Sunday, October 26, 2008

46. Commas with Introductory Sentence Elements

Hello, Everybody, and welcome back to another grammar lesson--and this time, we will continue with a closer look at some more punctuation problems. Have you ever seen a sentence with too many commas? Not enough commas? Commas in the wrong place? This happens too frequently, resulting in confusing sentences, and I know you don't want others to misunderstand what you mean when you write your thoughts down. Right? So...let's check these comma rules out.

Our first rule is this: Use a comma after introductory words, mild interjections, or adverbs at the beginning of a sentence.

Here are some examples:

1. Well, he won't get bow-legged carrying his brains.

Here, "Well..." is simply an introductory word in the sentence. There's a natural pause after it, and we notice that it actually
doesn't add anything to the meaning of the sentence. In other words, it's parenthetical or a digression from the main idea of the
sentence. If "Well..." were left out, its meaning would not be affected, although it does add a bit of conversational style.

2. Wait, we're fixin' to spray the gallonnippers off that puddle of water right now.

In this sentence, we have the same general rule at work. "Wait..." is a mild interjection this time, followed by a natural pause and
is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence.

3. However, I will have some of those chicken dumplings and cornbread.

Finally, we see here the adverb "However..." at the beginning of this sentence. Once again, this simple introductory word
could be omitted from the sentence without changing its meaning. "However..." is, though, an important transitional word used
for coherence in writing.

Note: Some of you may wonder why I haven't mentioned that quite often, the comma following an introductory word CAN be
omitted in some sentences. Okay. So now I'll say it : As long as there is no confusion with the meaning of the sentence, you
most certainly have that option.

And's second rule follows:

Use a comma after a series of prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence.

Here are some examples of this rule:

1. From my seat at the end of the table, I listened to Grandma as I devoured her country ham and red-eye gravy.

Here, "From my seat...", " the end...", and "... of the table..." are three prepositional phrases, back to back. Therefore, we need to place
a comma after the last one, making the meaning perfectly clear.

2. Under that table by the fireplace, Jerome's dog lay, proud as a dog with two tails.

The two back-to-back prepositional phrases, "Under that table..." and " the fireplace..." once again need to be followed
by a comma. How easy is that?

And now...for today's final rule:

A SINGLE prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence does not need to be followed by a comma unless the comma is needed for clarity.

1. On Saturday our family enjoyed Whiteville High School's production of DRACULA.

Since "On Saturday..." is just one prepositional phrase, no comma is needed...but notice the difference here:

2. Before the recent hit, OKLAHOMA was WHS's most popular production.

Without a comma following "...hit...", we might infer that OKLAHOMA was the school's most popular production,
rather than DRACULA, or that the sentence is too confusing to understand.

I'll now end with a suggestion about commas I heard many years ago: "When it doubt, leave it out!" Keep this in mind and you'll see what a great help it can be.

Well, this brings us to an end for today's lesson. I hope you've all learned something and can remember to use what you've learned! Have a great week, enjoy our beautiful Columbus County weather, and be happy. Remember that I love hearing from you and appreciate your suggestions for topics. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, October 12, 2008

45. Uncomplicating Commas in a Series

45. Uncomplicating Commas in a Series

Hey, Everyone, and I hope today's been a good day for you. This lesson addresses another rule that people tend to get confused about occasionally, so let's see if we can clear this one up.

Have you ever had trouble with commas? Our language has lots of uses for commas, but we will start with one that shouldn't be too difficult. We'll continue with some of the other ones in the weeks to follow.

What do you know about...commas in a series?

The rule says that we should use commas... AFTER ALL BUT THE LAST ITEM OR ELEMENT IN A SERIES.

Now...first, you need to be sure that you understand the word "series" in this context, so here's the definition:

A series consists of three or more WORDS...PHRASES...or CLAUSES in a sentence.

1. Here's an example of WORDS in a series:

The Columbus County Fair entertained many folks this year with rides, agricultural competitions, and spelling bees among other delightful activities.

Notice in this sentence that there are commas after "rides,"and "competitions", illustrating that these two words are the "items in a series" that demand commas. However, since "bees" is the last item in the series, no comma is needed. So easy, right?

Be sure you pay attention to the idea that these "items" in a series can be more than three and that they can fall anywhere in the sentence...such as in the following...

Whiteville, Tabor City, Chadbourn, Fair Bluff, Lake Waccamaw, and Hallsboro are six towns or communities in North Carolina's third largest county, Columbus.

Commas follow the name of each community or town...but this time there are six "items" in the series, with commas following the first five, but NOT the sixth since, again, we don't put a comma after the last item. Are you with me?

Assuming that you are, we'll move on to the second rule for using items in a series:

2. Commas should also be used with three or more PHRASES in a series. A PHRASE is a group of related words that do not have a subject and verb. We have talked about prepositional phrases before, so just think about that. In prepositional phrases we see things like this: in the country, over the bridge, around the corner, in the cow patch, etc. We also see other types of phrases sometimes in sentences, but the one thing that all have in common is that they do not have a subject and verb. here's an example of PHRASES in a sentence:

Some language experts say that at least five different dialects of English are spoken today in North Carolina: on the Outer Banks, in the central piedmont, in the mountains, by highly educated folks, and by the uneducated.

In this sentence, there are four commas following each location or groups of people and, once more, the final "item" needs no comma--it does, however, need a period since "uneducated" ends the sentence.

