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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Checking Some Usage in the Portsmouth Daily Times Online

"I demand that my books be judged with utmost severity, 
by knowledgeable people who know the rules of grammar and of logic, and who will seek beneath the footsteps of my commas 
the lice of my thought in the head of my style."

--Louis Aragon, Author

I hesitate to write this entry. First of all, I know, as a former English instructor, I am a grammar Nazi. I have many reasons for my affliction, but you may want to ask my ex-students about that filibuster. That way I can save you hours of time and considerable pain. Suffice it to say I am a firm believer that constructive criticism is proven to induce improvement, and I also think people who write want feedback to improve their product.

I read the online Portsmouth Daily Times ( I enjoy the paper, and I want to thank the staff for their coverage of news and topics of local interest. I do not wish to criticize any individual who works for the publication, nor do I want my comments to cause any problems. I will continue to read the Times online. Thanks to all who toil to produce the paper.

I feel I must respond to some writing I recently read in the Daily Times (within the last couple of weeks). I know the advent of online journalism poses some question about the importance of accuracy and form. After all, texts and tweets and status reports in online forums are very informal. Those who post are generally lax and unconcerned about the finer points of English grammar and usage. Being able to adjust language to the occasion and to the purpose is a skill.

However ...

A newspaper, even an online edition, depends upon accurate, formal writing to relay its content to the readership. With a minor in journalism, I live with a brain full of echoes of Ohio University professors' words warning me about the importance of using correct English in reporting. I apologize again for my picky attitude, but I am conscious of abundant language errors and of how sloppy writing affects meaning.

So, here are some excerpts from the paper that I chose to critique. Read them if you will. If you choose to ignore them, I understand. Some folks feel that editors are too critical and that all writing is acceptable. Still, others, like me, believe correct usage is very important. It helps mark mastery.

I, too, make usage errors, and I appreciate those who point out problem I can correct. I am open to criticism. Nonetheless, these are the problems I saw.

1. Even with the bad weather early in the day, even Davis says she is grateful for the turnout she received.

* The "even" repetition clouds understanding. (And, "David" received the "turnout"? This seems to be noninclusive of the group.

2. The Single Parent Fair is an opportunity for struggling parents to receive help in many capacities, oil changes, bike repair, haircuts, fresh produce, clothing, school supplies and more, all of which are totally free.

* A colon will introduce a list of the so-called "capacities." Is "fresh produce" a "capacity"?

3. Participants should be aware of a possible train-crossing during the course of the race, something that could affect runners’ times. River Run will convene rain or shine and non-refundable. registrations opens at 6:15 on race day

* "Something that could affect runners' times" is misplaced after "race." "Convene rain or shine and non-refundable is not parallel construction = verb and adjective mix. The obvious capitalization of "Registrations" is an error. The last sentence lacks end punctuation.

4. Carter welcomed FitzGerald, as he finally pulled up outside the Pike County booths, and gave him a summary of what topics are currently hot in Pike County, including the jeopardy of losing jobs through the local facilities with the Department of Energy.

* "Finally pulled up" is colloquial usage. "Of what" is wordy. "Hot topics" is also colloquial.

5. Kuhn says at issue is the constitutional separation of powers, that’s why he intends to challenge the law.

* The sentence is a run-on.

6. According to an Associated Press report, “the law sets up an unconstitutional procedure that judges must follow when they get a recommendation from the director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, according to the motion filed in Scioto County court. Establishing such procedures ‘… is a blatant encroachment by the legislature upon powers reserved to the judicial branch of Ohio government by the Ohio Constitution,’ according to the motion.

* This sentence lacks end quotes. The phrase "according to the motion" is repeated and redundant.

7. In a recent interview with the Daily Times, about ongoing issues in the county, Crabtree said most of the issues have been put on the back-burner while they focus on working to saving the jobs.

* "Daily Times, about ongoing issues in the county, Crabtree" represents a comma fault. "To save the jobs" is the necessary present infinitive.

