Greetings, FFers! Because we live in interesting times, the Grammar Cop has lined up three interesting goofs for your perusal:
- In a written reply to a constituent signed by U.S. Senator Todd Young of Indiana (the great state that produced Vice President Mike Pence): “As you may know, the Secretary of Education is the head of the Department of Education and is the principle advisor to the President of the United States on education matters.”
- From CNN.COM: “He went onto say he feared future targeting…”
- Also from CNN.COM: “Home to only 300,000 people, Bránsdóttir’s murder has gripped Iceland…”
Let’s see if you spotted the boo-boos.
- I fear for the U.S. Department of Education (particularly with the unqualified Betsy De Vos as its new boss). I wonder if, unlike this Senator, she would know “principle” should actually be principal in the quoted sentence, since it is an adjective modifying advisor. (Note that principle is always a noun – it means a guiding moral rule – something certain people in politics seem to lack. Principal can either be a noun – as in the principal of a school – or an adjective, as in the quoted sentence above, where it is a descriptor meaning main or primary.
- The Grammar Cop knew by grade 4 or thereabouts that “onto” is a preposition that is almost always used in a physical sense, as in: She climbed onto the table (what on earth for, I wonder?); or He made it onto the next level. You could also say, somewhat slangily, I’m onto you, I know you’re trying to cheat me. However, in CNN’s sentence, “onto” isn’t correct as one word. It has to be separated into two words, since both on and to are needed in order for the sentence to make sense. Here, on functions as an extension of the verb, went. He went on to say, meaning he continued to say. The word to is actually part of say: I’m saying that to say is the infinitive form of the verb, say. Okay, I’ve said enough. 😀
- This is a perfect example of a dangling modifier. If you didn’t realize anything was wrong here, I have two words for you: Never mind. 😉 But for the rest of you who know something’s not right but aren’t sure what it is or how to fix it, I’ll explain. The descriptive phrase, “Home to only 300,000 people” is not meant to modify the word “murder,” which is how it seems in the way it’s written here. Can we agree on that? Oh, I think we can. No, the phrase is intended to modify the small country, “Iceland.” (Its population is actually 332,529,* but who’s counting?) So the sentence should be reworded to reflect that. It could say, for example: Bránsdóttir’s murder has gripped Iceland, home to only 300,000 people…
Stay tuned for more interesting (and alliterative!) flaws and fixes next Friday.
*I ❤ Wikipedia!