Nineteen errors to avoid in your use of the English language

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by wegs, Aug 22, 2016.

  1. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I never could remember all of those English grammar rules (and all of their countless exceptions) when the teachers tried to teach them to me in high school or whenever it was.

    The only way I (sorta) learned them was through habit, by reading and writing a lot. Today, I technically still don't know the rules, but I'm pretty good at distinguishing what looks and sounds right from what doesn't.
     
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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  7. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    haha I used to love English class, and then now with all the writing I do, it's weird the things you forget. (or maybe never knew, but you thought you knew lol) But, you're right, the more one reads and writes, the better he/she'll become with remembering some of these points.

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  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Maybe that should read -- The only way I (sorta) learned them was through habit, by a lot of reading and writing.

    Is it correct to put 'a lot' on the end like that? We do that when we are speaking, but spoken English doesn't always translate to correct written English. (I pity the foreigners who try to learn this stuff.)

    Grammar makes me paranoid.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
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  9. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    ''Technically,'' a lot shouldn't be on the end, so the sentence could be ''The only way I (sorta) learned them was through habit, by a lot of reading and writing.''


    That still looks off.

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  10. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    It's probably the parenthetical "(sorta)" inserted in there that sounds a bit off.

    I'm gonna leave it there, since it individualizes the sentence. I think that it's ok to stretch the rules a little 'for artistic effect', one might say. (But then, I'm not an English teacher either.) At least it's arguably ok in informal writing, like here on Sciforums. Probably not in professional writing in the journals or wherever there's an editor reading your prose.
     
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Prepositions should not be used to end sentences with.
     
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  12. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    The only one of those rules that I still have trouble with is "effect" and "affect".

    Our teachers used to tell us that ain't ain't in the dictionary. But of course it ai.
     
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  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Memorizing rules is no way to learn anything - grammar rules are notorious because people try to teach people to write by having them learn rules of grammar. I don't know why. No one ever learned to write that way. https://betterexplained.com/articles/adjective-fallacy/

    The rules are what you learn in the course of learning to read and write, the pithy justifications for the corrections you have to make if you want to have written well. They represent a distillation of skill, not a foundation of practice.

    It's not really a "technical" matter. The only trouble with putting it on the end is that you created an unintentional ambiguity in its reference: "a lot of reading and writing" has the "lot" securely referring to both the reading and the writing, "reading and writing a lot" creates the possibility that one is reading, and also writing a lot. So it costs you some punch - a bit of vagueness disperses your meaning and can even force a very alert reader (the kind you want, right?) to reread. It also damages (in the alert reader's mind) your prospects of ever writing securely in that pattern: "I learned to write by getting my own desk and writing a lot" has become fuzzy, complicated in a way you did not intend.

    A pedantry of a type up with which no one should put.

    And I had to edit this post like six times. Dangerous waters.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
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  14. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Those are good points! It would seem though, that in either 'reading and writing' example, that the author is understood. (I see them both as relatively interchangeable.)
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, it is understood. The author has in fact successfully communicated, either way. In that sense neither is actually "wrong". But the first way is understood - by a very alert reader, paying unusually close attention - only after a momentary glitch, a slight pause for comprehension, and the quick (almost automatic) invocation of common experience with the conjunction "reading and writing" as it is so often employed by many others.

    Unless intending that slight glitch, unless intending that momentary pause or forced to put up with it for some overriding purpose (humor, say, or rhythm, or deadline pressure) and consciously willing to suffer the potential subtle effects down the line, the author is better off rewriting. That's the only objection to letting it stand.

    How carefully read - and how incontrovertibly powerful and direct - do you want to take the trouble to be? Are you choosing on purpose?
     
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  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Pedant mode:

    "Affect" and "effect" are in the dictionary, and they are two different words with different meanings. The only "rule" there is to use the word that means what you mean. Don't use "up" when you mean "down", say, although it gets complicated:


     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016

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