HOW TO SPEAK AND WRITE CORRECTLY by JOSEPH DEVLIN, M.A.
CHAPTER VII Page 1: ERRORS
Mistakes Slips of Authors Examples and Corrections Errors of Redundancy.
In the following examples the word or words in parentheses are uncalled for and should be omitted:
1. Fill the glass (full).
2. They appeared to be talking (together) on private affairs.
3. I saw the boy and his sister (both) in the garden.
4. He went into the country last week and returned (back) yesterday.
5. The subject (matter) of his discourse was excellent.
6. You need not wonder that the (subject) matter of his discourse was excellent; it was taken from the Bible.
7. They followed (after) him, but could not overtake him.
8. The same sentiments may be found throughout (the whole of) the book.
9. I was very ill every day (of my life) last week.
10. That was the (sum and) substance of his discourse.
11. He took wine and water and mixed them (both) together.
12. He descended (down) the steps to the cellar.
13. He fell (down) from the top of the house.
14. I hope you will return (again) soon.
15. The things he took away he restored (again).
16. The thief who stole my watch was compelled to restore it (back again).
17. It is equally (the same) to me whether I have it today or tomorrow.
18. She said, (says she) the report is false; and he replied, (says he) if it be not correct I have been misinformed.
19. I took my place in the cars (for) to go to New York.
20. They need not (to) call upon him.
21. Nothing (else) but that would satisfy him.
22. Whenever I ride in the cars I (always) find it prejudicial to my health.
23. He was the first (of all) at the meeting.
24. He was the tallest of (all) the brothers.
25. You are the tallest of (all) your family.
26. Whenever I pass the house he is (always) at the door.
27. The rain has penetrated (through) the roof.
28. Besides my uncle and aunt there was (also) my grandfather at the church.
29. It should (ever) be your constant endeavor to please your family.
30. If it is true as you have heard (then) his situation is indeed pitiful.
31. Either this (here) man or that (there) woman has (got) it.
32. Where is the fire (at)?
33. Did you sleep in church? Not that I know (of).
34. I never before (in my life) met (with) such a stupid man.
35. (For) why did he postpone it?
36. Because (why) he could not attend.
37. What age is he? (Why) I don’t know.
38. He called on me (for) to ask my opinion.
39. I don’t know where I am (at).
40. I looked in (at) the window.
41. I passed (by) the house.
42. He (always) came every Sunday.
43. Moreover, (also) we wish to say he was in error.
44. It is not long (ago) since he was here.
45. Two men went into the wood (in order) to cut (down) trees.
Further examples of redundancy might be multiplied. It is very common in newspaper writing where not alone single words but entire phrases are sometimes brought in, which are unnecessary to the sense or explanation of what is written.
GRAMMATICAL ERRORS OF STANDARD AUTHORS
Even the best speakers and writers are sometimes caught napping. Many of our standard authors to whom we have been accustomed to look up as infallible have sinned more or less against the fundamental principles of grammar by breaking the rules regarding one or more of the nine parts of speech. In fact some of them have recklessly trespassed against all nine, and still they sit on their pedestals of fame for the admiration of the crowd. Macaulay mistreated the article. He wrote,â€””That a historian should not record trifles is perfectly true.” He should have used an.
Dickens also used the article incorrectly. He refers to “Robinson Crusoe” as “an universally popular book,” instead of a universally popular book.
The relation between nouns and pronouns has always been a stumbling block to speakers and writers. Hallam in his Literature of Europe writes, “No one as yet had exhibited the structure of the human kidneys, Vesalius having only examined them in dogs.” This means that Vesalius examined human kidneys in dogs. The sentence should have been, “No one had as yet exhibited the kidneys in human beings, Vesalius having examined such organs in dogs only.”
Sir Arthur Helps in writing of Dickens, statesâ€””I knew a brother author of his who received such criticisms from him (Dickens) very lately and profited by it.” Instead of it the word should be them to agree with criticisms.
Here are a few other pronominal errors from leading authors:
“Sir Thomas Moore in general so writes it, although not many others so late as him.” Should be he.â€”Trench’s English Past and Present.
“What should we gain by it but that we should speedily become as poor as them.” Should be they.â€”Alison’s Essay on Macaulay.
“If the king gives us leave you or I may as lawfully preach, as them that do.” Should be they or those, the latter having persons understood.â€”Hobbes’s History of Civil Wars.
“The drift of all his sermons was, to prepare the Jews for the reception of a prophet, mightier than him, and whose shoes he was not worthy to bear.” Should be than he.â€”Atterbury’s Sermons.
“Phalaris, who was so much older than her.” Should be she.â€”Bentley’s Dissertation on Phalaris.
“King Charles, and more than him, the duke and the Popish faction were at liberty to form new schemes.” Should be than he.â€”Bolingbroke’s Dissertations on Parties.
“We contributed a third more than the Dutch, who were obliged to the same proportion more than us.” Should be than we.â€”Swift’s Conduct of the Allies.
In all the above examples the objective cases of the pronouns have been used while the construction calls for nominative cases.
“Let thou and I the battle try”â€”Anon.
Here let is the governing verb and requires an objective case after it; therefore instead of thou and I, the words should be you (sing.) and me.
“Forever in this humble cell, Let thee and I, my fair one, dwell”â€”Prior.
Here thee and I should be the objectives you and me.
The use of the relative pronoun trips the greatest number of authors.
Even in the Bible we find the relative wrongly translated:
Whom do men say that I am?â€”St. Matthew.
Whom think ye that I am?â€”Acts of the Apostles.
Who should be written in both cases because the word is not in the objective governed by say or think, but in the nominative dependent on the verb am.
“Who should I meet at the coffee house t’other night, but my old friend?”â€”Steele.
“It is another pattern of this answerer’s fair dealing, to give us hints that the author is dead, and yet lay the suspicion upon somebody, I know not who, in the country.”â€”Swift’s Tale of a Tub.
“My son is going to be married to I don’t know who.” â€”Goldsmith’s Good-natured Man.
The nominative who in the above examples should be the objective whom.
The plural nominative ye of the pronoun thou is very often used for the objective you, as in the following:
“His wrath which will one day destroy ye both.” â€”Milton.
“The more shame for ye; holy men I thought ye.”â€”Shakespeare.
“I feel the gales that from ye blow.”â€”Gray.
“Tyrants dread ye, lest your just decree Transfer the power and set the people free.”â€”Prior.
Many of the great writers have played havoc with the adjective in the indiscriminate use of the degrees of comparison.
“Of two forms of the same word, use the fittest.”â€”Morell.
The author here in trying to give good advice sets a bad example. He should have used the comparative degree, “Fitter.”
Adjectives which have a comparative or superlative signification do not admit the addition of the words more, most, or the terminations, er, est, hence the following examples break this rule:
“Money is the most universal incitement of human misery.”â€”Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.
“The chiefest of which was known by the name of Archon among the Grecians.”â€”Dryden’s Life of Plutarch.
“The chiefest and largest are removed to certain magazines they call libraries.”â€”Swift’s Battle of the Books.
The two chiefest properties of air, its gravity and elastic force, have been discovered by mechanical experiments.â€”Arbuthno
“From these various causes, which in greater or lesser degree, affected every individual in the colony, the indignation of the people became general.”â€”Robertson’s History of America.
“The extremest parts of the earth were meditating a submission.”â€”Atterbury’s Sermons.
“The last are indeed more preferable because they are founded on some new knowledge or improvement in the mind of man.”â€”Addison, Spectator.
“This was in reality the easiest manner of the two.”â€”Shaftesbury’s Advice to an Author.