# 439

I want to know the correct way to type this sentence
The patient is well-developed, well-nourished. The child is also well-behaved.
I have typed it the way I think it should be done, with the "one-thought modifier" hyphenated. I cannot say the patient is nourished or the patient is developed. This just does not make sense in the context used. This is a standard phrase used in medical dictation, the "degree" of either is important.

Also, well is not part of the any verb and continues to function with the adverb.

Thank you.

Jackson, Mississippi Mon, Jun 25, 2001
You mean "well" will continue to function as an adverb? At any rate, the "well-____" will require a hyphen only when it's used before the noun, as in "a well-adjusted child" or "well-nourished patient." When the construction comes after the thing it modifies, drop the hyphen, as in"She is well nourished and well behaved" (no hyphens). If the "well" is, itself, modified by another adverb, drop the hyphen, as in "She is a very well behaved student."

Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993.

I've just discovered that the Gregg Reference Manual would recommend keeping the hyphen after the noun, as in "She is well-behaved," and the word Sabin uses is a "one-thought modifier." Sabin argues that you can't remove the "well" (as in "She is behaved"), so the two — "well" and "behaved" — should remain connected with the hyphen. So there you have it. I tend to agree with the Chicago Manual on this one.

Authority: The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin. McGraw-Hill: New York. 2001.

Television journalists seem to have suddenly and universally adopted a verb form that I'm unfamiliar with. When approaching a commercial break, they often say; "We are back after this message." It nags at me every time and I would appreciate knowing wha t tense or mood this form might be.

Thank you very much

Omaha, Nebraska Tue, Jun 26, 2001
I can't say that I've noticed that, although I'm sure I will now. I suppose it comes from saying "We're back" right after the message — so they say it before the message as well? One can, of course, use the simple present tense to indicate a future event, especially when the time-frame of that action is clearly indicated, as in "My bus arrives at 10:30" and "The boss is speaking this afternoon." But with the "to be" verb, that doesn't work very well. We wouldn't say, "I am at one o'clock." The "to be" can serve as an auxiliary in future expressions, as in "I am returning at one o'clock," but can't seem to stand by itself. The announcers should definitely use another form of the future: "We will be back after this message."

Could you please evaluate the correctness of the following sentence:
"The only criterion for our projects is simply good stories."
Should it not say: The only criterion for our projects is simply "that they be" good stories.

Please advise me on this. Thank you.

Los Angeles, California Tue, Jun 26, 2001
Yes, that would be an improvement. How about something even simpler: "The sole criterion for our projects is — good stories" or "There is one criterion for our projects: good stories." (For one thing, there is nothing simple about writing or finding a good story!)

I am trying to determine which phrase is correct:
  • at the local and national level,
  • at the local and national levels
Cincinnati, Ohio Wed, Jun 27, 2001
"Levels" would be fine if you really want to stress the difference(s) between the two. However, "level" is also acceptable if your sentence is suggesting something the levels have in common ("Crime rates have dropped at the local and national level"). Our friend David Eason describes this usage in this way:
The singular noun works grammatically and sounds right if the adjectives are logically inclusive or complementary, not logically mutually exclusive or contradictory:
  • search and destroy mission—you can do either singly, or you can do both either consecutively or concurrently)
  • wash and dry cycle
  • local and national level

Growing up, I had always been taught using the word 'that' inappropriately and excessively weakens sentence structure.

My boss insists there is no such rule, known or unknown, and challenged me to find it. He was right! I can't find reference to it anywhere!

Oddly enough, he gives me everything to proof and seldom finds any error in my proofing. :)

Am I incorrect in my view of using the word 'that'? He uses it as a bridge into most all ideas expressed in his letters, and although quite common in letters sent and received in writing, I believe one can take out the word 'that' from any sentence 90 percent of the time, and it almost always is a better sentence. He says it doesn't matter.

Who's correct? Where can I find something printed proving my point?

Thank you, in advance, for your time and for your consideration to my question. >

Woodbridge, New Jersey Wed, Jun 27, 2001
I take it you're referring to removing the relative pronoun "that" when it isn't really necessasry, as in "I see that you're doing fine on your own" (you can delete the "that"). I don't know what to tell you. There are no hard and fast rules on it, because the sentence will work either way. The "that" will tend to make the sentence feel a bit more specific, but it certainly isn't necessary, and the sentence will often be more elegant, more efficient, without the "that."

Burchfield points out a couple of situations in which "that" should NOT be omitted:

  • Keating made it plain yesterday [that] he did not accept the thesis [that] swing voters can be spooked into voting for Labor. . . .
  • A practical argument for Australian action is [that] the British themselves may yet seek . . .

Without those that's, the sentences fall apart. So sometimes "that" is necessary; where it's not, we can omit it and the sentence will be improved.

Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. (under "omission of relatives")

Are there any one syllable words that can use either "more" or the suffix "-er"? Example- can either "more sad" or "sadder" be correct?
Gallatin, Tennessee Wed, Jun 27, 2001
With very few exceptions (such as "bad, worse, worst"), the comparative and superlative forms of monosyllabic adjectives can be formed with inflections (adding the "-er" and "-est" endings) as in "sad, sadder, saddest." This is not to say, however, that you have to form the comparative and superlative with inflected endings, because the alternative periphrastic form is also available. That's a big word for using "more" and "most."

