Grammar

May 12, 2008

This cuts rather close to the bone. I’ll confess to a certain flutter of elation when I discover a grammatical or spelling mistake in a book. If the book in question is in a second or higher edition, I may even give an audible cheer. “Sticklers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your sense of perspective.”

I also confess that there are some grammatical situations in which I become confused. For instance:

(i) toward vs. towards, afterward vs. afterwards, etc. I’m never sure which is correct.

(ii) “He found that he, together with his friends, was confused about which conjugation to use.” Should that “was” be “were”?

I know there are those who wield their grammar hammer even more readily, and confidently, than I do. Perhaps they can help me along — gently?

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3 Responses to “Grammar”

  1. Matthew Says:

    Let’s start with (ii) first. It should be “was” because “together with his friends” is essentially an aside, a parenthetical remark set off by commas, and not a part of the main subject. If you had said “He found that he and his friends…”, it would definitely be “were”.

    Going back to (i), there is essentially no difference between “toward” and “towards”. “Towards” is used slightly more in the UK and “toward” slightly more in the US. Being Canadian, I would stick to “towards”. The same appears true for “afterward” and “afterwards”.

  2. Matthew Says:

    I should also mention that I always use the Oxford comma (although I didn’t know it had a name until today) and I correct for it when proofreading (unsurprisingly, I find it hard to turn down a request to proofread :) ).

  3. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Matthew. Your answer for (i) is heartening. I’ll just stick with “towards” and not worry anymore. As for (ii), I suspected as much. It sounds wrong sometimes, but I’ll just have to get used to it.

    I’m an Oxford comma user as well. I notice that the relevant Wikipedia article has some amusing examples of ambiguities that can result from using, or not using, it.


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