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Posted 6/15/03
Aubrey's Notebook:
Notes on common writing errors not covered or insufficiently emphasized by the Associated Press Stylebook
Many of the errors cited here have begun to appear frequently in advertising copy, bureaucratic writing and even in the writing of many journalists but have not yet shown up in academic writing enough to attract the attention of the people who write and edit handbooks of English usage. The list is repetitious and grows as new examples appear or more errors are identified. Readers are invited to email comments, questions and topics for discussion.

Disguised redundancy:
Oil is a key ingredient in asphalt. WRONG.
Oil is a key ingredient of asphalt. CORRECT
Oil is a key asphalt ingredient. WEAK but OK when brevity is required to get extra line on a page.
Ingredient contains the concept of IN.

The list includes, in part, birds, bees, trees and flowers. The use of includes means that the list will be incomplete.
Only a lawyer for a food distributor would write: The list includes but is not limited to flour, starch, sugar, soybean oil.
Never use the word "includes" to introduce a list you are confident is complete. If an editor or page designer shortens the list, that person is responsible for putting in the word "includes" or using a phrase such as "Among the visitors were Jones, Smith and Johnson.
An exception to this rule is in certain parts of obituaries: Survivors include his wife, Maude, to whom he was married in 1492; one daughter, Jane Doe; one son, Fred Doolittle; 30 grandchildren.
Our job is to be accurate and that means not asserting completeness when we can't swear to it or directly quote someone we reasonably can trust on the subject. The subject of the obit may have 70 illegitimate children by nine women who may have never been married to him but who all deserve to be in the obit, for all we know.
The person who has died may have half-siblings or step-siblings who haven't kept in touch. We can't assume that Jane Doe, who provided the information to the funeral home, knows all who survive her father or that she would choose to list them all. Thus we use "include" and are always right because inlaws and friends or a loving pet would willingly be classed as survivors in every case.

A resident who lives in Fayetteville. WRONG
A resident of Fayetteville is a person who lives in Fayetteville. Resident includes the concept PERSON WHO LIVES IN and is followed by a prepositional phrase naming the place where the person lives.
"The consultants believe the hosipitial can draw a growing number of patients from the approximately 7,200 residents in the seven-mile radius which centers around the facility. COUNT ERRORS!
The consultants said the hospital can draw new patients from the approximately 7,200 people who live within a 7-mile radius of the facility. IMPROVED and Shorter!

Investigation into the allegations. WRONG
Investigation of the allegations.
Investigation means the process of LOOKING INTO.

Representatives from the Civil Rights Office. WRONG
Representatives of the Civil Rights Office. A representative is someone who represents someone or an agency and contains the concept that FROM would convey. A person from China may be in town next week to represent the Chinese government at our conference.

A window was broken to gain entry into the car. WRONG
A window was broken to gain entry to the car.
The car was entered after a window was broken.
THE EVENTS ARE NOT CLEARLY connected unless evidence confirms motivation. To gain entry includes the concept INTO.

Producing products. ABSURD

The nominating committee for the club. WRONG
The nominating committee of the club. OK
The club's nominating committee. BETTER
A committee is PART of the club not a group of employees of the club, normally.

Triple redundancy: The reason why we did it was because we wanted to. WRONG
The reason we did it was we wanted to. WEAK
The reason that we did it was that we wanted to. OK
We did it because we wanted to. GOOD
Why we did it was clear — we wanted to. EMPHATIC
We wanted to was why we did it. Awkward
Only one of the words REASON, WHY or BECAUSE need be used in a sentence.

Absurdity on someone's part
He said he hadn't locked the doors of the car that was broken into.
Most people see the need for improved access to and from the park. WORDY
Most people see the need for improved access to the park. Access says it ALL.

He wants to access his account. WRONG, despite the inroads of computer jargon into the language.
He wants access to his account. OK
He wants to gain access to his account. This is an occasion when the longer version may be BETTER because it maintains the idiom. Access has only recently been used as a verb and it adds nothing to our ability to communicate and may offend some careful readers, speakers and writers.

