person in a wheelchair with a converted van, has anyone given any thought to the value the Superferry can bring? If we wanted to travel to Maui or Kaua'i for business or vacation, we would have a very costly trip renting a travel wheelchair so that it can fit in a regular van. We are a family of six.”

The introductory phrase that starts off the first sentence is—you know, this one is so out there I'm not even sure it's a misplaced modifier. It actually feels like it's part of a completely separate sentence. Pronouns are a mess throughout. Oh, and the independent clause in the second sentence seems to imply that the author and his family are going on an expensive trip in order to rent a wheelchair. And I'm not sure why “it can fit in a regular van” is set up with a subordinating conjunction. I think the author meant it to be a restrictive clause modifying “travel wheelchair.” Also, does mentioning that his is a family of six add anything useful to the mix?

Well, let's see what we can do...
“Has anyone given thought to the benefits the Superferry could bring about? I am wheelchair-bound and own a van converted to accommodate my disability. If I wanted to travel to Maui or Kaua'i now, I would have to pay the added cost of renting a travel wheelchair that can fit in a regular van.”

English errors spotted in the wild

This week I thought I'd refer back to those photos I posted earlier of English blunders.

Picture #1: Las Palmas restaurant sign

"Mexican Cousine." I did a quick google search for "cousine," and nothing about food came up, so I'm ruling out the possibility of it being an alternate spelling or foreign spelling of "cuisine."

"Catering for all occasion's." "Occasions" here is plural and not possessive, so there shouldn't be an apostrophe.

Picture #2: Dorm shuttle sign

"If you would like to get off at the next stop ,please inform me the driver or stand up when approaching the stop that you would like to get off"

First of all, there are punctuation problems: the space and the first comma should be switched, and the "sentence" should end with a period. "Me, the driver" is an appositive, so I'm pretty sure it needs a comma.

Second of all, I think the meaning of the sentence gets lost somewhere along the way, particularly at the end. Here is my revised version:

"Please inform the driver or stand up when the shuttle is approaching the stop you would like to get off at."

Although I don't think it's usually a good idea to end a sentence with a preposition. But this site says you should only drop the preposition at the end of a sentence if the meaning isn't changed. And in this case, I think the "at" is very necessary, since "get off" can have an entirely different meaning. :o

I'm thinking that in order to avoid the awkward construction, it might be better to rephrase it like this:

"Please inform the driver or stand up when the shuttle is approaching your stop."

Suggestions? Ideas? Rotten Tomatoes? :D

Were you satisfied to your liking today?

I ate dinner at Curry House the other day, and after finishing my spicy shabu-shabu beef curry, I looked at their comment card. One of the questions on the card asked, “Were you satisfied to your liking today?” Right below the question were boxes that you could check off to indicate how satisfied you were with their service (not really, somewhat, very). After reading the question, I thought to myself, “Huh? Is that question grammatically correct?” The question bothered me for a couple of minutes because I knew it sounded awkward.

If I were to change the question, I would change it to ask “how” satisfied the customer was. If I asked how satisfied the customer was, then that question would better complement the responses next to the check boxes.

So without further ado, I believe that the Curry House should have asked, “How satisfied were you with our service today? Please check one of the boxes below.” To me, that question sounds better. I don’t know. What do you guys think?

Friday, October 19, 2007


Hey guys,

Looks like I'm the caboose this week! Sorry so late! Here's a sentence I found in the Honolulu Advertiser regarding yesterday's scrimmage after the boys had their "mock draft." I think maybe the author could have been more clear about his point. At any rate, here's the sentence:

"The deal was finalized a minute before the game's start, further evidence that practice isn't always essential."

I would probably break it up into two sentences and say:

"The deal was finalized a minute before the game's start. This quick decision making was further evidence that practice isn't always essential."

However, I'm still not sure what the author was trying to say?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Imperative Mood and You

I'm not sure whether this is common knowledge or not, but since it did get mentioned in class the other week, I figured I'd ramble about it for a bit.

The imperative mood is used for commands, for example, "Give me money!" Sentences like this used to irritate me to no end, because I could never figure out how the sentence was grammatical. There's no subject! Just a verb and some objects. None of my pre-high school teachers could ever explain why this worked the way it did, and I had more or less given up on it by ninth grade, having filed it alongside Nessie and Big Foot in the unsolvables drawer in my head.

But the answer is really, really simple. There is a subject! That subject is "you." The sentence we're really saying is, "You, give me money!" or "You, wash the car!" or "You, make Mitch shut up!" But as we're all so very lazy that we drop the "you," so that when we say something in the imperative mood, it's just implied.


