April was a busy month for Grammar Guardians. Everywhere I turned, I found fodder for this column.
It started when I saw a classified ad for an educational leader for Southwest Center for Accelerated Schools. Their advertisement indicated they are committed to “improving teaching and learning for all students in the Rio Grande Valley Area.” The first thing I wondered about is why they capitalized “Area.” But I was intrigued, so I went to the website listed in the advertisement. On the home page, I read this: The Southwest Center for Accelerated Schools work with PK-12 urban, rural, and charter schools improve in their journey to succeed…
The subject of this sentence is “Center,” so the verb should be “works” rather than “work.” There should also be a “to” before “improve” because this center plans to “work…to improve…” These grammatical errors appear to jump off the page because they are from a center advertising “accelerated schools.”
A recent newspaper story read, “…he had awaken about 4 a.m.” Because it is in the past tense, it should be “…he had awakened about 4 a.m.” This reminded me of a common grammatical error involving “did.” When I pose a written question, such as, “Did Sam go to the baseball game?” I often receive responses like this: Yes, Sam did went to the baseball game or Yes, Sam go to the baseball game. When a “Did…” question is asked, it is unnecessary to use “did” in the response, but the verb should be in the past tense because “Did” indicates something already happened. A correct answer would be: Yes, Sam went to the baseball game.
The same story referred to someone as “hard-of-breathing.” Is that a correct term? I am familiar with “hard of hearing,” but I have never heard of “hard-of-breathing.” I looked it up on the Internet and saw one reference to this term, but it was on a blog. Have any Grammar Guardians heard of hard-of-breathing?
At a recent forum, one candidate kept referring to the “amount of students.” “Amount” vs. “number” is something we’ve addressed before in this column. If it’s something you can count, like students, it is “number.” Otherwise, it’s “amount.” Number of students, amount of water. Number of cars, amount of traffic. (These are meant to be examples, not complete sentences.)
My favorite grammatical error of the month is still making me laugh. It was a story about the softball team at the school where I teach. Celebrating the school’s first district softball title (a tie), the players lifted the cooler and poured its contents on the coach, hitting her in the head. The article read: …they also hit her in the head with the cooler, leaving a noticeable red mark on her left forehead. No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake the vision of the coach, my friend, with two foreheads, one on the right and one on the left. The entire meaning changes when you add “side of her” between “left” and “forehead.”
I’d like to end this month’s column with a Knock-Knock joke sent to me by Frank, a faithful Grammar Guardian. Here it is:
No … to whom!!!
Chris Ardis is a teacher in McAllen ISD and a freelance writer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.