The Grammar Logs


Would you be able to please look at this sentence and clear up the confusion we are having?

Relationships have been broken, jobs have been lost, reputations have been ruined, wars have even been started, all because someone said the wrong thing (or even the right thing at the wrong time!)

Is this sentence in need of end punctation of any sort, or is it all right as is? I believe you cannot end a sentence with a parenthesis without first closing the sentence previous to it because parenthetical statements act as asides. Does the sentence before the aside need punctuation, either before or after the statement? Or, can the punctuation of the aside stand on its own and closure for both parts? The aside isn't a complete sentence — would it need to be edited to stand on its own? Please help!

Source of Question, Date of Response
Comstock Park, Michigan # Sat, Jun 7, 2003
Grammar's Response

You definitely want a period at the end of that sentence. We can't leave it without some kind of end mark, and the exclamation mark inside the parentheses doesn't count. There's nothing wrong with ending the exclamatory and stylistic fragment within the parentheses with an exclamation mark (the same would be true with a question mark ast the end of a question); we couldn't use a period there, but other kinds of marks are permitted. Generally, complete sentences within parentheses end with a period only if the parentheses are set apart from other sentences; if the parenthetical sentence is included within another sentence, it will not get a period.


Where can more complete information be found? Is "more complete" correct?

Source of Question, Date of Response
Baton Rouge, Louisiana # Mon, Jun 9, 2003
Grammar's Response

According to Bryan Garner, "complete" is one of those adjectives that does not admit of comparative degrees. We could say, however, "more nearly complete." I am sure that I have not been consistent in my application of this principle in the Guide (I can hear myself, now, saying something like "less adequate" or "more preferable" or "less fatal"). Other adjectives that Garner would include in this list are as follows:
         absolute         impossible         principal
         adequate         inevitable         stationary
         chief         irrevocable         sufficient
         complete         main         unanimous
         devoid         manifest         unavoidable
         entire         minor         unbroken
         fatal         paramount         unique
         final         perpetual         universal
         ideal         preferable         whole

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Styleby Bryan Garner. Copyright 1995 by Bryan A. Garner. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.,, and used with the gracious consent of Oxford University Press.


On an ACT test the following sentences appears with four possible changes.

According to some sources, nearly $250 million in scholarship funds go unclaimed every year.

  1. no change
  2. scholarships go unclaimed
  3. scholarship fund go unclaimed
  4. scholarship funds goes unclaimed

The ACT book says d is correct because million is the subject. I say dollars is the subject and needs a plural verb. The ACT book says, "The correct verb 'goes' must agree with 'million' not 'funds' ". I say million is an adjective and not the subject. What say you?

Source of Question, Date of Response
San Diego, California # Mon, Jun 9, 2003
Grammar's Response

I have to buy the ACT book's response, but not, entirely, their reason. I don't know why they'd say that "million" is the subject of the verb; I would say that "$250 million" (or "two hundred and fifty million dollars") is the subject. That sum is a singular entity, however, and has to take a singular verb, "goes." "In scholarship funds" is a prepositional phrase modifying "$250 million," and the word "funds" cannot act as the subject of the verb.


Which would be the proper word to use in this sentence:

  1. crafting world-class wines of complexity or
  2. crafting world-class wines with complexity

Which would be the correct way?

Source of Question, Date of Response
Healdsburg, California # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

"Of complexity" means that the wine has complex taste and bouquet. "With complexity" would suggest that the task of "crafting" the wine was complicated, messy. Is there any product other than wine that seems to require such fussing with language?


Which sentence is correct?

  1. The Commissioners abstained because they were absent at that meeting.
  2. The Commissioners abstained because they were absent from that meeting.
Source of Question, Date of Response
Buellton, California # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

"Absent at a meeting" is peculiar; in fact, it's probably an impossibility because how can be "absent" and "at a meeting" at the same time. If you're absent from a meeting, that means that you aren't there.