Hey all
I just wanted to pose a question in regards to style. Can style be considered an error? Sometimes we excuse what seems to be wrong and consider it right because of the style in which it is written. Anyone have any ideas?


Recent errors in the newspaper

Here are some sentences I found that needed further editing.

From Hawaii school honoring Iraq war vet grad:

Not only did she rebound from her injuries, she started to speak out for wounded servicemen, for veterans, for people who can't afford proper healthcare.

I'm pretty sure that the last item in that series needs an "and," and I personally like to hear "not only" paired with "but also," but I'm not sure if that's always necessary. I also don't think all of those "for"s are necessary. My version of the edited sentence would be,

"Not only did she rebound from her injuries, but she also started to speak out for wounded servicemen, veterans, and people who can't afford proper healthcare."

I also don't know if "servicemen" is considered too gender-biased. Would it be more PC to say "servicepeople" or "military officers?"

From Hawaii Superferry bill shields state on liability:

The Lingle administration would impose operating conditions on the Superferry to — at a minimum — protect whales and other marine mammals, prevent the spread of invasive species, and preserve cultural and natural resources. The administration should also consider placing state agricultural inspectors and conservation enforcement officers on each ferry voyage.

It seems like the second sentence should be reworded. As it stands, it sounds to me like the writer is stating a personal opinion: "The administration should..." I also don't think that the inspectors and officers are being placed on a "ferry voyage," since the voyage isn't really a location, and I don't think they would actually be placed on the ferry, either. Here's my revised version of the second sentence.

"The administration may also require that state agriculture inspectors and conservation enforcement officers are placed at each docking area for all voyages."

These are just my versions, so please let me know if you catch something else that needs editing or if you have any other suggestions. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Capital or Lowercase?

While typing table column headings at my job the other day, I came across a problem. I had a difficult time figuring out whether the first letter of a word should be capitalized or left lowercase. I think we might go over this topic later on in the class, but I just wanted to share some helpful information on the capitalization of titles and headings. According to this site, these are some of the guidelines for traditional title capitalization standards:

• Capitalize all nouns, verbs (including is and other forms of to be), adverbs (including than and when), adjectives (including this and that), and pronouns (including its).
• Always capitalize the first and last words, regardless of their part of speech ("The Text to Look For").
• Capitalize prepositions that are part of a verb phrase ("Backing Up Your Disk").
• Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the) unless an article is the first word in the title.
• Do not capitalize coordinate conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or).
• Do not capitalize prepositions of four or fewer letters.
• Do not capitalize to in an infinitive phrase ("How to Format Your Hard Disk").
• Capitalize the second word in compound words if it is a noun or proper adjective or the words have equal weight (Cross-Reference, Pre-Microsoft Software, Read/Write Access, Run-Time). Do not capitalize the second word if it is another part of speech or a participle modifying the first word (How-to, Take-off).
• In table column headings, capitalize only the first word of each column heading.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This Week's Most Common Error

I listen to the radio a lot when I drive. One of the most common errors I picked this week was not only from radio talk shows but also TV prgrams in which news anchors get into semi-formal discussions on issues with each other: "If a person...they shouldn't...." Pronoun number agreement. I think this is what most people say. I did too because I didn't realize there was such a thing as number agreement in grammar but mostly because that's how everyone spoke. Besides, it's so much easier to pick out the mistakes in listening to others than in our own.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Exercise 5/test 2

I wanted to go over the answers to exercise 5 last Friday because they relate directly to test 2. (This is the handout that has the number 33 in the lower right-hand corner.) Because I missed my chance last week, I thought I'd post something today.

There are several kinds of errors in this exercise:


A few of you seem to have trouble distinguishing among the different kinds of errors. I've therefore listed them by sentence:

Sentence 1: spelling and typographical errors

Sentence 2:
grammatical and punctuation errors

Sentences 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: grammatical errors (subject-verb, pronoun-antecedent, vague antecedent, dangling participles, shift in person, shift in verb tense)

Sentences 9, 10, 11, 12: punctuation errors

Sentence 13: grammatical error (faulty parallelism)

Sentences 14, 15, 16:
stylistic error (wordiness, redundancy)

Sentences 17, 18: grammatical error (smothered verbs, use of passive voice)

Sentence 19: stylistic error (lapse in diction, use of slang)

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nancy's booboo

I was listening to the 990am poli channel talk show while I was driving to work on Monday. A news flash during the intermission of the show announced that Nancy Pelosi, the CA Congreewoman of the 8th district, stated this: "There have been 23 eminant attacks to American lives in the last year alone." I thought maybe I heard wrong. So I was more attentive when it was said in her own vice the second time. She definitely said eminant. Oops, Nancy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Word choices on weekends