Professional people may be from a place or work for a company. Regardless of where the person is or who employs the person, that person qualifies for the title used.
She is a teacher from another school. He is a doctor. She is a surgeon. He is a nurse. She is a stonemason. He is a carpenter. He is a salesman from another town. He is an engineer for (or from) another town. He is a firefighter for another town.

Some seemingly similar titles, however, apply only as long as the person has that particular job or assignment. He is executive director of the airport. He is a representative of another town. He is a clerk at a convenience store. He is a laborer for.... He is the president of the neighborhood association. Such positions aren't professions or trades.

There are many ways to establish professional status. Having a degree or certification from a professional group or being licensed by a public agency or trade organization are among them. Having worked successfully in a trade may offer similar status. Carey Adams of Fayetteville was a widely recognized auto mechanic although he displayed no certificates to that effect on the walls of the Conoco service station that bore his name in south Fayetteville for many years. In his obituary he could have been identified as a businessman, a service-station owner or a mechanic. Had he lived to retire, he would have been a former businessman or service-station owner but he would have still been a qualified mechanic even in retirement.

Sometimes omitting the word "that" results in failure to communicate:

Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New said last year the district had numerous possibilities for using the $1,086 it received from the Christmas-card fund. Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New said that, last year, the district had numerous possibilities for using the $1,086 it received from the Christmas-card fund. Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New said last year that the district had numerous possibilities for using the $1,086 it received from the Christmas-card fund.

WHEN was the statement made? The reader deserves to know. The lack of "that" sometimes suggests that the following noun is the object of the verb when the following noun actually is the subject of a subordinate clause.

Fladager called the extra time off a "secret killer," and Superintendent Leroy Ortman promised the district would share the expense.
Fladager called the extra time off a "secret killer," and Superintendent Leroy Ortman promised that the district would share the expense.
Because only two words usually are not surrounded by quotation marks, the reader must try to guess what is special about these two words: Is a secret killer something that kills secretly or kills secrets?

Titles before names should be brief and normally used only on second reference: Coach Nutt said to block and tackle.

On first reference, the correct, complete title should follow the name: Houston Nutt, head coach of the Arkansas Razorback football team, said his players need practice.

A major problem for editors is having to rephrase sentences to move long titles from the beginning of a sentence. Name the person, then give his title.
Razorback offensive coordinator John Smith said.... John Jones, coordinator of the Razorback defense, said.... Coach Jones may be preferable to Jones for second reference because Jones may be the coach of a team that includes a player named Jones and some players may be quoted in such a story.
Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Division Director John Doe said.... John Doe, director of the Fayetteville park and recreation division, said.

Most English nouns when used as adjectives to modify another word are either changed to adjectival form or used in singular form. Exceptions include media, which is plural but often used as an adjective: Media outlets demand respect. Police, which is plural, is used as an adjective. That was police business.

The Arkansas State Police may be the name of an agency but the agency is named for the group of people: The Arkansas State Police are starting a crackdown. A policeman, policewoman or police officer is expected to arrest a criminal. The Springdale Police are expected to make arrests. An Arkansas state trooper also makes arrests.

The names of teams that participate in sports often cause trouble in maintaining correct agreement of subject and verb. Most team names are plural because a team is a group of people. Subject-verb agreement should be maintained even when a team's name is singular. But it isn't always easy. The name of the team is the Razorbacks. A team is a group of people. He is a Razorback. He is a Razorback player. He is a Razorback linebacker. He is the Razorback linebacker coach. He is the Razorback's linebacker coach. The game will be in Razorback Stadium. That one is easy.

The Heat may be a basketball team but what do you call a member of the team? A Heat player. He is a Heat center or a center for the Heat. The Forty-Niners are another easy one: Jerry Rice, a 49er (or a pass receiver for the 49ers), changed teams. Rice has become a Raider. The Raiders were glad to get him. A Raider fan expressed joy at seeing Rice catch his first pass as a Raider. Rice may be the Raiders' best receiver. Rice certainly appears to be the best Raider receiver to some observers.

A team of girls is a girls' team, if it must be shortened. Girls' basketball is a popular sport. Sandy Smith is the coach of the girls. She is the girls' coach.

