Archive for May, 2006

50 Cent, Ludacris, Ice Cube, and an Error in Diction

May 31, 2006

50 Cent, Ludacris, and Ice Cube have all expressed frustration with Oprah Winfrey for not featuring rap artists on her show. The latter said, "Maybe she's got a problem with hip-hop."

The second sentence contains an error in diction. Since three people are listed, "latter" should not be used. "Latter" refers to the second of two things or people. If there are more than two things or people in a series, use "last."

The sentence should read as follows:

50 Cent, Ludacris, and Ice Cube have all expressed frustration with Oprah Winfrey for not featuring rap artists on her show. The last said, "Maybe she's got a problem with hip-hop."

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Angelina, Brad, and an Error in Punctuation

May 30, 2006

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt donated $300,000 to Namibian hospitals, and $15,000 to a community center in Swakopmund.

This sentence contains an error in punctuation. The verb "donated" has a compound object, the two components of which are "$300,000 to Namibian hospitals" (direct object = "$300,000"; indirect object = "Namibian hospitals") and "$15,000 to a community center in Swakopmund" (direct object = "$15,000"; indirect object = "community center in Swakopmund"). Do not use a comma to separate the two elements of a compound subject or object.

The sentence should be punctuated as follows:

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt donated $300,000 to Namibian hospitals and $15,000 to a community center in Swakopmund.

Michael and an Error in Parallelism

May 26, 2006

Michael Jackson, who has been living in Bahrain, is preparing to make an appearance in Tokyo to accept an award. His plans for his visit include not only touring the city and visiting orphanages, but also to meet with Asian businessmen.

The second sentence contains an error in parallelism. The structure of the sentence is unbalanced because "not only" is followed by two gerund phrases and "but also" is followed by an infinitive phrase.

When correlative conjunctions (also known as "connectors" because they work together in pairs to connect words, phrases, and clauses) are used in a sentence, the items that follow each conjunction must be similar in structure. The correlative conjunction pairs are either/or, neither/nor, not only/but also, not/but, both/and, and whether/or.

This sentence contains the correlative conjuctions not only/but also. Look at the structure of the sentence:

not only touring the city and visiting orphanages,

but also to meet with Asian businessmen

The phrases "touring the city" and "visiting orphanages" contain gerunds, but the phrase "to meet with Asian businessmen" contains an infinitive. To correct the sentence, change the infinitive to a gerund.

Michael Jackson, who has been living in Bahrain, is preparing to make an appearance in Tokyo to accept an award. His plans for his visit include not only touring the city and visiting orphanages, but also meeting with Asian businessmen.

The structure of the sentence is now parallel.

The Da Vinci Code, Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette, and an Error in Subject/Verb Agreement

May 25, 2006

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette were well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

This sentence contains an error in subject/verb agreement. When subjects in a sentence are linked by the correlative conjunctions "neither/nor," the subject that is closer to the verb determines the number of the verb. The "neither/nor" pairing of two singular subjects does not use a plural verb.

In this sentence, the subject closer to the verb "were" is "Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette." Titles of works (such as books, plays, and movies) are singular, so the verb in this sentence should be singular. Change "were" to "was" to correct this sentence.

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette was well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

A simple trick to use when determining agreement in sentences that contain the correlative conjunctions "either/or" and "neither/nor" is to cross off all the words from "either" (or "neither") to "or" (or "nor"). The subject will now stand out, making it easier to match its number with that of the verb.

Neither Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code nor Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette was well-received at the Cannes Film Festival, as film critics booed during the screening of each film.

Brad, Britney, and a Faulty Comparison

May 24, 2006

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as Britney Spears? When he took his infant daughter on a bike ride, she did not wear a helmet and she was carried in a baby-pack that has instructions that warn against using it while riding a bike.

The first sentence contains a faulty comparison. What is being compared? The comparison is between "parenting skills" and "Britney Spears." A person should not be compared to skills. Skills should be compared to skills.

Modify the sentence to create a comparison that is logical:

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as Britney Spears' child-rearing abilities?

or

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as those of Britney Spears?

