An alert reader forwarded to me an article describing the most common grammar gaffes that keep coming up and what I can do to avoid them. I don’t know if she’s trying to send me a message but grammar I’ve always been real good at.

For example, I know we need to put in commas to prevent, in some cases, confusion. Even the Bible authors had trouble with this one. Isaiah wrote, “A voice of one calling, ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord.'” But Mark, trying to quote Isaiah, mis-placed the comma and wrote, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.” It’s enough to shake your faith.

Another gaffe is improper hyphen-ization. Book-authors often hyphenate-wrongly. They write a novel about Gustav, a “welder-trapeze-artist” and expect the reader to be en-chanted.

Worse, the sentences they write — in the passive voice they definitely are. Even their book titles are wrongly written: “The Trapeze Bar That Broke.” You don’t capital-ize the small word, unless it’s a verb. In this case “The Trapeze Bar Be Broke” would be proper.

They, I’m talking about those who write, also don’t use italics correctly. I’m reading a sentence and it says, “Gustav cried his weld wasn’t holding.” And I say, “Hey, Gustav, shouting is something you don’t have to do to me. There’s no excuse for raising our voices in our writing, unless, of course, WE’RE REALLY UPSET!”

Like when the writer uses wordy, unnecessary, superfluous adjectives and also over-modifies their verbs. They tell you the man with the cane walked slowly. Of course he is, especially considering he’s on a very skinny tightrope. Or they say the night is dark. They’re always dark, unless you’re in Alaska or something and even there they’re inky-black for six months.

You see, I’m such a great grammatician, I just used two forms of “their” back-to-back. So much trouble that word causes! Too is another tough one. When I dictate my reports, I always spell out, t-o, because I want to charge the client for driving to Chicago Heights. I don’t want them to think that I happened to go there also, or that there’s more than one suburb that starts two hundred blocks south of Madison Street.

For some, especially young people, grammar is not for them. They don’t even spell out the words they’re using. “R U coming?” is like a question for them, when it should be, “R U coming?” because sometimes a shout is needed by you when they don’t ever answer their phones.

Grammar-learning is certainly important in Forest Park. When I hear school kids using their “outside” voices, in front of my house loudly sometimes: I tell them that sleepy I am, plus drowsy, and they should stop speaking in italics.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...