The National Park Service when shortened to park service is hyphenated as a modifier: He is a park-service employee. Usually "the service" is good enough on second reference. "He is a park employee" is right if he is mentioned in a story about the park where he works. "He is an employee of the service" might be best if the story is about the park service as an agency.

Even if a noun used as an adjective is plural in an official name, it isn't plural on subsequent, lower-cased references.
The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Division on second reference is just division; or, if more information is needed to avoid confusion, it is park and recreation division. The Federal Communications Commission on second reference is commission or if other commissions are mentioned in the story it is the FCC or communication commission.
Like all other words with similar endings, communication is a noun of mass that never needs pluralization.
The confusion arises when people try to shorten phrases such as "several instances of communication" or "several means of communication" to "several communications." Would you talk about "transportations"? Before the FCC was created, few careful speakers or writers would have added an s to communication.

A two-word proper name of a thing is not usually hyphenated when used as an adjective unless the name is officially hyphenated: The Post-Prison Transfer Board was the name found on the Internet and in official literature in the early months of the existence of the board. Later, the hyphen was omitted. What did the legislature intend when creating the board?

Rogers High School. The Rogers High School principal is a high-school principal in Rogers.

A teacher at Rogers High School is a high-school teacher in Rogers.

Joe Ferguson, coach of the quarterbacks, may be identified as quarterback coach Joe Ferguson if an editor finds he must shorten the sentence by the 3 extra character spaces required by the correct prepositional phrase.
Wide-receiver coach Terry Edwards would be the abbreviated form of Terry Edwards, who coaches wide receivers. The noun used as an adjective (receiver) must be singular. The two words, wide receivers, must be singular when combined to form an adjective.

The absurdity of long titles before a name can be confusing on first glance:
English teacher Mary Smith said.... Is she from England? Does she teach the language?
Trying to put too much before the name can make it worse, because the person clearly isn't the focus: Third-year Rogers High School freshman-English teacher Dr. Mary Smith said.... Dr. Mary Smith, a third-year teacher of freshman English at Rogers High School, said....
The title is in apposition with the name: Either could be used without the other and the second item, the appositive, must be surrounded by commas. The first version is simply wrong and can't be punctuated as an appositive unless an article is added.
A third-year Rogers High School freshman-English teacher, Mary Smith, said....
If the function (in the form of what many textbooks call a false title) is more important than the name, for instance in introducing a person testifying in the trial and intending to emphasize credentials rather than person, then this setting off of the name as an appositive might have some justification. Otherwise, name the person and then put the long title or description inside a pair of commas.

Normally, titles must not be stacked in front of a name: School superintendent Dr. Phil Silvers should read Dr. Phil Silvers, superintendent of schools. Or Dr. William Scholarship, professor of English. Or Assistant professor Bill Wannabe, M.A., said. Don't write assistant journalism professor. That sounds like a student helper or graduate assistant. An assistant professor of journalism is a step above an instructor and a step lower than an associate professor. A full professor is just plain professor, although, in casual use, Professor Jones is acceptable for anyone above the rank of instructor.

Though, although, however
Avoid using "though" in place of "however" or "although."
While dictionaries may show "though" as a replacement for these and several other words, the overuse of "though" makes a writer appear lazy and imprecise:
Though he loved his wife, he didn't stay home very much. He worked long hours and made a lot of money for her, though.
Although he loved his wife, he didn't stay home very much; however, his long days at work resulted in big paychecks that provided a fine lifestyle for the woman. Sometimes, writers use "though" to replace more than one of these words in a single sentence or paragraph. This would be stylistically suspect even if the imprecision of the word choice were not so strongly emphasized by it.
Do not substitute "though" for "although" or "however." Although ill, he finished the day's work. He was ill; however, he finished the day's work.

Correct use of "though": "We're not talking about having a wart removed — even though liberals would have us believe that a fetus is just another growth to be removed like a wart."

"Ongoing" is useful as an adjective: The ongoing project is expensive.
"Going on" is useful as a verb: The project is going on despite the expense.
Neither works well in the other function.