8. He said along with the issue of the jobs there are other issues that have to be dealt with as well.

* The repetition of "along with," and "as well" makes wordy sentence structure.

"Grammar is a piano I play by ear. 
All I know about grammar is its power."

 --Joan Didion, Author and Journalist

9. The board stated they felt very comfortable with either candidates, and then extended a job offer to Hollinger. Two weeks after the offer was extended, Hollinger officially withdrew his interest in the position.

* "With either candidate" is the singular reference.

10. When asked who the first choice for negotiations will be with, Barnett would not comment.

*  "Who" as nominative is misused but the construction is also very wordy and unclear due to the "will be with" phrase.

11. Sarver said there are many advantages to breastfeeding including colostrum (breastmilk), and the ability of the mother to pass on antibodies to her baby. Sarver said breastfeeding is environmentally-friendly because there are not stacks of formula cans in landfills, or the need for resources to ship and pack what you feed your baby.

* "(Breastmilk), and" is a comma fault. The point of view is changed to second person with "you" in "what you feed your baby." Third person has been established with "mother" in the first sentence.

12. DeWine was given a tour of facility, and interacted with the shelter staff, as well as local judges and city officials who were present.

* "Was given" and "interacted" represent a mix of passive and active voice verbs. "Took a tour" would make consistent voice."

13. DeWine, accompanied by his wife Fran DeWine, daughter, granddaughter, and two staff persons were given a tour of the shelter located at 2315 Grant St., in Portsmouth, on Wednesday. DeWine said his office plays a role in providing funding to the SOTFDV shelter.

* "DeWine" was given should be the correct subject/verb agreement because "accompanied by ... " is an expression that does not change the number of the subject.

14. Strong community support has been contributed factor to the continued success of the long-time program he said.

* The phrase "support has been contributed factor" shows the omission of words or the misuse of "contributed" as an adjective. 

15. The Summer Outreach Club Program which kicked off on June 1, 2014, is wrapping up another season of recreational, motivational, and education activities for youth during the course of the summer.

* "Program which kicked off on June 1, 2014," displays omission of a comma in a nonrestrictive clause. In the series of adjectives, "education," a noun, is misused as an adjective. Use "educational."
“A man's grammar, like Caesar's wife, should not only be pure, 
but above suspicion of impurity.”
 --Edgar Allan Poe

16. It was a precious moment to reflect back on the way we were and it was a group therapy thinkin’ thing. Sixty-five of us took a “magic carpet ride” and we’re “groovin’” back to ’64. There was a little “Lost in the Sixties”, “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, “Twist and Shout”, and “Workin’ My Way Back to You Babe” goin’ on.

* "Reflect back" is redundant and colloquial usage. "Took" and "we're" are mixed verb tenses. Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.

17. No matter what happens in Saturday’s game against the 1-8 Carter County Wildcats, the Kentucky Warriors (8-1) are locked into the the third seed of the Northern Frontier Football League  Playoffs.

* This sentence exhibits a redundancy and a proofreading error.

18. The three brothers and their six siblings have all been involved in music one way or another since they could walk, which goes back to their parents and a 57 year history in local music.

* The clause "which goes back to their parents and a 57 year history in local music" is misplaced. It reads as if "they could walk" somehow "goes back" to the siblings' parents.

19. Instruments lie in every which direction, from a piano, various guitars, violins, mandolins, cellos, and many that I can’t even name; the walls are adorned with a generous amount of photographs of the family playing music throughout half of a century; and the shelves and tables are full of books on musicians and other musical paraphernalia.

* The phrase "from a piano" that begins to describe the instruments is misplaced after "direction." It should be after "instruments." The word amount is used to refer to a quantity. Number is used to refer to people or things that can be counted.

20. Knittel split time at shortstop and pitching this season for West, hitting .367 with two home runs and only two strikeouts this for the Senators. He also went 4-2 with 49 strikeouts and a 1.63 ERA on the mound this season. His versatility was vital this season as he helped lead the Senators to the second overall seed in the region in the baseball state tournament. 

