Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grammar Nazi Count Down: Episode Three -- Dangling Modifiers

Every time Nerdvark tells The Nard that he has written a dangling modifier, Nard giggles.  That adds to The Nerdvark's distress, until the small whiskers on his face kink.

In English, a "modifier" is a phrase that adds information about the subject of the sentence.  A dangling modifier is one whose subject is missing.  It isn't clear from the sentence what the dangling modifier is modifying, which is why it is left dangling.  It's kind of like when Nardvark made a date with one of his online friends.  The friend did not show up, leaving Nardvark dangling.  

We can write about this situation in a sentence using a modifier correctly, like this:
Having been jilted by his internet friend, Nerdvark stood embarrassed and alone in the line up for the love canal.

If we leave the modifier dangling, though, the sentence can be misunderstood and even silly:
Having been jilted by his internet friend, the love-canal line up was a lonely place to stand.
This sentence implies that the love-canal line up was jilted.  This misuse of a modifier can also be called a "misplaced modifier."
Jilted by his internet friend, it was a lonely and embarrassing moment.
This sentence is confusing because we don't know who was jilted.
The Nerdvark's facial whiskers get kinked
when he is exposed to dangling modifiers.

Please help save The Nerdvark.  Make sure your modifiers modify the subjects of your sentences.  If you're still  not sure, check here.

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Grammar Nazi Count-Down: Episode Two - Double Constructions

Nardvark's IB English teacher is always telling him he is too wordy.  To get a level 7 on an IB paper (discover how here), your writing needs to be, among other things, succinct.  That means no unnecessary words.  However, some students love to pepper their writing with fabulous joining words and phrases to make it sound more sophisticated.  This is especially problematic for those who study IELTS or TOEFL... so many words, so little paper.  

We all know transitions (become an expert on them here) are important, but when Nerdvark sees two such words in the same sentence, his lips turn blue from lack of oxygen.   This is language overkill, or "double construction."

Here's an overkill sentence: 
Because Nardvark likes condiment sandwiches, therefore his fridge is filled with various ketchups, mayonnaises, cheese spreads, jams, and sauces.

Here it is without the extra, unnecessary word:
Because Nardvark likes condiment sandwiches, his fridge is filled with various ketchups, mayonnaises, cheese spreads, jams, and sauces.

Or, keep the "therefore" and get rid of the comma splice and the "because":
Nardvark likes condiment sandwiches; therefore, his fridge is filled with various ketchups, mayonnaises, cheese spreads, jams, and sauces.

Because and therefore: two connectives with the same meaning.  Overkill!  Wordiness!  Yuck!
Nerdvark's oxygen supply dwindles when he is
bombarded with double constructions.

Please protect Nerdvark from O2 starvation.   Choose your words carefully.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Grammar Nazi Count-Down: Episode One - your vs. you're

Nardvark is always busy with important endeavors like getting to the next level on video game phone apps, eating, making deep-fried peanut-butter-and-mustard sandwiches, and napping, so he rarely has time for editing his papers for school.  Knowing as he does that editing papers must be done, he passes them through the mirror to Nerdvark for a once-over.  Nerdvark loves editing papers, but when he sees the state of Nardvark's writing, his reaction ranges from mild concussion with vomiting to massive hemorrhaging of the cerebral cortex.  Luckily, Nerdvark is a comic-strip character, so he always feels better by the next frame.  Regardless, he has compiled the... 
... ... (pause for effect)...
(fanfare, drum roll...)

For more information about such things, see here.

Yeah, you read that right.  Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings, and often different spellings.  It's the different spellings that give Nerdvark nosebleeds.

E.g.: red/read (that's an easy one!) --  Nerdvark's  nose bled red blood because he read Nardvark's poorly written essay.

More difficult e.g.: your/you're -- Your is a possessive, like his, her, and their. (woah, that's another one!) You're is an abbreviation for you are.  Nerdvark's nose bleeds when Nardvark texts him with the phrase "your welcome."  Nerdvark replies, "My welcome?"  Nardvark doesn't get it.  An easy way to remember is to see if the words you are can be used instead.  If yes, then you're is your word!

Come back next time for more grammar not-see-ism.