I stumbled across some embarrassing grammar bloopers that Donald Trump has made in the past, and I thought
he this would be a good subject for today’s comedy grammar post.
But being the fair-minded and equal-opportunity grammar witch that I am, I decided to investigate examples of bad grammar from Republicans and Democrats alike. This is what I found:
Many of their mistakes are pretty common.
If you’re like me, you’ve made some of the mistakes you’re about to see. Therefore, this is a perfect opportunity for a review of common grammar issues.
Another thing I’ve discovered is that politicians are human, too. (Or perhaps I’ve discovered that I’m human, too.) Maybe the time has come to give ourselves and our politicians a bit of slack.
Okay, all nicey-nice talk of being human and giving slack aside, writing mistakes make a person appear uneducated. If I were to put on my editor’s hat (which is the one I use the most), I’d say that typos and grammar errors lower a person’s credibility. When I handled acquisitions in my previous position, many of the books I rejected were submitted by authors who had spelling and grammar mistakes in their cover letters.
Granted, there are some wonderful books out there that no doubt were written by truly uneducated people with a good idea and a flair for storytelling – Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, immediately comes to mind – but they are few and far between, and most successful yet uneducated writers are smart enough to get someone else to go over their book, or at least their cover letter for crying out loud.
Which brings me to the next issue.
Politicians, their aides, and we are lazy.
Go over your work two, three, or four times. Get someone else to eyeball it before it goes out. Hire an editor.
I usually reread my posts four or five times before they go out, and guess what? I still get emails from readers telling me I misspelled a word or committed a grammar crime. In my opinion, the two most common reasons for error-riddled prose are ignorance of the rules and the writer’s not going over it enough times.
Bonus tip: Write your first draft, put it away for a fixed period of time, and then go back to it, rewriting, editing, and proofreading a few more times.
Now for the bloopers.
- An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office. This would be fine if Trump were British, but American English uses double quotes, unless you have a quote within a quote.
- The culprit could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds. We are now allowed to use “their” for the unknown or generic singular, which is why I didn’t highlight it in green. However, when you are talking about a person you should use “who” and not “that.”
- Looks to me like the Bernie people will fight. If not, there blood, sweat and tears was a waist of time.! Where do I begin? 1) He used the wrong there/their/they’re (it’s their), 2) it’s “waste,” and 3) you can have only one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. This last one is a classic example of not proofreading. (I won’t tell you what the other two are examples of.)
- Because her and Obama created this huge vacuum and a small group came out of that huge vacuum…. This is a simple subject-verb sentence, so ‘their’ (just kidding) was no need to use an objective pronoun. “She” is correct.
- No matter how good I do on something, they’ll never write good. I mean, they don’t write good. They have people over there…they don’t write good. They don’t know how to write good. Notice I didn’t highlight anything in green because the whole piece is awful. With regard to grammar, however, all “good” here should be “well,” as “good” is an adjective (it modifies a noun), while “well” is an adverb (it modifies a verb; in this case, “write”).
She didn’t do so badly; could be her aides are a bit more intelligent than Trump’s. However, they are lousy proofreaders, and, as the first example shows, they could use a refresher course on the finer points of English.
- Tell us in 3 emojis or less. I’ve gotten this one wrong, too. It should be “fewer.” This is a pretty subtle point, but one worth going over. Here’s the rule: “fewer” is for things in the plural that can be counted, and “less” is for things without a plural that cannot be counted (e.g., “I have less money than you”).
Whoever wrote that tweet used the possessive case unnecessarily. This is a common but annoying mistake. You don’t need the possessive case unless you are talking about what someone possesses. See this article for more on the subject.
- We are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness. Even though the subject of the first clause is “we” (first person plural), you can’t use “deserve” and “our” because they’re connected to the second clause. The subject of the second clause is “each” (third person singular). Therefore, the verb would be “deserves” and the possessive would be “his,” “her,” “his or her,” or “their.” I also would suggest “each one of us” or “each person” instead of just “each.”
- No one really knew what the actual value of these securities were. Thanks to Obama Grammar: Using the President’s Bloopers to Improve Your English, by William Proctor, for this one. This is a very common mistake when we have a complex noun phrase, in this case, “the actual value of these securities.” What you need to do is isolate the primary noun in order to choose the correct verb to go with it. Did nobody know the value, or did nobody know the securities? The answer is nobody knew the value, and therefore the last word in this sentence should be “was.” (If no one knew the securities themselves, we would say, “No one knows what these securities were.”)
For those of you who don’t know, “Dubya” is George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States.
- It will be he’s and I’s responsibility…to secure the nation. Newsflash: you don’t create possessive case by putting an apostrophe-s on a pronoun. Bush should have used “his” and “my.”
- There’s a lot of countries that can help. Another common error, here the result of a contraction distraction. Take the contraction apart and you’ll have the answer: “There is a lot of countries that can help.” Yuck. If we’re talking about “countries” we’d need a plural verb of course, and the former president should therefore have said, “There are a lot of countries.”
This post has showcased many common grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, and I hope it proves how easy it is for all of us to make them.
I will consider this a hugely successful post if you are finally convinced how essential good, old-fashioned proofreading is.
Moreover, please remember to put your writing away between drafts. Coming back to a piece after letting it rest in your drawer and simmer in your mind will give you a fresh perspective and the motivation to polish it, finish it, and get it out the door.
Let me know how it goes
Pull out one of your old writing projects (or even what you wrote yesterday) and go over it again. Can you make it better or more understandable? Do you find any typos or other mistakes that need correcting? Re-edit it and let me know in the comments below how it went and what kind of issues you found!
If you have no old drafts, put away your current piece for a day or two and then come back to it. Rework and correct it from your fresh perspective, and tell me how it went in the comments.
And if you find any typos or grammatical mistakes in this post, shoot me an email.