Don't use "couple" as an adjective.
A couple more inches.
A couple of inches more. A couple of dogs more won't overfill the kennel.
If the figure under discussion is actually two, write "Two more dogs won't overfill the kennel." That is shorter and exact. If it isn't two, write "A few more dogs won't overfill the kennel." That is still shorter and purposely vague but as accurate as necessary if you don't know the exact capacity of the kennel.

The project includes renovations to the school. WRONG
The project includes renovation of the school. Renovation is a PROCESS. The word is a noun of mass. When you are renovating something, no matter how many things you repair and replace, the process amounts to renovation of the named facility.

Capital improvement

In many cities there is a program for enhancing the value of city property known in some places as the Capital Improvement Program.
In most references, a lower-cased version of the name is appropriate: Capital-improvement projects are on the agenda.
Councilwoman Thiel usually votes for capital-improvement projects.

Faculty and Staff
These words refer to groups of people. Individuals are referred to as members of the faculty or staff or as faculty or staff members in a shorter form.
According to staff, the work is almost finished. WRONG
According to the staff, the work is almost finished. BETTER The word THE suggests the possibility that more than one member of the staff worked on the report or that members of the staff agree to the assertion and it gets rid of the possibility that the reader will think that the noun of mass, staff, refers to one person.
Joe Schmoo, a member of the staff (or better, use his exact title), said the work is almost finished. MUCH BETTER!

Boy injured after accident. WRONG, usually.
Boy injured in accident. MORE LIKELY, although he could have been injured by tripping while walking home after being hit by but not injured by a car.

Boy dies after accident. NOT Always correct. Various possibilities are likely: Accident results in death of boy. Boy dies in accident. Boy pronounced dead after accident. Boy injured in accident dies at hospital. Man, injured in accident as a boy in 1923, dies at age 80.

Maintaining idiomatic expressions and logical relationships: Do not omit the word "that" when it introduces a subordinate clause. There are far too many occasions when the reader has to read a sentence twice after being confused by the omission of "that."
Nutt told the crowd he has faith in the Razorback football team. Before you decide to omit "that" notice what follows "that" and imagine various momentary misinterpretations if the line should break where it is omitted.
Nutt told the crowd, which he has faith in, that the Razorback football team is excellent.

Nutt told the crowd that he has faith in the Razorback football team.

Always be certain to place "that" in the right place.
She said last year she was in love.
The sentence can mean two things and "that" can show which is intended:
She said that, last year, she was in love.
She said, last year, that she was in love.
Coach Nutt said last year the Hogs were slow.
Coach Nutt said that, last year, the Hogs were slow.
Coach Nutt said, last year, that the Hogs were slow.

A four-letter word often is essential for clarity and "that" is one that should always be in the correct place. If an editor or page designer trying to save a line deems the word "that" disposable when trying to save a line on a page at the last minute, that person can remove it. But the writer who uses it properly cannot be faulted for using "that."

He is an engineer with the city. She is the program coordinator for the city.

An engineer is always an engineer. A program coordinator carries that title only when employed in such a position.
Officials or administrators are officials or administrators only as long as they have their jobs: Jane Smith, an official with the college, ... WRONG.
Jane Smith, an official at the college, .... OK
Jane Smith, an official of the college, reported that money is scarce. CORRECT, precise relationship.
Jane Smith, a history professor at the college, said.... GOOD.
Jane Smith, a history professor with the college, said.... WEAK.
Jones was arrested by agents with the task force. WRONG
Jones was arrested by agents of the task force. CORRECT
Jones was arrested by task-force agents. OK and shorter but some writers want to avoid hyphens and thus should stick to the long form.
Agent is the name of a job or position, not a profession. A person functions as an agent of someone or some organization.

While there may be various reasons for the existence of tension in a person or portion of the world and there may an unlimited level of tension, there is no reason to add s.
Tensions mount WRONG.
Tension mounts CORRECT.

Teachers pulled away the 13-year-old from the victim. WRONG.
Teachers pulled the 13-year-old away from the victim.