What is the past tense of "to dive"?

  • You dived in
  • You dove in
Source of Question, Date of Response
Victoria, Canada # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

The past tense of the verb "dive" gets an unusual amount of attention in Merriam-Webster's:

Dive, which was originally a weak verb, developed a past tense dove, probably by analogy with verbs like drive, drove. Dove exists in some British dialects and has become the standard past tense especially in speech in some parts of Canada. In the U.S. dived and dove are both widespread in speech as past tense and past participle, with dove less common than dived in the south Midland area, and dived less common than dove in the Northern and north Midland areas. In writing, the past tense dived is usual in British English and somewhat more common in American English. Dove seems relatively rare as a past participle in writing.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, Version 1.5. 1996. Used with permission.


Is the sentence, "This document will provide guidance to the Investigator on determining a protocol monitoring plan," grammatically correct? If not, please provide the appropriate wording and structure.

Source of Question, Date of Response
Frederick, Maryland # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

The idea of "guidance on determining" is kind of clumsy, to say the least. And the packed noun phrase, "protocol monitoring plan" is kind of hard to swallow. How about simplifying it to something like "This document will help the investigator devise a plan to monitor protocols in ______ ." You should be able to say even more with fewer words and less stress.


Are these sentences both correct:

  • The star whose murder by a madman shocked the nation was buried last week.
  • The star the murder of whom by a madman shocked the nation was buried last week.
Source of Question, Date of Response
Paris, France # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

We must suppose that we know which star you're talking about. That would make the information within the "whose murder" clause parenthetical and it would be wise to set it off with at least a pair of commas.

The star, whose murder by a madman shocked the nation, was buried last week.

In fact, I think it would be a good idea to set off that information with a pair of dashes. That would do a better job of prioritizing the two kinds of information this sentence provides.

The star—whose murder by a madman shocked the nation—was buried last week.

If you wish to avoid the suggestion that the murder is somehow "owned" by the victim-star (with the "whose"), you're probably better off with two separate sentences – one in which you record the nation's shock and the other in which you note the star's recent burial. Your other version, with "the murder of whom," is awfully klutzy.


Is this correct?

We'd like to thank those whom have been involved in our efforts and encourage your continued participation in our programs.
Source of Question, Date of Response
Austin, Texas # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

No. Let's change "whom" to "who" (because we need the subject form in that clause, the subject of the verb "have been involved"). Then, we have to change your to their — because we're talking about those [people] who have been involved, not to them.


If 'the' is part of a proper noun, like "The Times of India", "The Hindustan Times", "The Hindu", how would 'the' be writen in flowing text:

  • I read The Times of India
  • OR
  • I read the Times of India.

When in journalism, one of my news editors had told me it would be "I read the Times of India". Is it a stylistic element (differing with different styles) or does the language (English) have some set rule about it?

Source of Question, Date of Response
New Delhi, India # Wed, Jun 11, 2003
Grammar's Response

I'm afraid you'll find conflicting advice on this — and from very good sources. Bill Walsh, a copy editor for the Washington Post, in his book Lapsing Into a Comma, recommends lower-casing the "the" (as I did in this sentence). Walsh is a pragmatist in this: he says that if he didn't lower-case the "the" he would forever be looking up the newspaper's preference in the matter (is "The" part of its real title or not?). The New York Times style manual, on the other hand, says we should capitalize the "The" unless the name of the paper is being used as a modifier, as in "We read about the New York Times reporter in the Daily News." Whether or not the title of the newspaper should be italicized (as I have done here) or not is also a matter of debate and apparently up to the tastes of the particular publication (rarely, if ever, are italics or underlines used in newspapers). If all of this leaves you undecided, I'm sorry. You're probably wise to follow the advice of your former editor.

Authority: Lapsing into a Comma by Bill Walsh. Contemporary Books: New York. 2000.

Authority: The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. by Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly. Times books: New York. 1999.


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