And... finally...the third rule about items in a series:

3. Commas should be used with three or more CLAUSES in a series. A CLAUSE is a group of related words with a subject and verb. When this happens, we say we are using CLAUSES in a series in a particular sentence. So...let's see if you're still hanging in there..Check the following example:

Many Southerners believe that everybody has to look out of his own keyhole, that the dinner bell is always in tune, and that a closed mouth gathers no foot.

In this sentence of funny Southern sayings, commas follow "keyhole" and "tune" because both words end their CLAUSES. Again, there's no comma needed after the final "item", but since "foot" ends the sentence, only a period is needed.

Also, note the subjects and verbs in the three different clauses: In the first clause, EVERYBODY is the subject and HAS is the verb. In the second clause, BELL is the subject and IS is the verb, and in the third clause, MOUTH is the subject and GATHERS is the verb.

ALERT! Now I know there are some of you who are wondering why I haven't said that the comma coming before the conjunction (and, but, or) in the series can be omitted. The truth is that this is another one of those language changes that often happens, particularly if a language is in constant use...and you can be sure that's true of English. Yes, it's so. You CAN omit the comma before the conjunction if you like. That's an option nowadays. For English teachers like me, though, it's tough to relax the rule I learned, so I have given you the more "formal" option to use--particularly in Standard English. Nevertheless, either way is fine. Take your choice.

...And so... we come to the end of another lesson. I hope this has helped you if you've had trouble with this rule. There are other comma rules we'll be reviewing--some we most certainly need to get corrected, so stay tuned for more info about commas. Meanwhile, let me know if you have any questions and any ideas for topics we haven't covered. Carpe diem to all with peace, love, and laughter. GG

Sunday, October 5, 2008

44. Is It A or AN, Mr. Anchorman?

Hello, again, Everybody. It's good to have you back, ready to tackle some more grammar problems. Today's lesson is such a simple one that you should be able to master it in no time at all.

Have you ever heard anyone make a mistake like the following?

" Judy wrote her friend a thank-you note expressing appreciation for AN unique gift."


" Lillian has AN one-year subscription to People magazine."

If so, you are in good company, since it seems that lots of folks learned this rule ...but only part of it.

Here's the rule: "A" is used before consonant SOUNDS and "AN" is used before vowel SOUNDS without any regard for whether the letter is a consonant or vowel.

Did you remember all of this rule...especially the part about SOUNDS?

It appears that what most people do is interpret the rule this way: "A" precedes all consonants and "AN" precedes all vowels. Not so! As with so many other rules, there are exceptions and here they are:

We seem to find more problems with words that begin with "H" ( a consonant letter), "U" (a vowel letter) and "O" (another vowel letter.)

"H" is silent at the beginning of just a few words: hour, honest, herbal . When this happens, "AN" precedes the word: an hour, an honest man, an herbal cup of tea,etc. When "H" is not silent, "A" precedes the word: a history book, a historical figure, a hurricane, etc.

"AN" is also used when the word following the article is a short "U" as seen in these words: an uncle, an umbrella, and an undertaker. Notice that even though these three words begin with the vowel "U", they don't sound like a long "U" . Therefore, we must classify them as an exception to the rule for another reason.

"A" is also used before words that have a "yew" or long "A" sound: a eulogy, a Utah student, a university, etc. Therefore, even though the examples here begin with a vowel, the correct word to use is "A", not "AN" because eulogy, Utah, and university begin with a "yew" or long "A" sound.

...And that's all there is to it. Pretty easy, huh? I hope this makes sense to you! I'm signing off for another day, wishing the very best to all. Thanks for the continued comments and suggestions for new lessons. I love hearing from you! Peace, happiness, and laughter, GG

Sunday, September 21, 2008

43. More Mispronunciation Madness - Part III

Hello, again! I hope you're all well, happy, and eager for another grammar lesson.

Do you cringe when you hear certain words mispronounced? Has anyone ever corrected your own pronunciation of a word? While it's certainly true that some words are pronounced one way in one part of our country and another way in another part of our country, many of these regional speech differences are perfectly okay. Some, however, are just downright wrong and that's what we will be focusing on today.

So... let me start with one that makes me nearly have a duck fit, and this one is heard right here in Columbus County...CAROLINA.

I heard one of my college professors say once that the word CAROLINA is among the most beautiful sounds in the English language, and you can believe that I agree with him. Unfortunately, though, some of our natives pronounce it like this:

"I'm from North or South KA-LIN-A."

Woe am I!!! Agony! When such a beautiful word is pronounced this way, we're not showing the proper homage to our home state! CAROLINA has four syllables (sounds) and we need to pronounce every one of them:


You will do this from now on, won't you? Thank you very much.

Another frequently mispronounced word is TERMITE.

These dreaded little visitors to our homes are sometimes called...

"TEAR (rhymes with bear) mites"

Just remember that the "tear" part of the word rhymes with "sir" and you'll be in good company.

Here's another one that drives me a little crazy...however, this pronunciation is certainly not limited to North Carolina. Actually, we probably pronounce it correctly more than lot of other people, especially non-Southerners, but since we constantly hear it on TV and tend to gradually pick up speech we hear there, I had to mention this one...HALLOWEEN.

Have you noticed lots of folks on TV pronounce HALLOWEEN as HOLLOWEEN?
As a long-time lover of the fun of Halloween, I have to pounce on this one like a rabbit in a lettuce patch! All we have to do is just notice that there's an A following the H, not an O!! Come on, y'all. This one should be super simple to correct.

Now for our final pronunciation problem for today...AMERICA.