Avoiding separating parts of verbs, particularly the sign of the infinitive (to), is a useful rule for clarity. However, separable-suffix verbs by definition may be broken by intervening words. In many cases, traditional idiomatic usage requires the separation. The separable suffix may appear to be a preposition but its use is as a part of the verb.

The following punctuation tips follow traditional rules designed to ensure that major breaks in long sentences may be identified.
Journalists, of course, are encouraged to write short sentences. At least, however, if the writer punctuates correctly, the editor can instantly tell by the semicolon where the two independent clauses should be separated by a period to form two sentences. The semicolon is required even when a coordinating conjunction makes the transition to show the meaning relationship between two independent clauses if there are commas in either of the main clauses: "Our needs have been greater, and the pool is smaller," said Jane Webb, Rogers assistant superintendent for personnel. "Teachers in elementary education, social studies and English were plentiful; but, in those areas, we're seeing a decreasing applicant pool as well."
Notice the comma after the coordinating conjunction but.
Such a comma is required only when the conjunction has to be preceded by a semicolon because the second independent clause is introduced by a nonrestrictive dependent clause or phrase. If a coordinating conjunction opens a simple sentence, there is no comma after the conjunction:
"I love my dog. But I don't like hair on the sofa." Do not add a comma simply because you might pause there when speaking. The comma leads a reader to assume that some intervening clause or phrase will appear before the main clause that follows.

A common error is omitting one of the commas in a matched pair. The introductory adverbial prepositional phrase in those areas must be surrounded by commas. If the coordinating conjunction did not introduce the second independent clause, of course, only the second comma would be needed.

This is the final phase of enhancements to the building.
This is the final phase of the enhancement of the building.
The process of enhancing the building is almost complete.
Any work done to improve a building is enhancement of or improvement of the building. Neither word needs an s when used properly.

One religious group requires Saturday be a day of rest. WRONG
One religious group requires that Saturday be a day of rest. BEST
One religious group requires Saturday to be a day of rest. Confusing because a day can't be required to do anything.

The state Department of Education requires a non-certified ESL teacher become certified within three years of being hired. FAILS TO MAINTAIN THE IDIOM
The state Department of Education requires a non-certified ESL teacher to become certified within three years of being hired. GOOD
The state Department of Education requires that a non-certified ESL teacher become certified within three years of being hired. GOOD

Try and, Try to
We will try and win the game. COCKY player or coach. Bulletin board material!
We will try to win the game. HONEST player or coach.
We will try to consider everyone's point of view.
That is sincere and suggests that the speaker plans to do his best. Additionally, it maintains the long-standing idiom.

The perceived difficulties in getting water service.
The perceived difficulty of getting water service.
Two small corrections also make the sentence shorter.

The records clerk is learning to be a crime scene investigator.
The record clerk is learning to be a crime-scene investigator.
A record clerk files records. Nouns used as adjectives are in singular form; and two nouns combined to form an adjective are hyphenated. Because he was believed to have been responsible for war crimes, Hitler would have been brought to trial before a war-crime tribunal.

Two rules:
The terms limits law is too strict, Anonymous may have written. BAD
The term limits law is too strict, Hausam said. STILL BAD
The term-limit law is too strict to be practical, he said. CORRECT
When the nouns term and limits are combined to form an adjective, a hyphen joins them and neither word needs to be plural. Terms of comparison such as too strict cry out for completion of the comparison.

The Senate passed several rules changes. WRONG
The Senate passed several rule changes. BETTER
The Senate changed several rules. GOOD

Just because a television broadcaster or weather-service spokesman talks about "storm events" doesn't mean a writer needs to say anything more than "storms."

Zerox's profits rise. WRONG. The noun of mass doesn't need to be in a plural form. Zerox's profit rises. CORRECT. No matter how much its gross income is greater than its expenditures, Zerox can make only profit, not profits.
There is a reason to put an S on profit when it is used as a verb following a singular subject.
"It little profits a woman to marry young without discovering first whether she really loves the guy who proposes to her."
NOUN OF MASS treated as singular. Profit as a verb may need an s: It little profits a man to beat his dog.