* Parallel construction error with "at shortstop and pitching." "At" requires position of "pitcher." Omission error "two strikeouts this (season?) for the Senators.

21. In addition to the prospect of playing with his friends and high school teammates, Knittel was also impressed with Rio’s southern Ohio campus and it’s coaching staff.

* Usage error with contraction "it's" as required possessive is "its."

22. Besides, regardless of the financial obligations, his daughter wasn’t interested in attending a program, she wanted her father to coach her and the soon to be local AAU team based out of Scioto County.

* Run on sentence with the comma at "program, she."  Use a hyphen to avoid a combination that may cause confusion such as the compound adjective "soon-to-be."

23. The two will be training as health volunteers. Andrew is scheduled to live and work at the community level to make a difference assisting community groups with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, while Holly will teach public, while Holly will teach public health to primary and secondary teachers.

* The underlined is a simple editorial error of redundancy.

24. Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said the BCI&I helicopter flies in a grid pattern in areas suspected of being the location of marijuana plants, and direct officers on the ground where plants are spotted, allowing the officers to cut them down. 

* The clause "where plants are spotted" is misplaced. It suggests the officers are already there on the ground "where plants are spotted." The helicopters are used to direct officers on the ground to locations where plants are spotted.

25. Only being able to say his name before collapsing and being place into a wheelchair, several staff members were there to help Robert when he coded in the parking lot and went above and beyond to ensure he received the care he deserved.”

The verb tense should be past "placed." Also "placed into a wheelchair" is misplaced as it refers to "several staff members."

26. The Marcia Sanderlin Hero Award will also be given out during the breakfast to a Red Cross volunteer or supporter that has gone above and beyond expectations either as a volunteer or financial supporter.

* "Will also be given out" is passive voice and colloquial. "Either as a volunteer or financial supporter" is a mix of construction in parallelism with a prepositional phrase and a noun phrase. Shift "either" after "as."

27. According to information from Master Trooper Joe Veeneman, Public Affairs Officer for KSP Post 8, Trooper Jason Brown, Trooper Brad Watson, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and Lewis County Fire-Rescue responded to the scene of the crash. 

* This is a confusing series, and semicolons can separate the items -- i.e. "Master Trooper Joe Veeneman, Public Affairs Officer for KSP Post 8; Trooper Jason Brown;" etc.

28. Donini and Ware credited tips provided by the public that may have led to some of the locations of the plants seized and also all of the agencies that provided their assistance during the operation.

* The conjunction "and" suggests "tips may have led to some of the locations of the plants" and "all of the agencies that provided their assistance during the operation." The sentence structure creates confusion.

29. Rachel Ramey of the Green Clovers serves with her husband Andy Ramey as the pig 4-H advisor.

* Problem in noun number. Two people serve as "pig 4-H advisors."

30. She is involved in the 4-H clubs Country Cousins and kids the Minford Dairy Club, and is currently attending Portsmouth High School as a Junior.

* Possibly a capitalization error with "kids" and an omission of a comma after "kids."

31. Over the last year and in conjunction with his ACP responsibilities, Penrod has managed the safe and orderly wind down of USEC operations in Paducah, including coordination with the Department of Energy on steps leading to an anticipated de-lease and return of the facilities to the DOE on Oct. 1, 2014.

Over the last year and in conjunction with his ACP responsibilities, Penrod has managed the safe and orderly wind down of USEC operations in Paducah, including coordination with the Department of Energy on steps leading to an anticipated de-lease and return of the facilities to the DOE on October 1, 2014.

* This entire paragraph is repeated twice in the same article.

32. Johnson said he does not select a property just because it’s grass is cut and other exterior things are done to it.

* Usage error with contraction "it's" as required possessive is "its."

33. Captain Jerry Leach of the Portsmouth Police Department said the crash occurred around 7:38 p.m. Monday in the 2600 block of Scioto Trail. Leach said, according to the police report, two cars were stopped in the left lane, northbound on Scioto Trail when another vehicle struck one in the rear, sending it into the front vehicle.