Most of you very likely do not have trouble with this word, but, again, since it is heard so many times incorrectly on TV, I'm going to ask that you be extra careful about not pronouncing it as...AMURICA. No doubt, we need to get this one right!
There's not U in AMERICA-- just an E following the M. How easy is that?

Well, time's flying and we'd better finish up. I hope you've learned something today and that you'll pronounce these words correctly! Please feel free to send me any other incorrect pronunciations you've heard (as well as other ideas for lessons) and I'll be glad to focus on them. Have a great week and carpe diem. Peace and happiness to all! GG

Sunday, September 7, 2008

42. GOOD or WELL? How Do You Tell?

Hey, Friends, and I hope you all are happy and healthy.

Today's lesson addresses another very commonly heard and seen error around Whiteville. Do you know when it's correct to use GOOD and WELL? Are they interchangeable? How do you know when to use one or the other?

How many times have you heard someone say something such as...

"Our preacher spoke GOOD this morning during church"


"Even if someone is not feeling GOOD, he should still speak clearly"?

Oh, my goodness! I'm afraid these kinds of sentences are very common and are examples of the misuse of GOOD, and it is here that we will focus today. Actually, WELL does not seem to give folks too much of a problem, or at least that's true in our neck of the woods. Have you ever heard anyone say something like this...

"WELL organization is important in a speech"


"Barry has developed a WELL serve in his tennis game"?

I hope I'm correct in saying that you'd never use WELL in sentences like these. Wouldn't you just automatically use GOOD? Right on.

So let's take a look at why we can't always use these words interchangeably.

Put very simply, always use GOOD as an adjective. Remember that adjectives are words that describe nouns and pronouns. They answer these questions:

Which one? How many? What kind of ?

Notice in the two example sentences above that the word in question (WELL) describes nouns: "organization" and "serve", so you already have one reason that WELL is wrong: Nouns are being modified or described. In addition, the following questions are being answered:

Which organization? A GOOD one, not a WELL one.

What kind of serve? A GOOD one, not a WELL one.

Now I have to mention that there is one time when GOOD can be used as something other than a simple adjective. When GOOD is used as a linking verb in a sentence, it functions as a predicate adjective that modifies the subject. Used this way, GOOD can mean either "pleasant," comfortable," or "in a happy state of mind." At least it's still being used in the adjective sense :-)

Do you remember what a linking verb is? They don't express action, but link the subject of the sentence to predicate pronouns or predicate adjectives. They also are very frequently a part of the "to be" verb: is, am, are, was, were, etc. In addition, they are often related to the senses: sound, taste, appear, feel, look, smell, etc.

Here are some examples of sentences using linking verbs:

Whiteville's football team appears GOOD this year.

The South Columbus Band sounded GOOD Friday night.

Joe's barbeque tastes especially GOOD when you're hungry.

Now...What about WELL?

WELL can be used as an adverb to modify an action verb. When it's used this way, WELL means that the action expressed by the verb is performed expertly or properly. Many adverbs end in "ly", but not all--note the following:

Remember that adverbs answer these questions:

How? When? Where? Why? To what extent?

Here are some examples:

Cassie writes WELL when she puts her mind to it. (HOW does she write? WELL is used as an adverb.)

Harriet dances WELL when she's on stage. (Again, HOW does she dance? WELL is used as an adverb.)

Finally, WELL can also be used as a predicate adjective after a linking verb. Sounds familiar, huh? This is very similar to the second use of GOOD above. Here, WELL means "in good health."

Here's another example:

Although Danielle appeared WELL, she was really very sick. (Notice the meaning here and WELL acts as an adverb.)

So... another lesson is completed! I hope this makes lots of sense to you and that you won't have any more problems with GOOD and WELL. I love hearing from you with special requests for future lessons. Meanwhile, have a great week. Much peace, happiness, and laughter. GG

Sunday, August 24, 2008

41. THEM and THOSE and the Problems They Pose

Welcome back, all of you grammarphiles! I hope all is well and that each of you is minding his/her beeswax :-) Today's lesson is another one we need especially here in southeastern North Carolina. Of course, we're not alone making these usage mistakes, but I don't believe other parts of the country could "outbrag" us and say this error is heard more somewhere else than here.

So...what is it? This one, unfortunately, is heard way too much-- the misuse of THEM and THOSE. (Have mercy!)

Okay. Let's see what the difference is between these two words:

THOSE can act as either a pronoun or an adjective.

Check out the following examples:

1. Where did you get THOSE sunglasses? (Here, THOSE is used as an adjective describing WHICH sunglasses.)

2. THOSE are amazing sunglasses! ( THOSE is used as a simple pronoun acting as the subject of the sentence.)

Actually, we don't normally have trouble with THOSE...But with THEM? Now that's another story:

THEM is always used as a pronoun...never as an adjective...Notice the following correct uses of THEM:

1. I want to go with THEM to Lake Waccamaw. (THEM is used as a simple pronoun acting as the object of the preposition
of "with.")

2. George told THEM that it would soon be hog killing' weather. (Again, THEM is a pronoun acting, this time, as the direct object.)

Now all of this should be super simple. Nevertheless, we have one little quirk that we need to be aware of, and it is this use that gives us so much trouble. Just because THOSE can be used two ways (as an adjective and a pronoun), it doesn't follow that THEM can also be used two ways.

Again, remember that THEM can ONLY be used as a pronoun.

Take a look at some of the mistakes we hear too much (groan)...

