Spotting Errors

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Of the following sentences, only three are correct. Can you spot the errors?

  1. Elmo’s mother who is from Nevada loves to play poker.
  2. Everybody, including the players and the fans, were surprised by the easy victory.
  3. As a teenager, politics never interested Stephen.
  4. Colbart has a bad habit of barging in rooms without knocking.
  5. Walking up hills frequently gives Marg leg cramps.
  6. The government will give the contract to whomever makes the highest bid.
  7. The new principal effected major changes in the curriculum.
  8. Sedgewick takes longer breaks than anyone in the office.
  9. Who is the best swimmer, Hillary or Barack?
  10. Jadwiga’s cat wants to eat all the time, but she feeds it only in the morning.
  11. There was a moment where I thought I might win the game.
  12. My being involved didn’t seem to help matters.
  13. Aldo was so disinterested during the lecture that he fell asleep.
  14. Bart bought elevator shoes because he desperately wanted to be taller than me.
  15. Make something light for dessert (i.e., a fruit salad or low-fat cookies).

Answers:

 

  1. Unless Elmo has two mothers, one who is from Nevada and one who isn’t, the clause “who is from Nevada” is non-restrictive (it doesn’t identify his mother) and has to be set off by commas.
  2. Everybody is the singular subject of the sentence, and the verb has to be singular:.. was surprised by the easy victory.
  3. The phrase “As a teenager” has to be followed by someone who could have been a teenager: As a teenager, Stephen was never interested in politics.
  4. You can walk around in a room, but you barge into one.
  5. In this sentence “frequently” is a squinting modifier. It could be modifying either “walking” or “gives.” Is it when Marg frequently walks up hills that she gets leg cramps, or does she frequently get leg cramps when she walks up hills? The sentence has to be recast to eliminate the ambiguity: When Marg walks up hills, she frequently gets legs cramps.
  6. The government will give the contract to whoever makes the highest bid. One would certainly ask “To whom did the government give the bid?” But here the entire clause “whoever makes the highest bid” is the object of the preposition to, and the subject of the clause is “whoever.”
  7. Correct As a verb effect means to “bring about.”
  8. Sedgewick takes longer breaks than anyone else in the office. Without the “else” this sentence is illogical (sometimes grammar is logical) because Sedgewick also works in the office and would be taking longer breaks than he himself takes.
  9. Who is the better swimmer, Hillary or Barack? When comparing two persons (or things), use the comparative form of the adjective.
  10. This is a fussy point of grammar. The pronoun “she” in this sentence has no antecedent (word it can refer to). The noun “cat” obviously can’t be the antecedent. But (I can hear readers objecting) surely “Jadwiga” is the antecedent. Aha, but the noun “Jadwiga” does not occur in the sentence; the possessive noun “Jadwiga’s” does. A noun in the possessive can’t be the antecedent of a pronoun. Few people know this, and even fewer care. The sentence has to be recast: Although her cat wants to eat all the time, Jadwiga feeds it in only in the morning. Many other revisions are possible
  11. There was a moment when I thought I might win the game. A moment is a point in time, not place.
  12. Correct. “Me being involved…” would be wrong.
  13. Aldo was so uninterested during the lecture that he fell asleep. Disinterested means “unbiased.”
  14. Correct. Some insist that only “taller than I” is correct, but respectable authorities consider “taller than me” an acceptable usage.
  15. Make something light for dessert (e.g., a fruit salad or low-fat cookies). The abbreviation “e.g.” stands for the Latin exempli gratia, which means “for example.” In this sentence it introduces examples of light desserts. The abbreviation “i.e.” stands for the Latin id est, which means “that is” (literally, “it is) and is used to clarify or expand on a previous word or statement. We skimped on dessert, i.e., we made a fruit salad. If you can’t keep these abbreviations straight, you can always use the English translations.
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