Hey everyone, we've been talking about word choice and wordiness a bit over the past few weeks so I decided to tell a little story about a night out with my friends and how word choice can start to some interesting conversations. My friends and I were playing darts and were a tad inebriated. Before throwing darts, my friend says, "ok so you put the onus on me huh?" Being a "word nerd" I understood what he was saying, the responsibility was on him to have a good dart round in order for us to win. However, my other friends didn't hear him properly and thought he said the word that it sounds similar to but has a totally different meaning (you guys know what word im talking about.) So they totally started to tease him and ask things like "why would you say that?" Being the only one who understood what he was trying to say I had to defend what he said and try to explain what he was really trying to say. However, my friends wanted no part of my explanation so I decided to strike up a conversation with my friend with words that my other friends wouldn't understand, using academic jargon. After doing this my other friends gave up trying to listen to what we were talking about a started to ignore us for the rest of the night. So the moral of the story is that wordiness and word choice doesn't just effect writing , it effects fun drinking nights with your buddies.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Sentence

Hi guys, here's a sentence that actually would've appeared as part of a Linguistics course description in next semester's catalog, except I caught it and fixed it up on the sly (shhh!). My eventual solution was to cut it entirely, but here it is:

"Of the other varieties, Caviteno (and perhaps Ternateno), spoken on Luzon south of Manila, in the areas of Cavite and Ternate, still have some life, although they are certainly endangered."

After I finished tripping over all commas, my first question was, “The other varieties of what?” Languages? Dialects? Jargons? It's not stated here, and I wasn't able to glean it by context from surrounding sentences. “Spoken on Luzon south of Manila” needs a comma in the middle of it, since I'm pretty sure that “south of Manila” is in apposition to “Luzon.” Also, the way the sentence is written, I think “have” and “they are” should really be “has” and “it is.” I'm pretty sure that “Ternateno,” being parenthetical, doesn't actually count as a compound subject; the subject is the singular “Caviteno,” as opposed to the plural “Caviteno and Ternateno.” I can't actually find a rule about parenthetical stuffs to back me up here, so if anyone knows, please post a comment!

If I had to rewrite it, it would look like this:

Of the other dialects, Caviteno and (perhaps) Ternateno—both spoken on Luzon, south of Manila, in Cavite and Ternate respectively—still have some life, although they are certainly endangered.

I tried to keep the changes minimal, but I hope it reads a bit more smoothly now.

Much vs. Many

I thought this topic might be interesting to bring up. I can’t speak for everyone else, but sometimes I find myself mixing up the word many with the word much. For example, I would say, “how much pounds do you weigh?” or “how much friends do you have?” Thanks to our copyediting class, my personal grammar is improving each week. After doing a search on the proper usage of these words online, I learned that much is used if a noun is singular and many is used if a noun is plural. So, it would have been more appropriate to have said, “how many pounds do you weigh?” and “how many friends do you have?”

Now how much (just kidding…many) of you knew about that? See you all in class on Friday!

Phrasal Verbs

Something that has been particularly confusing for me is figuring out which phrasal verbs are considered "separable" and which are considered "inseparable." I found this site (linked at the title of this post), which lists many common separable and inseparable phrasal verbs, but I think I still get confused about some of them. Is separating a separable phrasal verb considered bad for your writing style?

For instance, is it better to say

I need to pick up my parents from the airport.

rather than

I need to pick my parents up from the airport.?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I Like Running, Jumping, and Swimming.

Since this week we did an activity on parallelism, I found it most convenient that I discovered a sentence which needed some assistance in that very area. While reading online at, I came across an article in the Island Life section written by Mike Gordon entitled "I'm off to tackle The List." Here's the troubled sentence:

A normal weekend is rarely enough time to do anything but yard work, attend two or three soccer games and a practice, and then surf.

And here's my attempt to even things out:

On a normal weekend, there's rarely enough time to do yard work, attend soccer games (plus a practice), and surf.

I tried to make my revisions without changing the author's voice. Hope I made the grade! :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Importance of Punctuation

I meant to post this earlier, in companion with Memminger's Punctuation's red-letter day is on the way, but I couldn't find it until recently. It's something one of my teachers at KCC liked to show us before papers were due to impress the importance of good punctuation on us--not sure it worked, though. =P

Anyways, enjoy!

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?


My friend Michael, a teacher of grammar at Iolani, sent me this. (Click on the post title to go to the page.)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Reasons leading to Conclusion

My little sister graduated from high school in May, but she had been nagging me to buy her a brand new car for her grad gift since January. So when she approached me with this idea, I asked her if she were planning to work to contribute her share. She said no. Hm.. I asked her why she needed a car to which she replied, "I don't want to catch the bus to school." Laziness...How are you going to pay for your tuition? I asked. Dad is what she said.