1. THEM boys are so lazy they couldn't say "sooey" if the hogs were eating them.( Because the word in question precedes a noun--boys-- only an adjective will work here and, therefore, only THOSE is correct. THEM can never be used as an adjective.)

2. Do you think THEM hunters will be ready to hunt on Labor Day this year? (Again, the word in question precedes a noun--hunters-- so only an adjective will be correct here. THEM is not an adjective, but THOSE is!)

All right. Here are a few sentences to help you practice your skills. Which word in each sentence is correct?

1. (THOSE, THEM) cats jumped around like monkeys on a barbed wire fence.

2. (THOSE, THEM) are the best boiled peanuts I've had all summer.

3. Betty told (THOSE, THEM) that her car was such a gas guzzler it would pass everything but a fillin' station.

Well, all right! I have a feeling that you did a great job with this little quiz. Here are the answers:

1. THOSE is correct because it is an adjective modifying "cats".

2. THOSE is correct because it is a pronoun acting as the subject of the sentence.

3. THEM is correct because it is a pronoun acting as the direct object.

Once again, we see that this commonly seen and heard mistake is very easy to correct! Just think about it and practice saying and writing it correctly. You'll quickly master this boo boo and be struttin' like a rooster.

Ah, yes, it's again time to close up shop. Thanks so much for your attention and have a wonderful week. Peace, love, and laughter to all! GG

Sunday, August 17, 2008

40. The Redundant Blunder

Hello, Everyone! I'm back again today with another rule concerning something we hear and read everywhere, it seems--and this one isn't peculiar only to Southerners :>)

Have you ever noticed how many times we repeat things in conversations and writings? This error is called a REDUNDANCY...or sometimes we'll hear a grammarian say, "Your remark is REDUNDANT!" Webster's defines REDUNDANT as ..." exceeding that which is necessary...excess...using more words than is needed...repetition..."

Now this kind of error is not normally a grammatical error. It is, however, an error that that weakens the impact of good writing and conversation.

So...what are some examples of this blunder? Actually, there are many being used around us all the time and most folks probably don't even realize it. Here are some examples:

One I used to hear quite often in my English classes was the following:

"Please repeat that again."

Okay. Think about it. When you say, "Repeat...again", aren't you repeating yourself? The way to improve this sentence would be to say, "Repeat that, please." Just leave out the repetitious word.

Redundancies can appear as short as two words:

1. New innovation...Just say "innovation". Including "new" with "innovation" is repetitious
2. Necessary prerequisite...Just say "prerequisite". "Necessary" is not needed.
3. Fellow colleague...Drop "fellow". "Colleague" is fine alone.

Redundancies can also appear as longer phrases:

1. We thought we had provided adequate seating with a chair for each person in attendance.
This sentence is wordy. One possible way to improve it would be to say something like this:

1. We thought we had provided adequate seating.
This time you have come straight to the point and not put your reader to sleep.

Here's another example of a longer redundant phrase:

2. Although Frank tried to keep his thoughts to himself, he suddenly thought out loud to the startled group.
Another wordy sentence. Try something like this to improve it:

2. Although Frank tried to keep his thoughts to himself, he suddenly spoke to the startled group.
Much better!

Becoming aware of redundant words and phrases will probably take some effort since we're so accustomed to hearing and seeing them, but if you work on it and stay alert, you'll greatly improve your speaking and writing.

Here are some more to think about:


absolutely certain... There's no room for doubt...It's absolute...
a.m. in the morning... If occurring in the morning, it has to be a.m...
and also... Use one word or the other...not both.
and etc... Etc. is Latin for "and so forth."
as an added bonus... If something is a bonus, it must be added.
ATM machine... ATM means Automated Teller Machine.
autobiography of my life... Aren't you writing it?
close proximity... You can't have "far" proximity. Delete "close."...
exactly the same... If something is exactly the same, it must be exact.
honest truth... If something isn't the truth, it isn't honest.
Kleenex tissue... Kleenex IS a tissue. Delete "tissue"
sum total... If you have a sum, you have a total. Delete one word.
true fact... By definition, a fact must be true. Delete "true".
Xerox copy... Xerox IS a copy. Delete "copy."

Well, that brings us to the end of today's lesson. There are many, many more examples of REDUNDANT words and phrases (and I've just used one--but here, it's for emphasis, and using them this way is occasionally acceptable if not overdone.) We'll look at some more of them later. Meanwhile, let me know if you hear any not mentioned here. I'm sure you have seen some of these in newspaper, magazine and sign ads. These types of expressions most certainly illustrate the "less is more" adage and should reinforce the necessity of our developing good writing and speaking skills.

Have a great week, enjoy doing lots of fun things, and remember that I love hearing from you. Peace and happiness to all! GG

Sunday, August 10, 2008

39. Is It Five PAIR or Five PAIRS of Socks?

Greetings again, all of you grammar lovers and I hope you're all doing well.

Today, I have decided to tackle another one of those very common errors we constantly hear that, I must admit, is going through some transition today. As I've said many times before, our language continues to change and certain expressions we hear many times today may have been considered terrible mistakes fifty years ago, for example. For this reason, Webster's now includes words in our dictionaries that are becoming semi-acceptable, and this is so because they are used so often. However, this doesn't mean that we should include these expressions in our own speech. After all, there are plenty of folks besides English teachers who cringe at the use of some of these bloopers.

One such error that is slowly creeping into the common use file today is the misuse of PAIR and PAIRS. Now we all know that A PAIR of something generally means ONE of a group of items:

ONE PAIR of shoes means exactly what it says.

