Skip to main content

sentencing

I was grading papers this past weekend. Many of them were really good, which made it all the more enjoyable for me. As always, I came across quite a few writing errors; this is understandable in students whose first language is not English, but even verbose writers with large vocabularies can make some pretty big mistakes. Here are a few of my favourites (mistakes, not verbose writers). May they bring a smile to your face as they sometimes do to mine. And yes, I have made pretty much all of these myself at one time or another. That's why I do something called 'proofreading.'

1. The split personality subject: This is when the beginning participle, which is supposed to describe something about the subject, does not match the subject found in the main clause of the sentence. Here are some examples that I wrote:
a. Thinking that the chocolate cake in the fridge was the perfect way to end a long evening of studying, the kitchen became my destination. (My kitchen does a lot of thinking, obviously.)
b. After conquering the enemy in a brutal and lengthy war and taking many of them as captives, they were confined to prison and later forced into manual labour. (War really sucks when you win and still have to go to prison.)

2. I don't need no stinkin' subject: This is where the writer neglects to use a subject at all. They assume that you will remember who or what they were talking about from the previous sentence, paragraph, page, or chapter. Also known as a dangling participle, just left hanging out there....
a. Hurtling towards the earth at ever-increasing speeds which made it hopeless for anyone to stop the catastrophe. (If the previous paragraph was about meteors, this makes sense. If it was talking about cats and dogs, that's a whole other thing.)
b. When all the countries' leaders held a council to decide whether or not they would agree to use a common currency, establishing a link not only for ease of commerce but to simplify cross-border travel. (It's a cliffhanger: what happened next?)

3. The Fluid Tense: Some writers like to time travel, mixing past, present, future, and all kinds of other tenses.
a. Smith wrote about exactly such a scenario when he says in chapter three that even if we will be able to harvest all the gold in the world, it wasn't going to make everyone rich. (I don't understand when I won't be rich.)
b. Later that evening, Samantha is meeting Bob for dinner who would be early. (Oh Bob, you're in trouble.)

4. Who needs a verb? Participles and descriptive clauses look a lot like main verbs, so why bother with the real thing?
a. By citing McIntyre, who was a renowned author and historian from the nineteenth century, and Brown, later to be known for his innovative work in the area of molecular biology for which he was nominated for a Nobel Prize. (By doing this, nothing happened, I guess, so why do it?)
b. Nevertheless, no one that participated in the demonstration, even though they managed to avoid being arrested, despite some minor injuries from crowding, trampling, and just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (So what happened to no one? After the trampling, that is.)

5. Does punctuation make my sentence look fat? Some writers don't want to weigh the sentence down with unnecessary punctuation marks. Or they just don't know where they go, so they leave them out to avoid making a mistake. It makes for fun reading sometimes.
a. Every time the monkey considered by many to be too attached to his master stopped reading the book The Bear the bell was rung not to be silenced until the master always sleeping nearby awoke. (Tell me you didn't have to read that more than once.)
b. The cat a very clean animal coats its fur with saliva when licking a cleaning ritual thereby producing dander this when dried is a substance that many humans are allergic to.

6. The Test: what's wrong with these sentences?
a. Driving to the end of the world, it was flat.
b. Grading hundreds of papers over the past few months, many of which contained at least one or two of the errors mentioned above nevertheless revealing most of the students to have at least a working comprehension of the subject being studied.

Remember: If it doesn't make sense the first time you read it, it probably needs to be rewritten. Or you need to go to bed.

This is a photo of one of the essays I wrote last term, along with some remarks from my professor. I chose to show you a part without grammatical errors.

Comments

Welcome to my world, Matte.

-ttj

Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…