* Confusing construction with "Leach said, according to the police report." Didn't Leach make the police report? It sounds as if Leach is referencing another report?

34. Tickets are $15 per person with proceeds to benefit the James Dickey Post 23 of the American Legion Wreath Fund which provides wreaths for fallen veterans at Greenlawn Cemetery and Kentucky National Veterans Cemetery in Grdeenup on Wreaths Across American Day on Dec. 13. Children under the age of 16 are admitted free.

* The nonrestrictive clause "which provides wreaths for fallen veterans..." requires commas. "Grdeenup" is a spelling error.


35. The event was held with a great deal of anticipation on the amount of people that may attend, before the event one city official said organizers were anticipating as many as 20,000 people to be in attendance.

* "Held with a great deal of anticipation on the amount" is confusing and suggests the reason the event took place. The entire sentence is a run-on.

36. King, Harris, and Phipps defeated their opponents brought home the grand prize of $140,000.

* The phrase "defeated their opponents brought home" represents an omission error.

37. Davis’s summer has been spent volunteering and assisting in the many platforms each candidate has formed. Davis said it has turned out to be more than she ever expected and loves it.

* The verb voice is mixed between passive "has been spent" and active "said" and "turned." What is the antecedent of the redundant "it"?

38. In addition to providing room and board to victims of domestic violence, SOTFDV also home to the Southern Ohio Sexual Assault Treatment Center, which provides care to survivors of sexual assault.

* The intended clause omits a verb: "SOTFDV (is) also home to the Southern Ohio Sexual Assault Treatment Center."

39. Those issues have since been resolved. However, their wasn’t enough time for the improvements to take affect.

*  Usage requires "there" instead of possessive form.

40. After a search, he said they were able to make contact with a designated pilot examiner by the name of Kenneth Ramos out of Lancaster.

“Actually, he is the helicopter pilot for the Columbus Police, and all kinds of different stuff. He was a really nice person,” he said.

According to Stidham, Ramos administered an oral examination before he took the actual flight examination.

* This is unclear pronoun reference with "he." Ramos didn't take the examination.

41. Held in on the grounds of the Scioto County Fair, the area garden clubs are coming together to host two flower show events. The first show convened Aug. 4, the first day of the fair, and the second show will be held Thursday, Aug. 7.

* "Held in on the grounds" represents an unnecessary double preposition.

42. “This is just a light opening. We did not publicize it, because we wanted to give our employees the opportunity get acclimated to their new positions, and to get used to everything,” Miranda said. 

* "Opportunity get acclimated" commits an omission of "to" in the infinite phrase."Positions, and" is a comma fault.

43. What about you my friend? 

* This sentence requires a comma before the direct address of "my friend."

44. With Klaire Purtee, Rodney Barnett and Rick Bolin voting against the decision, while Jeff Kleha, Stephanie Childers, Mike Thoroughman and Bill Rockwell voted yes.

*  The phrases using "with" and "while" clog the sentence with a mix of a prepositional phrase and a conjunction linking a series of names.

45. In 2012 alone, 1.7 million people ages 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes and 208,000 people younger than 20 years have diabetes (type 1 or type 2). 

*  The sentence uses an improper mix of verb tense: "were diagnosed" (past) and "have " (present).

46. The only constant so far in this limited preseason has been the laundry list of flags on the field. It’s a shame, because football can be just as much fun with a dominating defense on the field as oppose to an offense that no one can stop. Hopefully the officiating will subside when the regular season begins but I doubt it. 

* "It's a shame" is an independent clause, so the dependent clause that follows and begins with a subordinate conjunction "because" requires no comma. "As oppose" exhibits a tense error.

47. Now he is now Director of Security at Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority (PMHA), which means he has the safety and well-being of some 3,000 residents. Since assuming the position he has begun implementing new programs.

* "Now he is now" is redundant use of "now." The clause that begins with "which" states "he has the safety and well-being of 3,000 residents." The director doesn't possess these things.

48. Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority operates seven sites in the area, Wayne Hills, Farley Square, Miller Manor, Lett Terrace, Hudson House, Alexandria House and Cliffside House.