ONE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed...meaning there are two different shoes under the bed--one for the right foot and one for the left foot...but together they are called ...A PAIR or one group.

However, if you were to say...

FIVE PAIR of shoes sit under the would be implying that there are ten different shoes under the bed, but you're not saying it correctly. Here, you should say...

FIVE PAIRS of shoes sit under the S is needed on PAIR to make it plural!

Remember how Webster's defines PAIR: two corresponding things designed for use together as one thing.

All you need to remember is to use the plural (PAIRS) when there are more than one groups of items, things, etc. Pretty easy, huh?

Advertisers in newspapers and on television quite frequently use these two words incorrectly. Watch out for ads that say something such as...


TWO PAIR OF PANTS FOR $14.95...0r...


Groan...Where have these writers been all their lives? All three of these sentences are incorrect because each pair refers to more than one group of items! Just place the S on the end of PAIR and you'll be correct.

Well, all right! What a simple rule to learn! Just remember that an S on a noun means it is plural and that's what you mean when you say...

I bought three PAIRS of overalls to wear when I work in the fields...AHHHH...such music to my ears!

Have a great week doing what you enjoy most. Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Hello, again, all of you Grammar Lovers! Today, as we continue looking at some of the most common errors in English--both the spoken and written word among us Southerners, in particular- we will examine the misuse of some oft-heard expressions: BEING THAT, BEING AS, AND BEING AS HOW. It's probably true that these conjunctions were once considered correct expressions, but with the constant changes in language, they have gone out of formal usage in today's world. Actually, some grammarians still consider the use of these expressions to be acceptable in informal conversations, but since I know you want to express yourself correctly at all times, you will want to jump on this rule like bees on a watermelon rind.

Simply put, all you need to remember is just DON'T use these expressions! Rather, use BECAUSE or SINCE. Here are some examples of the wrong use and then the correct use:

BEING THAT it's you, the price is nothing. (Just say...SINCE it's you...or... BECAUSE it's you...)


I just happen to recollect, BEING AS you speak of raccoons, that mine ran away last week. (Just say...SINCE you speak... or... BECAUSE you speak...)


BEING AS HOW you weren't at the meeting, you don't get to vote. (Say...SINCE you weren't...or BECAUSE you weren't...)

The present participle BEING is most often used safely as part of a main verb, such as in the following sentence:

Jack is BEING as low down as a snake in a wagon track. (Of course, saying "Jack is as low down..." also works.)

Used as a conjunction, it can sometimes create awkward sentences, so just remember to use SINCE or BECAUSE instead of one of the BEING expressions!

However, as a final note, let me remind you that BEING is also used other ways...correctly...

As a noun: ...a human BEING...

As an adjective: ...for the time BEING...

So... now that we have looked at the misuse of the BEING expressions, I hope you have learned something that you'll use from now on--in both your speech and writing. Have a great week and thanks so much for the good ideas. Keep passing them on! Peace and happiness to all. GG

Sunday, July 13, 2008

37. You GRADUATED What?

Welcome back, Everyone! Today's topic always seems to rear its head every year around the time of graduation-and Wow! Do we have all kinds of graduations nowadays--not only from high schools and colleges, but from kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools, and junior highs. I've even heard of graduations from day care centers...and, of course, graduations occur at all times of the year nowadays. Guess we like to start out early struttin' our stuff.

All right. If we're probably going to hear this word used more and more, we should give a good look at the awkwardness of using it the way our ancestors used it back in the nineteenth century. Back then, the common way to use this word was as follows:

Even though Homer couldn't blow his nose if his brains were dynamite, he graduated eighth grade yesterday. (not as preferred today...graduated from...)


The Class of 2009 will graduate Whiteville High School as soon as they finish and pass their last courses next spring. (not as preferred today...graduate from...)


I graduated Southeastern Community College five years ago with a nursing degree. (not as preferred today...graduated from...)

More than a century ago, the commonly accepted use of this verb was, indeed, NOT TO USE from in front of a form of graduate. Today, however, the preferred way is TO USE from before a form of graduate.

Filling out a resume for a job that included a sentence such as...

I graduated UNC in 2002...

is considered awkward and archaic in today's world, so don't be misled when you hear the occasional use of this verb. You are correct to say...

Jack graduated FROM NC State two years before his sister did.

This lesson's so easy you should have absolutely NO trouble remembering it! Also, we see here the constantly changing nature of our language and how rules that were once cast in stone are no longer in force. Just check your Webster's and you'll see how many uses that once were forbidden are now making headway into our speech and writing. Don't forget, though, that some words seen in the dictionary are NOT generally accepted in Standard English or polite society.

I'm signing off for this time. Hope your day is great! Happiness and peace to all. GG

Monday, March 17, 2008

36. The AFFECT - EFFECT Disconnect

Hello, again, all of you! I hope you're continuing to practice good grammar all over the place, whether you're writing or speaking. Maybe we can slowly eliminate the bad grammar practices we hear and see daily by modeling Standard English for our friends and neighbors...and maybe even the media will start paying attention to some of these much needed changes! The water won't clear till you get the hogs out of the creek, as we have heard around these parts of North Carolina :-)

Today's lesson addresses a major mix-up we see frequently with AFFECT and EFFECT, so let's tale a look at the differences between them.

Now, both of these words sound very much alike, which is probably one of the reasons we hear them confused so much. They are, however, very different in meaning, so check out the following explanation:

AFFECT is a VERB that means "to cause a change in" or "to influence." Here's an example of its correct use:

Insulting an alligator before you cross stream may AFFECT your health. ( Better get out of the water first !)