She didn't give me a good enough answers to warrant me getting that car for her. I denied her request with an advice. I told her that had she first explained to me why she needed a car per good reason and impressed on me a flash of willingness to work to contribute to this car (sense of responsibility) before finally asking for it, I would probably have considered it much more. So she did it. To our parents. She got her car, but she still hasn't tried to get a job.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"On-coming" errors

Hi, everyone. These sentences were taken from emails sent out to all UHM students.

This survey will help us better understand the engagement of students in activities on campus.

My version would be "This survey will give us a better understanding of the activities students are participating in on campus."

We value your opinions and look forward to your participation in the on-coming survey.

I think they meant "upcoming." "Oncoming," which shouldn't be hyphenated, makes me think the survey is going to hit me head-on at 25 MPH because I'm on the wrong side of the road. :P

Again, mahalo for being such good hosts to our guests over these past several days and for enabling this event to be a success for them, for our campus, and for our Islands.

"Enabling" sounds strange to me in this context, so I think I would say something like "...over these past several days and for making this event so successful for our campus..." I also don't think "Islands" should be capitalized, and to be honest, I don't really see how hosting Toyota at UH benefits Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island, so I would have just left that out altogether.

Ambiguous and Wordy

At the Honolulu Advertiser website, I read an article regarding the issues the Hawaii Superferry creates for Humpback whales in Honolulu. The title of the article was rather ambiguous to me:

"Hawaii Superferry risk to whales raised in 2005"

What was raised in 2005, the risk or the whales?

Anywho, as I continued with the article I found this sentence that seemed to suffer from "wordiness."

The policy provides an alternate winter route from Honolulu to Kahului that travels north of Moloka'i, instead of the usual route between Moloka'i and Maui within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Taking a stab at revising it, I would probably simplify it as such:
During winter months, fairies will travel a longer route north of Moloka'i from Honolulu to Kahului so as to avoid the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National marine Sanctuary.

I would also move it to the introduction where the policy is first introduced.


Is "wordiness" considered a grammatical error?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's All Relative: Relative Pronouns

Okay, these have popped up in the blog before, but I don't think they were fully explained. We're all familiar with personal pronouns: I, me, my, he, she, it, etc. Relative pronouns are who, whom, whose, which, and that. They stand in for nouns or for noun phrases much in the same way that personal pronouns do, but there is one major difference. Take a look at this sentence, for example: “I ate a radioactive isotope, which turned me into the Hulk.”

What you're really saying is, “I ate a radioactive isotope. A radioactive isotope turned me into the Hulk.” However, the relative pronoun “which” is taking the place of that second, underlined “a radioactive isotope.” Relative pronouns, then, go a step beyond personal pronouns because they not only replace a noun phrase, but they relate (hence the term “relative pronoun”) two otherwise separate clauses.

The newly-dependent clause, “which turned me into the Hulk,” is what's called a relative clause. These come in two flavors: restrictive and nonrestrictive (or essential and nonessential). As such, they're governed by the same rules as all restrictive and nonrestrictive phrases in regards to the usage of commas, which you can check out in Jen's and Chan's posts on Sept. 27th.

Good luck with the test, guys!

Star Bulletin Article

Well it's seems that I've missed out on quite a lot since I've been sick. I hope I'm not too way behind. Anyway, I just read the article in the Star Bulletin that Pat sent out. Is it just me or did the author refer to Pat as 'he'?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Articles, determiners, and quantifiers

On this web page (click on the post title to go to it) is an excellent explanation of what are called articles, determiners, and quantifiers. It helps us understand, for example, why "the number of" and "a number of" take different verbs.

Found sentences

Here are a couple of faulty sentences I found recently.

From the Smithsonian catalog, a description of something called Rolling Old World Serving Cart: "Clad in a superb reproduction 16th century map, evocative of map prints and drawings in our Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, guests will delight in its unexpected second role as beverage trolley."

From the Art Institute of Chicago catalog, a description of a book called Piazza: Italy's Heart and Soul: "Gold metal winner of the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards, this impassioned brainchild of Joe Bauwens and Marybeth Flower examines the hub of the Italian cultural experience: the piazza."

In the first case, the "clad" clause is a dangling modifier—the writer obviously didn't mean to say that guests would be clad in a map—and its has no antecedent. In the second case, gold metal should be gold medal.

My guess is that the writer of the first sentence doesn't know his or her grammar. The error in the second sentence is a typographical mistake that wasn't caught in proofreading. In publishing, good proofreading is valued as much as good copyediting, and this sentence helps us see why.