Have you been correcting non-errors? Test your knowledge in the 10 items below. Only two sentences contain an error in grammar or usage. Can you recognize which two? Those two represent errors editors sometimes introduce into sentences that were originally correct.
Do not edit for style–focus on true errors. Choose the two sentences with errors. Then compare your answers with mine.
- I feel bad about the way I handled your questions at the meeting.
- Please ask to speak with whomever is in charge of printing the programs.
- This is a historical event that children should learn about in school.
- Let's home in on the most urgent issues we are facing.
- Ranodda has offered to give Clarice and I a ride to the luncheon.
- The group is composed of two project managers and two training specialists.
- The error appears farther down the page.
- We have got to find a November date for this workshop.
- If I were Pathmasiri, I would move rather than commute so far.
- She has been teaching English for over 20 years.
- "Feel bad" is correct. Just as we would correctly say "feel happy" rather than "feel happily," and "feel sad" rather than "feel sadly," we correctly use "feel bad."
- This sentence contains an error. The word "whomever" should be "whoever." The reason is that the verb phrase "is in charge of" needs a subject pronoun, which is "whoever." Some people would incorrectly choose "whomever" (and mistakenly correct others) because it follows the preposition "with." However, the entire clause "whoever is in charge of printing the programs" is the object of that preposition.
- "A historical" is not an error–it's correct. Some people do use "an historical" because they pronounce the word "istorical." Their use is also acceptable. It's correct to use "an" before words that begin with a vowel sound.
- "Home in" is correct. Many people use "hone in" because they have grown up using it; however, careful writers use "home in," and experts recommend it.
- The use of "Clarice and I" is wrong. The sentence requires the object pronoun "me." You can recognize the correct pronoun by removing Clarice from the situation: "Ranodda has offered to give me a ride to the luncheon." Do not correct the object pronoun "me" used correctly.
- "Composed of" is correct. Some people would incorrectly change it to "comprised of," but "comprise" means "contain" or "include." If you prefer using "comprise" in your own writing, you can restructure the sentence this way: "The group comprises two project managers and two training specialists." Do not "correct" other people's use of "composed of."
- This sentence includes a correct use of "farther," which involves actual distance. "Further" is appropriate for figurative distances, such as "Let's take this discussion further." Most people would also accept "further" in the example.
- The use of "have got" is correct in this sentence. Changing it to "have" rather than "have got" would lessen the emphasis of the statement. Both "have got" and "have gotten" are correct as past participle forms of "get." Both forms have their places.
- "If I were" is correct in this sentence. It is the subjunctive form of the verb. Careful writers use the subjunctive form to indicate wishes ("I wish I were") and things that are contrary to fact ("if she were your mother").
- "Over" is correct as a synonym for "more than." There is no reason to change "over" unless it is for word variety.
Surprised? Confused? How did you do? You can get more information in a current dictionary or style guide. The style guides I recommend appear on my website.
If you would like to improve your proofreading skills, take Proofreading Like a Pro on February 11.