EFFECT, however, may be either a NOUN or a VERB, and this, very likely, contributes to even more confusion.

EFFECT used as a NOUN means "result" and here's an example of its correct use:

Passing the time of day with your family will have a good EFFECT on your relationship with them. (But only if everybody is bound and determined to be nice :-)

And, finally, EFFECT is used as a VERB when it means "to bring about" or "to accomplish". Actually, this use isn't as prevalent today as the other two uses, but we still see and hear it at times. Notice the correct use here:

Never drowning in his own sweat EFFECTS a negative opinion from Tom's boss that he's too lazy to work. ( Being lazy as a tarred dog won't work!)

Pretty simple, I hope. Okay, so let's see if you've mastered these little words.

1. Will the cashier's being as slow as cream rising have an (AFFECT, EFFECT) on how many people use that check-out lane at Food Lion?

2. Johnny's trifling behavior at the beach last night (AFFECTED, EFFECTED) changes in my opinion of him.

3. Myrtle's ability to catch more flies with honey than vinegar when speaking to others (AFFECTED, EFFECTED) the Nominating Committee's decision to choose her to represent them .

All right! How did you do? Here are the answers:

1. EFFECT is correct because it is used as a NOUN and means "result".

2. EFFECTED is correct , but this time because it is used as a VERB and means "brought about" or "accomplished."

3. AFFECTED is correct here because it is used as a VERB and means "causes a change in" or "influences."

All right, way to go, all of you Grammar Stars, if you made a perfect score! If you missed one or two or (heaven forbid!) all three, just review the rules above, think about it, and try to apply the rules to some sentences of your own. Never fear. You'll get it! Practice really does make perfect.

Okay, Y'all. Time to finish up and wish you each a wonderful day with much happiness!. Do continue giving me great ideas for lessons and thanks for sharing your favorite grammar peeves. Peace, GG

Saturday, March 8, 2008

35. LIKE, AS, and AS IF : Are they alike?

Hey! Today's lesson reviews problems we seem to have quite frequently with LIKE, AS and AS IF. Have you ever wondered whether to use LIKE or AS in a sentence such as the following?

Marti thinks (LIKE, AS) I do about iced tea - we both prefer a little tea with our sugar...

or...whether to use LIKE or AS IF in a sentence such as this one?

Jeff acts ( LIKE, AS IF) he knows everything there is to know about all 5,000 snakes in North Carolina.

If you chose LIKE in the first sentence, join the crowd of many folks who mistakenly use the wrong verb...

and... if you also chose LIKE in the second sentence, you're there again.

Here's why:

Standard English requires us to use LIKE (and its forms) only as a VERB, such as the one seen in the following sentence:

Kelly and Anthony LIKE to attend all of Brennan and Brady's ballgames...

Or as a PREPOSITION such as the one seen in the next sentence:

Robert drives LIKE a maniac.

That's pretty simple, huh? Just remember that LIKE should be used only as a VERB or a PREPOSITION.

NOW, what about AS or AS IF?

AS and AS IF are SUBORDINATE CONJUNCTIONS when they introduce clauses in a sentence. As we've studied before, a clause is a group of words with its own subject and verb and sentences can contain more than one clause.
In the first example sentence above...

"Marti thinks..." is one clause...

" I do about iced tea..." is another clause...and...

"...we both prefer and little tea with our sugar" a third clause--all in the same sentence.

Our main concern, however, is the second clause that indicates new subjects and verbs are being used in the sentence - not "Marti thinks...". and...

that new clause is "...I do about iced tea..." Since this is also a separate clause, a subordinate conjunction must appear at its beginning - hence, AS is correct, not LIKE. Remember that LIKE is considered just a VERB or PREPOSITION and since you just learned that AS is a subordinate conjunction when it precedes a clause, you know that AS is the correct answer.Well, all right!

Okay. So let's take a look at the second example sentence:

"Jeff acts..." is the first clause...

"...AS IF he knows everything North Carolina" is the second clause.

So how do you prove that AS IF is correct? You should have no problem recognizing that AS IF precedes a clause. It's just that simple! .

Now it's time to give you a chance to show how much you know. Choose the correct answer in the following sentences:

(1) (Like, As) all children, Davy wanted a bike.

(2) Homer and Tony believe just (like, as) their daddy does about the dinner bell always being in tune.

(3) Junior looks (like, as) the hindquarters of bad luck.

(4) That man looks (like, as if) he's been hit in the face with a wet squirrel.

(5) Sally felt (like, as) her boyfriend did about deer season needing to be a national holiday.

Wasn't this easy? Here are the answers:

(1) LIKE is correct since there's no clause following it. LIKE is also used as a preposition.

(2) AS is correct since there IS a clause following it.

(3) LIKE is correct since no clause follows it. LIKE is also used as a preposition.

(4) AS IF is correct since there IS a clause following it.

(5) AS is correct since there IS a clause following it.

My hope is that you all made 100 on this little quiz and will never again make these mistakes! Celebrate!

Well, it's about time to close up shop and rest a spell. Y'all have a wonderful week and be as happy as you can as often as you can. Peace and happiness to all, GG

Sunday, February 3, 2008

34. The Bottom Line on Messed-Up Signs and Ads

Hello again all you good grammar enthusiasts! How many times have you observed signs and ads all over the place with notoriously flagrant grammatical errors -- on highway signs, billboards, and tv? What about those in newspapers, magazines, and online? I think it's time to declare a revolution on sign errors, so here we go again with more information on this problem. A former classmate of mine who is quite an expert with our language actually saw these signs recently. (Groan)

Here's one he saw right here in North Carolina identifying a parking lot for a Country Club:


Aargh!! Does this mean that each member could have only one guest? Better be sure you choose the right one! ( An S needs to be placed on the word GUEST! It's plural.)