Obviously, if a word has an adjectival form, it should be used: He is a Democratic senator, not a Democrat senator.
He is principal at Jones Elementary School. WEAK
He is the principal of Jones Elementary School.

Principal is a shortened phrase for "The principal teacher of the school." In a similar use, business writers may say that someone is the principal of a company, suggesting the person is the principal stockholder or principal manager.

If there appears to be a logical reason to use a plural noun as an adjective, the noun must appear in possessive form. For instance: James Johnson coaches girls' soccer. The full, correct form would involve a prepositional phrase: James Johnson coaches soccer for girls or girls in soccer.
When a prepositional phrase is converted to a one-word adjective preceding a noun modified by the phrase, the adjectival form must be used.
Razorbacks tight end John Jones is big. WRONG.
Razorback tight end John Jones is big. OK but likely constitutes a false title, according to Roy Reed!
A Razorback tight end, John Jones, is big. OK, if you need the name in apposition to the position or title.
The Razorbacks' starting tight end, John Jones, is big. OK
John Jones, the Razorbacks' starting tight end, is big. GOOD
All the Razorbacks tight ends are big. WRONG
All the Razorbacks' tight ends are big. OK
Razorbacks tight ends John Jones and Bill Smith are big. WRONG
Razorback tight ends John Jones and Bill Smith are big.
All the Razorbacks' tight ends — Jones, Smith, Hewlett and Packard — are big.

The dash is recommended to set off the series of names, which are in apposition with tight ends, because commas are needed between the items in the series.
The kids planted flowers at the home of a nearby resident. WORDY, ILLOGICAL.
The kids planted flowers at a nearby residence. GOOD and short, hitting all bases.

Private property owners. WRONG
Private-property owners. CORRECT without lengthening phrase.
Owners of private property. BEST CHOICE if it will fit.

Children cyclists between the ages of 5 and 14 account for about 24 percent of all bicycle-related deaths in the United States, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign web site. WHY be redundant and do it with a noun modifying a noun?
Children between the ages of 5 and 14 account for about 24 percent of all bicycle-related deaths in the United States, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign Web site. It is obvious the kids were cyclists and the word adding nothing.

The new Gentry board will represent five zones and have two at-large positions, adding two spots to the school board, but Barrett said he does not anticipate (to use) using the zones in the upcoming election. If the economy picks up and revenue(s) improve(s), he said(,) the projects may be back on the drawing board in two years.
The city's water usage has increased. WRONG
The city's water use has increased. BETTER
The city's use of water has increased. BEST but longer.
Jones, a vice president with McClelland Consulting Engineers, WRONG
Jones, a vice president of McClelland ..., CORRECT

An area known as a commons may also be called a common area. It is obviously a place used in common by everyone. It is an old phrase. So one can say either "We met on (in) the commons" or "we met on (in) the common area. Probably, "on the commons" would be used outdoors and "in the commons" if the area is indoors. This is one of many examples of the tendency of today's writers and speakers to needlessly use a plural form of a noun as an adjective when the singular is correct.

The bear was relocated.
The bear was moved.

Don't use relocated instead of moved. Relocated would suggest the bear was discovered or found again.

No matter what bureaucrats and politicians say, when talking about water or electricity or gas or whatever, the word is "use" not "usage."
Usage is what instructors try to teach in English class. In relation to water, it might be logical to utilize the word "usage" if talking about the correct way to use water; but generally don't use "usage" where "use" will do, unless it is in a direct quote that you feel is necessary to a story.

Use a verb rather than a noun:
$460,000 Needed For Youth Center Furnishings
$460,000 Needed To Furnish Youth Center

If the council approves the request, Simmons has asked Ron Blackwell and Bill Enfield be appointed as the new members.

If the council approves the request, Simmons has asked that Ron Blackwell and Bill Enfield be appointed as new members.