Sarah and an Error in Diction: affect/effect

May 24, 2006

Has being out of the limelight effected Sarah Michelle Gellar's sense of style? She was recently seen wearing a very unflattering dress.

This sentence contains an error in diction. The word "effect" has been used instead of "affect."

"Effect" can be used as a noun or a verb. The more common noun form means "a result," while the transitive verb form means "to bring about." The use of "effect" as a verb in the first sentence does not make sense. Being out of the limelight did not bring about Sarah's sense of style.  The sentence could be modified to maintain the use of this verb by adding an object that can be effected: "Has being out of the limelight effected a change in Sarah Michelle Gellar's sense of style?"

"Affect" is most commonly used as a verb, meaning "to influence." It can be used as a noun in psychology, meaning "a person's mood or emotions." This latter usage is rarely seen outside of a psychological context.

To correct this sentence, use "affect" as a verb.

Has being out of the limelight affected Sarah Michelle Gellar's sense of style? She was recently seen wearing a very unflattering dress.

Read an example of "effect" used as a verb at Celebrity Vocabulary.

Lindsay and an Error in Punctuation

May 24, 2006

Lindsay Lohan will appear in two movies that deal with an assassination; playing a groupie attached to John Lennon in "Chapter 27" and an activist in a fictionalized account of the killing of Robert F. Kennedy.

This sentence contains an error in punctuation: a semicolon is used in place of a comma.

A semicolon should only be used to separate two independent clauses. This sentence contains one independent clause and a participial phrase. A partcipial phrase should be separated from an independent clause by a comma.

Use a semicolon alone when two independent clauses are related to each other ("None of my friends wanted to see that band; I went to the concert alone.") or with a conjunctive adverb (however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise, nevertheless, thus) to form a transition between two independent clauses ("None of my friends wanted to see that band; therefore, I went to the concert alone.")

This is how the sentence should be punctuated:

Lindsay Lohan will appear in two movies that deal with an assassination, playing a groupie attached to John Lennon in "Chapter 27" and an activist in a fictionalized account of the killing of Robert F. Kennedy.

Angelina, Brad, and an Error in Diction: imminent/eminent

May 23, 2006

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have become imminent figures in Namibia: half of the Namibians who voted in a poll believe that the day that Angelina gives birth should be declared a national holiday.

This sentence contains an error in diction. The word "imminent," which means "likely to happen in the near future," is often confused with the word "eminent," which means "famous and admired." Fix the sentence by replacing "imminent" with "eminent."

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have become eminent figures in Namibia: half of the Namibians who voted in a poll believe that the day that Angelina gives birth should be declared a national holiday.

Oprah and a Faulty Comparison

May 22, 2006

Oprah Winfrey has reportedly signed a deal to write a book about weight loss. Her advance is said to be more than Bill Clinton, who received $12 million to write his autobiography, My Life.

The second sentence contains a faulty comparison. The expression "more than" indicates that there is a comparison, but what two things are being compared? In this sentence, "her advance" is compared to "Bill Clinton." This is not logical. A thing should not be compared to a person. Oprah's advance should be compared to Bill Clinton's advance. Restructure the sentence so that the comparison is logical.

Oprah Winfrey has reportedly signed a deal to write a book about weight loss. Her advance is said to be more than the $12 million Bill Clinton received to write his autobiography, My Life.

Britney and an Error in Diction: lay/lie

May 19, 2006

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before he lays down to sleep.

This sentence contains an error in diction: the improper use of a form of the verb "to lay."

"To lay" is a transitive verb that means "to place something on a surface" and requires an object. You lay something down.

"To lie" is an intransitive verb that means "to be in or take on a horizontal position." Since it is intransitive, it never takes a subject. You lie down to sleep.

There is no object in the clause that begins with "before." The baby is reclining, not putting something down. Correct the sentence by replacing "lay" with "lie."

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before he lies down to sleep.

Alternatively, you can change the structure of the sentence to form a direct object and use the transitive "lay."

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before she lays him down to sleep.