Here's another sign he saw on the side of the road:


Lordy, Lordy. I don't know anyone around these parts who could eat just one boiled peanut. While this most likely is the result of the sign writer being too busy to pay much attention to what he's doing, somebody needs to tell him to slow down and look at what he's advertising! (Please put an S on PEANUT! It's plural.)

Take a look at the next one, seen at Oak Island:




3 FOR $10.00

Have mercy! Here we go again with the Amazing Apostrophe. It pops up all kinds of places it shouldn't be, and is not placed where it should be! Why would T SHIRT'S have an apostrophe and TOWELS not have one? (Both nouns are plural and both should end in a simple S. Apostrophes are used ONLY to show the omission of letters and possession.)

...And, finally, I recently saw this one in a regional newspaper for gardening supplies:





Puhleeze, save me. Right here we see the exact same mistake with the Amazing Apostrophe that was made in the prior ad: CUSTOMER'S does not need an apostrophe! (It is plural and does not show possession, nor have any letters been omitted.)

So much for the Annoying Apostrophe. Whew! We really need to get this one straight. Just stop for a minute and think through the rules and common sense will prevail :-) I'd love to hear about other sign and ad mistakes you might see around these parts. The revolution will continue... Have a great week! Peace and happpiness to all. GG

Sunday, January 20, 2008

33. The Run-On Sentence Blooper

Welcome, Everyone! I hope you've been well since our last lesson and that you're ready for another topic on a grammar blooper we see all the time. If you'll pay attention and learn today's rules, you'll get an A+ for being sharp as a brier.

Today's lesson is centered on something we see written way too much: run-on sentences. Back in my teaching days, I constantly saw students using tons of them in things they wrote. This error is also seen quite a bit in written publications such as newspapers, magazines, and other such material. Let's see if we can fix this problem right now!

Here are some examples of this mistake:

1. He was behind the door when brains were passed out, he's also so clumsy he couldn't hit the ground if he fell.


2. We knew which truck we wanted to buy, we didn't have enough money.


3. Horror stories are thrilling, many people enjoy them.


4. Stephen King is a very popular horror writer, his books sell especially well at Halloween.

So... what do you think is wrong with these sentences? Each example shows two separate sentences written as though they were one sentence. This error is called a run-on sentence since they show two sentences joined by a comma. (They have run into each other :-)

All you need to do to correct this is

1. Form two separate sentences by using a period between them:

He was behind the door when brains were passed out. He's also so clumsy, he couldn't hit the ground if he fell.

2. Add a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, so, yet, nor) between the two sentence parts (or clauses):

We knew which truck we wanted to buy, BUT we didn't have enough money.

3. Join the two sentence parts with a semicolon:

Horror stories are thrilling; many people enjoy them...or finally...

4. Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (therefore, then, moreover, nevertheless, besides, also, still, finally, consequently, accordingly, furthermore, hence, however, indeed, otherwise, thus)followed by a comma between the two sentence parts:

Stephen King is a very popular horror writer; THEREFORE, his books sell especially well near Halloween.

Now try your hand at figuring out which one in the two pairs of following sentences is correct:

A. Waccamaw Academy will have its first football team in its 40-year history next fall. The decision was made Monday night by the school's board of directors.

B. Waccamaw Academy will have its first football team in its 40-year history next fall, the decision was made Monday night by the school's board of directors.

C. The Columbus County Courthouse should look beautiful, it should also be a place where people can work or visit safely.

D. The Columbus County Courthouse should look beautiful, but it should also be a place where people can work or visit safely.

E. Whiteville's newest retail destination, Lowe's Home Store, will open next week, and many residents are thrilled.

F. Whiteville's newest retail destination, Lowe's Home Store, will open next week, many residents are thrilled.

G. The Columbus County Parks and Recreation Department began in 1977 with a budget of only $13,000, today it operates on a budget of roughly $500,000.

H. The Columbus County Parks and Recreation Department began in 1977 with a budget of only $13,000; however, today it operates on a budget of roughly $500,000. are the incorrect answers: B, C, F, and G...and they're all incorrect because we see two sentence parts (or independent clauses) joined together by a comma as one sentence...that's why we call them run-on-sentences. Now how did we correct them?

A. We simply placed a period between the two parts.

D. Both parts are joined together by a comma and the coordinating conjunction, BUT.

E. Both clauses are joined together by a comma with another coordinating conjunction, AND.

H. Both clauses are joined together by a semicolon and the conjunctive adverb, HOWEVER.

Well, all of you grammar scholars, that should help if you've been confused by a teacher writing RS somewhere on your composition. RS just means that you've used a run-on sentence in your paragraph. Of course, now you know what to do to avoid this...Right? You have several options when choosing how to correct this error, but just be sure it makes sense. Read your idea to yourself and, no doubt, your "ear" (and common sense) will tell you what is correct.

Time to go, so take good care of yourself, and keep on with your good speech and writing. Peace and happiness to all, GG

Sunday, January 13, 2008

32. Begone WENT for GONE!

Welcome back to another grammar lesson. I know you've heard this error before as it is very common in these parts of North Carolina, but we surely aren't alone, and I'm about as determined as a duck after a June bug to help get rid of it!