Illogical, absurd back-formation:

Early on — the phrase apparently developed in the second half of the 20th century in imitation of "later on," a long-established phrase. Later on may be understood to mean "later on the program, later on down the road, later on the agenda." However, the addition of the word "on" adds little or nothing unless it actually serves as a preposition that has an object apparent in the sentence. Early on is absurd in a sentence such as "Early on, we learn to read." If it means early in life or early in one's school career or whatever, state that fact clearly.
Be specific. Early on is vague, at best. "Early in life, we learn to read. Early in school, we learn to read."

"Northwest Arkansas employers are clamoring for new hires who possess a strong work ethic and basic job skills, a group of business leaders told Springdale School District administrators Wednesday."

New hires are people who already have been hired, but hired recently. Companies are clamoring for people to hire. If someone is a new hire, he may not be available! Hiring NEW people is risky. New people can't walk, talk or sit at a desk without wearing a diaper. Many companies want to hire young people, but seldom do they hire new people. "Northwest Arkansas employers want to hire people who possess a strong work ethic and basic job skills, a group of business leaders told Springdale School District administrators Wednesday."

Improvement of NOT improvements to

In a timelier manner NOT in a more timely manner

Poorly prepared children "are placed in remedial classes" NOT "are placed in remediation classes."
The child was placed in a class for remediation.
Children in such classes are less prepared academically NOT they are less academically prepared.

A display of fireworks is a firework display.
A showing of fireworks is a firework show.
A possible explanation of the recent trend toward using the plural noun as an adjective is that the phrase "firework show" sounds as though it is "fireworks show" because many speakers slur it together on radio or television. An Internet search reveals that most established manufacturers of fireworks use the word in its singular form in the corporate name: "Rouse The Rabble Firework Company Inc."
A writer or editor who doesn't choose to do it right can easily write around the problem.

The property sits on a vacant lot, according to city planner Tim Conklin, and is zoned thoroughfare commercial.
See anything wrong? Obvious absurdity. It may be that one could say that "the trees, grass and other valuable wildlife habitat are on a vacant lot, because vacant usually simply refers to the fact that no man-made structure is ono the property.

People living outside the city limits are rated Class 9. Too obvious, right?

Students who took the 11th-grade literacy test last spring are now high school seniors. So where is the news in that sentence? And why not hyphenate the two-word adjective?

Locating a wastewater plant on the southern side of the city is one of Coberly's major goals if she is re-elected.
Certainly, the taxpayers hope there is one there for Coberly to find so that they don't have to pay for a new one!

To locate means to find.

Careful writers don't use locate when they mean place or build or situate or anything except to find.
He located the lost child. The child was in a well. How did it get there? The child fell into the well or was placed there or put there or pushed there or thrown there.

These types of complaints..... Instead, try these shorter, more accurate versions: Such complaints...... Complaints of this type.....

"On a daily basis" Just write "daily."

Chinn believes the committee made the right decision electing Glover.
"She'll make a good chair," he said. INSULTING.
If the writer doesn't know whether the person "holding the chair" is male or female, the solution is to find out and write chairman or chairwoman. Calling someone the chairperson is almost as lame as calling someone a chair. If the person refuses to confess to being either male or female, just create an indirect quote. Jones is a good choice to take the chair of philosphy at the university, White said. Smith is a good choice to hold the chair of foreign languages, Faubus said. Clinton would be perfect to lead the committee, Clinton said.

Huckabee said in a telephone news conference Tuesday that he wants Arkansas to move teacher salaries toward the regional average of the Southern Region Education Board member states in "three to four years."
Huckabee said in a telephone news conference Tuesday that he wants Arkansas to move teachers' salaries toward the regional average of states that are members of the Southern Region Education Board in three to four years.

Frequently, saving a few words results in disastrously confusing paragraphs.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables WRONG
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables CORRECT Besides being longer and subject to misreading, pluralizing fruit is just plain wrong!

In addition, it would work to make certain services are working. MOMENTARILY confusing.
In addition, it would work to make certain that services are working. EASY TO Follow.