When are you better off saying "more sad" than "sadder"? That's hard to say. When the adjective is in the predicate position, the periphrastic form is more apt to come into play (as in "more apt," for example, or "This ending is more sad than the ending you had written before"). There are some monosyllabic adjectives that don't work very well with inflected endings: "Of these two dolls, this one more life-like, more real" (you would probably not say "realer"). I have a hard time saying "clearer" and prefer "more clear": "This sentence is more clear now that we've removed the superfluous clause," but that's strictly a matter of personal preference. John is duller/more dull than his brother. (I'd choose "more dull.") In short, my point is that the comparative and superlative forms of monosyllabic adjectives can almost always be formed with the two inflected endings, but if the sounds and rhythms of your sentence urge you to use "more" or "most," that is an available alternative.

Authority: A University Grammar of English by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum. Longman Group: Essex, England. 1993. Used with permission. p. 134.

Which is proper:
  • Let him alone.
  • Leave him alone.
Or are they both acceptable?
Fayetteville, Arkansas Wed, Jun 27, 2001
In informal usage, they're pretty much the same. Burchfield says that "leave" would be just a fraction lower in the "social scale" of acceptability. He adds that "leave alone" can mean two things: 1. to refrain from disturbing (your sentences or "Leave me alone!"); 2. not to have dealings with (as in "We wish that President Bush had left the matter alone"). "Let alone," he says, cannot be used in this second sense. In other words, if you're hiking and you see a rattlesnake, you should say "Leave it alone," not "let it alone," although "Run!" is also appropriate.

Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press. (under "leave")

Lately I have observed people using nouns where I would expect verbs. Most of the time I see this in corporate memos and language. For example, "My supervisor tasked me with this project," or "The Shipping department partnered with Order Entry to reduce order cycle time." "Task" and "partner" are nouns, right? Why are people starting to use nouns as verbs? Is there suddenly a shortage of verbs out there? This is practice very annoying to me. Is this an acceptable evolutionary step in the English language that I am out of step with, or am I right to be troubled when I see this?
Overland, Kansas Wed, Jun 27, 2001
I, too, recoiled at the use of task as a verb the first time I saw it in print. But when I look up task in the dictionary, I see that it's been used as a verb since the sixteenth century. (If I had an OED, I could be more precise.) And partner, too, has been used as a verb for a very long time. Nonethless, for most of our lifetimes, these words have been content in their roles as well-behaved nouns and the fact that they've been impressed into an army of unruly verbs should, indeed, upset us. There is no shortage of verbs, but there is a shortage of writers willing to look for the best and most economical way of saying things. In that light, "order cycle time" is probably more troubling than the mistreatment of these nouns.

In the following sentence, is "Swiss" an adjective?
I want some Swiss cheese.
In the following sentence, is "Eiffel" an adjective?
We visited the Eiffel Tower.
Thanks for your help!
Cincinnati, Ohio Thu, Jun 28, 2001
Some resources will refer to words like Swiss in Swiss cheese (or French toast, English horn, etc.) as proper adjectives because they're derived from proper nouns (and thus retain their capitalized state). They're clearly adjectival modifiers and can be removed from the thing they modify and the thing will retain at least some of its attributes (although the cheese will be less holy and the toast considerably less soggy). The "Eiffel" in Eiffel Tower, on the other hand, cannot be removed from the thing without completely losing — well, what would that tower be without its "Eiffel"? an Erector Set gone mad? It's like asking if "United" in "United Kingdom" is an adjective for "Kingdom." Well, not really, because the two — modifier and thing modified — have become one thing and can no longer be regarded as discrete elements. If I were diagramming a sentence in which "United Kingdom" was the subject, I would not put "United" under the word "Kingdom" as an adjective; I'd put both words together on the subject line.

We are having some debate in our office about the use of the comma after the word "health" in the following sentence:
"There I assisted with the publication of two monthly magazines (by researching, editing and proofreading) in the fields of food and health, and computer technology."

I maintain that the comma after the word "health" serves to clarify and set off "food and health" as one topic, distinguishing it from "computer technology" as the second topic.

Without the comma, it seems there are three elements in the series, rather than two, because of the word "and." My colleague feels that since "food and health" is really only one item, there should be no comma between the two topics.

Who is correct? Thanks!

Wellesley, Massachusetts Thu, Jun 28, 2001
You both are, but neither wins. You need to revise your life and your résumé and add another "field" so you can have a series like "the fields of computer technology, dental hygiene, and food and health." If you have compunctions about prevaricating in this manner (unlike some professors in the news lately), I think the only way out of your dilemma is to separate the two fields more clearly with phrasing such as "in the area of computer technology and the field of food and health." Or "in computer technology and in the area of food and health." Or how about "in the two fields of computer technology and food and health"? In other words, I agree with you that something needs to be done to separate "food and health" from "computer technology" (so they don't look like three things), but I agree with your friend that the comma doesn't work very well when you're separating only two items. If you can't find a happy, alternative way of separating the two things, go ahead and use your comma; it's better than nothing.

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