QUESTION Please settle a dispute. My co-worker constantly uses the phrase "relative to" in her writing. I believe it shows poor word choice, creates awkward sentence structures, and is incorrect grammatically. She disagrees. Is this acceptable grammatically?
The following two examples were written in a recent letter:
- Question exists relative to whether System will interact with AAR Reporting systems.
- Additionally, as previously stated, a letter will be forthcoming relative to Company A's responsibility to invoice Company B for its trackage rights usage as of March 2002 and beyond.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Norfolk, Virginia Thu, Feb 7, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Merriam-Webster's says that "relative to" is a prepositional phrase construction that's been around since the seventeenth century. It's acceptable grammatically, but I, too, find it clumsy and would recommend "with regard to" or "in connection with" in its place.
QUESTION We are trying to write a mission statement for our school. Is this sentence grammatically correct:Our mission is for students to become lifelong learners who think critically, solve problems, value diversity, and are responsible citizens.
The question is referring to the fact that "are responsible citizents" may be in conflict with "to become" at the beginning of the sentence. Is this a conflict, or does it refer back to "who?" Thanks for your time!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Aurora, Illinois Thu, Feb 7, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I am always suspicious of mission statements and vision statements. They are almost always presumptuous, if not downright gaseous. How on earth does an elementary school undertake such a mission? I'd be happy with a kid who can do long division and knows that Mexico's somewhere south of Texas. But that's not what you asked, is it. As I see it, you've got three nice verbs: "think," "solve," and "value," but they're followed up with the wishy-washy "are." We need another verb: something like "who think critically, solve problems, value diversity, and vote "yes" on school-bond issues." No, you can't say that, but you get the idea: keep the verb-object pattern going. (And, perhaps, reconsider "think critically": no one knows what it means.)
QUESTION Is this sentence good English?"Not a day passes but that I thank God for another sunrise."
Thank you very much for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Fukuoka, Japan Fri, Feb 8, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The "but that" construction is rather formal and literary and perhaps it even creaks a bit of old age, but it's certainly acceptable and may be the best device for so nicely balancing the two "sides" of your sentence.
QUESTION Tell me about much too and too much?
He is too much intelligent (what does it mean?)
- Where we can use much too?
- Where we can use too much?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sat, Feb 9, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE "Too much" is a fairly simple, straightforward modifying phrase. We can say that someone drinks "much beer," but there's no judgment implied there; it's a simple statement of quantifiable fact or opinion. But if we say that someone drinks "too much beer," we're saying the quantity is out of line with expectations or norms. The phrase "too much," by itself, can act like the French de trop, meaning that something is superfluous, beyond the limits of good taste. If someone has over-decorated his house to the point that visitors are overwhelmed, nauseated, by detail, for example, we could say, "Oh the draperies are overwhelming, just too much."
In "much too," the "much" is acting as an intensifier to what is already intensifying, the adverb "too." So if someone who is normally pretty smart does something stupid, we could say, "Oh, she's too intelligent to drive like that," and if we're really surprised, we could say, "Oh, she's much too intelligent to drive like that." We can't use "too much" in front of an adjective (as in "too much intelligent"), though.
QUESTION James Jackson Kilpatrick's, The Writer's Art, contains the following sentence:"The quality of one's writing should be a concern not only of those whose profession is to write."A gerund, not an infinitive, seems appropriate here. Writing is a profession, but to write is not. The infinitive in Kilpatrick's sentence functions as a predicate nominative, no? Am I missing something, or did the author of a highly regarded book on style and usage commit a solecism? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Kew Gardens, New York Sun, Feb 10, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I agree that the gerund form would have been more idiomatically normal and acceptable there. I'm not convinced that the infinitive is actually wrong, though. We certainly can't say that the infinitive is wrong because of its placement as a sentence element: infinitives often appear as predicate nominatives, as in "Our goal is to write [for the New York Times]." Generally, though, a profession is expressed as a gerund form. If we were to create a list of professions, for instance, we would probably use a gerund: "For my profession, I had to choose between writing and veterinary medicine." There's an interesting difference between "I chose writing" and "I chose to write," but I'm not sure what it proves, if anything. I wouldn't brand Kilpatrick's wording a solecism, but I agree with you, that "writing" would have been a better choice.
QUESTION Is this an incorrect use of like?Like George Bush, Woodrow Wilson also used the phrase "new world order." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Cincinnati, Ohio Tue, Feb 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE There is nothing wrong with using like in that sentence. You might have a problem with "also," which seems to be redundant in light of the "like." Finally, I'm not sure we can say that Woodrow Wilson, who is long gone, did anything "like Geoge Bush." Isn't it the other way around?
QUESTION I am a teacher and my student described herself as " self principled". This is not correct, is it? She could reword it, but is insistent on the issue. Please respond. Thanks. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE San Diego, California Tue, Feb 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE She can say it if she wants to, but I don't think anyone will know what she means by it. If she calls herself a "principled individual," I think most people will know what that means. The notion of being "self-principled" raises some interesting questions
And unless the person who uses the phrase wants to spend a great deal of time and energy defending the phrase, she'd be much better off using a phrase that people commonly understand.
- Where do these principles come from?
- If they're just your principles, are they really principles for behavior at all?
QUESTION Some proper names, particularly company names, are not capitalized. One example is eBay. If a proper name is commonly not capitalized, do you or do you not capitalize it when starting a sentence?
- eBay is an online company.
- EBay is an online company.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania Tue, Feb 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The first word of a sentence is always capitalized (even when you're quoting the poetry of e.e. cummings), so when you begin a sentence with a company name that is not normally capitalized (within the flow of text), you would capitalize it, as in "EBay is a very exciting company." The only way to avoid this is to write something like "The eBay corporation is . . . ." (Incidentally, whether the "b" of "ebay" is capitalized or not seems to be a matter of debate even within ebay/eBay's Web site.)
QUESTION I'm putting together my 20-year Class reunion and would like to include the Maiden Names of the Females on the invitation of the Committee Members. What is the correct way to do this? Parentheses around the Maiden Name or a hyphen?
- Natalie (Swapp) Austin
- Natalie Swapp-Austin
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Tue, Feb 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Using a hyphen would be a mistake, as that is usually reserved for people who have decided to use both names as their legal last name. The Cornell University alumni association chooses simply to list the maiden name what a lovely old-fashioned ring that word has! between the first and last names, as if it were a middle name. You could also, I suppose, use the word née (French for "born"), followed by the maiden name, as in "Sharon Smith, née Jones." For your purposes, I wouldn't foresee any great objection to listing the maiden name in parentheses.
QUESTION Which is correct "On time" or "In Time", e.g., I would like the work completed _________ SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Canada Tue, Feb 12, 2002 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We need more context to make the choice. Let's say you need the work finished by four o'clock because your customer will be there to pick it up then. You can ask me, your worker, "Will the job be completed in time." I happen to know that I will finish with five minutes to spare, so I answer, "Don't worry, you can deliver the goods on time." In your sentence, "on time" would mean that you need it by a certain hour; "in time" would mean that you need it before a certain deadline. "On time" is often used to denote punctuality: "The train was exactly on time every day this week."
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