The closely related words "regime," "regimen" and "regiment" are often confused. They should not be used interchangeably. Open your dictionary to the "regi" page and compare their definitions to their correct use in the following sentence:
According to Saddam's resume, his regime requires its top regiment to follow a strict regimen.

damages = are what a judge requires someone to pay when it is determined that he has damaged another person in some way.
damage = is never plural except in the use above in legal jargon. The fire did a lot of damage to the possessions of the renter. The renter sued the owner for damages because the firefighter said that faulty wiring caused the fire.

It could have been resolved in a couple of more days. WRONG It could have been resolved in a couple of days more. BETTER

Smaller classroom sizes help recruit students. CONFUSING
Smaller classes help recruit students. CLEAR

People with an income of $30,000 or less may be eligible for the program. UNCLEAR People with a gross income of $30,000 or less may be eligible for the program. CLEAR People with a net income of $30,000 or less may be eligible for the program. CLEAR

Study rules in AP Style Book for use of numerals such as 1-acre, 7-year-old child, a 9-year-old, 6 years old.

Don't put quotation marks around only two words directly quoted. Don't put quotation marks around a word simply because it is the writer's first time to use it. If the speaker and his audience understand it, then there is a good chance that readers also will understand. Check with experienced individuals before deciding.
Experience as an editor or writer doesn't mean a person knows the terminology of every other profession.
Check with someone in another department or outside the building if the dictionary doesn't clarify the speaker's intention.
If a word or short phrase is unusual enough to require quotation marks, it probably requires parenthetical definition in your text.
Putting a word or short phrase in quotation marks often suggests the following thought to the editor or reader: "I don't know what the guy meant and was too lazy to ask him. If you know, great. If not, just ignore it. I will, if you will."

What is wrong with the first version below?
George Van-Vliet, 73, told police he looked back to quash a fight between two students when he lost control of the Siloam Springs bus May 19.
George Van-Vliet, 73, told police that he lost control of the Siloam Springs bus when he looked back to quash a fight between two students May 19.

My home sits on a prairie wetland. My home sits on a wetland prairie. Either is OK. Both are correct.
In recent times, a lot of scientists and people writing about their work have used the term wetlands.
There are wet lands on earth, of course, if you are using the word "lands" as a synonym for nations or countries. Holland, Indonesia and many other tropical places qualify.
But the type of area defined as wetland by various scientists and public agencies such as the U.S. Corps of engineers is simply wetland. A few decades ago, the phrase would have been two words.
"Eastern Arkansas has a lot of forested wet land. Because of the desire to earn the maximum profit from Mississippi delta and Grand Prairie farms, many people have filled their wet land. My friend, Wayne Hampton, owned a lot of wet-land prairie and farmed much of it."
It made sense to drop the two-word noun and hyphenated adjectival form and go to one word because for decades millions of pages were written on the subject.
However, it does not make sense to add an S and create a monstrosity such as "My neighbors' wetlands will soon be drained and filled by a developer. He apparently didn't understand the value of a wetlands area or he wouldn't have allowed its destruction."
No matter how many acres of wetland he owns, he doesn't own any wetlands unless he has bought Rhode Island and seceded from the Union.

Revenue is a noun of mass and need not be put in a plural form. Accountants and politicians and bureaucrats sometimes use "revenues" when referring to various sources of revenue and the shorthand may seem justified. However, the plural form by back-formation becomes standard in the minds of many.

No matter how much money a company or governmental body receives or collects, it is revenue. The only reason for the appearance of "revenues" in print would be in a direct quotation of a person who made the error in speech.
"We received $2 million in revenues in 2000," said Jack Spratt, mayor of Podunk.
Unless it is important to document his exact words, the way to avoid reproducing this abomination is to quote the mayor indirectly.
Mayor Jack Spratt said that Podunk took in $2 million in revenue in 2000.
In either case, an editor trying to tighten a story might question the need for the word in such a sentence. The definition of revenue is "income." Revenue is frequently redundant in its use and may easily be eliminated in indirect quotations.
Mayor Jack Spratt said that Podunk received $2 million in 2000.

Dictionaries did not even list "revenues" until the late 1980s. The erroneous pluralization of this and other nouns of mass is recorded in many dictionaries now. However, inclusion of a word in a dictionary does not justify writing it.




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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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