I just read the latest two additions to my e-newsletter on grammar from E-zineArticles.com. I was disappointed for two reasons.
The first one discussed subject-verb agreement. That’s an important and misunderstood topic in English grammar, so I wasn’t disappointed that they devoted a newsletter to it. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t give a common mistake — compound subjects!
People like to write: “Amy, Emma, and Jordan is going to the basketball game.” The thought process there: “is” must agree with “Jordan,” so we use third person singular.
Jordan isn’t the only subject of the sentence. All three girls, together, are a compound subject! That sometimes gets missed when the subjects of a sentence appear in a list, and it gets complicated if the predicate precedes the subject — i.e. the writer tries to get clever with diction.
So the correct way to write that would be “Amy, Emma, and Jordan are going to the basketball game.” Third person plural.
You probably figured that out right way. That would be because I wrote a super-simple sentence for an example. There may be other places where it won’t be as obvious, especially if the sentence gets more complicated.
The second disappointment was in the newsletter offering tips on comma placement. As an example of the power of comma placement, they used the following two sentences:
- “Go, get him doctors!”
- “Go get him, doctors!”
The first sentence is a command to get him medical help. The second points the doctors to the one who needs medical attention.
I was hoping for the humorous example my sister-in-law always uses:
- “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
- “Let’s eat Grandma!”
The power of the comma is far more powerful in that example. And memorable. Trust me, that’s a sentence you don’t want misunderstood! And neither does Grandma.