Just recently I heard a sheriff on national TV make the following statement about a crime that was being investigated:

"It (the outcome of a crime) could have WENT either way."

Aargh!! Once again we hear people who should know better making unbelievable errors when they speak! Just ask any English teacher and others who love the Mother Tongue :-)

I imagine you can now guess what the topic of today's lesson will be. Yup, the outrageous misuse of WENT for GONE.

Let's see what's going on here.

Okay. If you'll just think about a few simple little rules, I think you'll never have trouble again with these two verbs.

The verb GO is a very irregular verb in English, and both WENT and GONE are some of its forms. As we have learned before, we sometimes need to take a look at verb conjugation to understand more fully why some rules are they way they are. Since this error is most often seen in the present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect tenses, we will concentrate there. Here's the correct use of GO in these tenses:

Present Perfect - I have gone, you have gone, he/she/it has gone, we have gone, you have gone, and they have gone

Past Perfect - I had gone, you had gone, he/she/it had gone, etc.

Futre Perfect - I shall/will have gone, you will have gone, he/she/it will have gone, etc.

Ah, ha! Did you see any examples of

"I have WENT..." , "You had WENT..." , "He/she/it will have WENT..." ?

No way! And that's because using WENT for GONE in these cases is about as bad as throwing a clod in the churn.

Now all of this begs the question: Why do lots of folks make this mistake? Maybe the answer lies in the fact that WENT actually IS corrrect in the PAST tense form of GO. Check this out:

Past of GO - I went, you went, he/she/it went, we went, you went, they went

Considering this, it's pretty easy to figure how some folks just confuse the past tense use with the three perfect tenses of GO.

Now let's see how well you can do with the following sentences:

1. David had (gone, went) a country mile before he saw the racetrack.

2. I have (gone, went) just about as far as I can go on this rocky path with no shoes on.

3. Ray (gone, went) down the road to find Linwood and jerk a knot in his tail.

4. Have you ever (gone, went) to a pig pickin'?

5. Junior (gone,went) to Cafe Gourmet last night and told me today that he ate so much his stomach was touching the table when he finished.

Here are the answers: GONE is the correct answer in sentences 1, 2, and 4. WENT is correct in sentences 3 and 5. The explanation is very simple. Sentences 1, 2, and 4 each have an "H" word (had, have, and Have) as part of the verb. The other two sentences do NOT have an "H" word as part of the verb. Pretty easy, huh? If for no other reason than that, you should never make a mistake again with GONE and WENT!

Be merciful to us English teachers by helping others who persist in saying things such as, " I had WENT to see my aunt, but she wasn't home," or "Have you WENT to buy your new shoes yet?"
We'll be forever in your debt!

For now, I'm signing off. Have a great week and practice perfect grammar! Peace and happiness, GG

Sunday, January 6, 2008

31. To Clarify ALUMNI...

Hello Everyone!

Have you ever been confused about which word is correct when you are referring to "graduates"? When should you use ALUMNA, ALUMNAE, ALUMNUS, and ALUMNI? The misuse of these words is fairly common, but if you'll pay attention, I'll try to show you how to use them correctly so you'll never be confused again.

Here are some examples of common mistakes with this problem:

I am an ALUMNI of Whiteville High School...or...All of the ladies in our Sunday School class are ALUMNI of The University of North Carolina at Wilmington...or Butch is an ALUMNI of NC State University in Raleigh.

Notice how the word ALUMNI is getting a good workout in the above sentences. It seems that we tend to use ALUMNI much more frequently than any of the other three words we should be using.

So what's going on here and what should we remember?

Okay...Here are some simple definitions to help you keep them straight:

ALUMNA is singular and simply means one female graduate. (Diane is an ALUMNA of Appalachian State University.)

ALUMNAE is plural and means two or more female graduates. (Heather, Alice, and Tiffany are ALUMNAE of South Columbus High School.)

ALUMNUS is singular and means one male graduate. (John is an ALUMNUS of Wake Forest University.)

...and finally...

ALUMNI is plural and means two or more male graduates. (Bill, Fred, Harry, and James are ALUMNI of South Columbus High School.)

Now... here's an additional use of ALUMNI that does not apply to the other three words:

ALUMNI (still plural) can ALSO be used when referring to both males AND females. ( All ALUMNI of the East Columbus High School Class of 1998 are invited to a class reunion on Saturday night at the Vineland Station Depot in downtown Whiteville.)

How about that? Pretty easy, I hope. Let's try a little practice to see how well you do:

1. All the (alumni, alumnae) of the Girls' Dance Team performed perfectly for the guests.

2. Because the (alumni, alumnus) of the Boys' Fishing School caught plenty of fish, everyone was happy.

3. Being an new (alumnae, alumnus) of East Carolina University made Steve's face light up like a new saloon.

4. Is it true that all your brothers and sisters are (alumni, alumnae) of Pembroke University?

5. Mrs. Baldwin told us that she was an (alumna, alumnus) of Queens University in Charlotte.

...And now, here are the answers:

1. Alumnae is correct because the reference is to more than one female graduate.
2. Alumni is correct because the reference is to more than one male graduate
3. Alumnus is correct because the reference is to one male graduate.
4. Alumni is correct because the reference is to both male and female graduates.
5. Alumna is correct because the reference is to one female graduate.

So there's another grammar lesson and I hope you've learned how to differentiate between these four words. Have a wonderful week and until next time, be happy. Peace and many regards to you all! GG