* The sentence introduces a list of sites. The list should be introduced with a colon after the word

49. I will be the first to admit that 24 hours can be perceived as a joke in light of the tremendous amount of obligations that I deal with in a days-time, but that is all that God has given us.

* "Amount" is a usage error as "number" is required because obligations are countable, discrete entities. Singular first person pronoun reference "I" has been established, so "us" as a plural form is a mix of number.

50. Rice said Blaine has, like his predecessors, Bob Pratt and Hughie Blair, tracks the crime statistics.

* The sentence structure exhibits an incorrect verb phrase with "has tracks."

51. There was food, music, inflatables for the kids and even a dunk tank where the kids lined up to put some of the maintenance staff into the water.

* "There" is not the subject of the sentence; thus, "food, music, inflatables, and dunk tank" is a plural subject requiring the plural verb "were" for correct subject/verb agreement.

52. That, and making sure the offense takes good care of the football.

* The structure is a sentence fragment.

53. Throughout the day an estimated 140 people were doing to be seen by Murray and his team.

* I believe this is a simple spelling error of editing "going," but tense calls for "were treated."

54. “It is an amazing day where we provide free dentistry to people in need in the community, who may not have dental insurance,” said Matraca Montavon, daughter of Dr. Murray said.

* "Who may not have dental insurance" is a restrictive clause, so no comma should be put after "community." The second error is repetition of the word "said."

55. Opperman said because of the restoration work to the bridge it will add years to it’s life span.

* The sentence is wordy with the use of "because and the "it" pronoun reference = "the restoration work will add...." The second error is the improper usage of "it's."

56. “Hansel and Gretel: The Musical” is the third title that director Jordan Nickles has written the script and lyrics for.

* This sentence ends with a preposition and exhibits improper structure.

57. Sarabella is a constant character throughout the entire show who acts fort of like a guide to the children

* The "who" clause modifies "Sarabella." It is misplaced. "Fort" is a simple spelling error.

58. Ottis cast it and “bang!” a big fish hit. Ottis held on and battled the fish up to the side of the boat, where they got a look at it. But before they could get it in the boat, either the line broke or the plug come untied, and the muskie said goodbye. 

* The sentence requires past tense "came."

58. They took the show and really ran with it, numbers are memorized and they’re enjoying it

* The sentence establishes active voice and past tense ("took" and "ran", then it shifts to passive voice and present tense ("are memorized" and "enjoying").

59. The downfall for Southern Ohio was its depth, as the team only had 16 players attend the contest.

* "Only" is a misplaced modifier as it modifies "16 players."

60. “This is my first year of coaching the Spartans but from what I’ve heard, not to many second-year teams make the playoffs or make a quick turn around."

* This sentence require "too," not "to" in the context.

61. But instead of being content serving in a state role, Barrick had bigger aspirations for himself but more importantly, for the state of Ohio, which finally came to fruition.

* "Which finally came to fruition" is a misplaced non-restrictive clause. As is, it modifies "Ohio" and makes the claim that "Ohio finally came to fruition."

62.  Yost was asked, if the liability can’t be enforced against the city, why does the city have to show that liability on their balance sheet? and isn’t that going to make the city look artificially bad

The underlined clause is a fragment with an obvious capitalization error.

63. Peter Tsai, 45, owner of Advanced Family Medical Center, his father and mother, Tahsiung Tsai, 73, and Ruey Tsai, 68, who owned Watkins-Tsai Imaging, and Peter Tsai’s cousin, Wei Lih Sheih, aka “Wendy”, 42, who worked for both clinics, admitted that they had conspired to defraud health care benefit programs including Medicaid, Medicare and Tri-Care between 2004 and 2013 when they were indicted.

This sentence represents a complicated series mess because sub items require commas, but major divisions require semicolons. Also the dependent clause "when they were indicted" is misplaced because the position makes the "indictment" sound as if it happened when the "defrauding" took place.

"Be obscure clearly."

--E. B. White

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