Notional concord redux

I wrote about the concept of notional concord here. Refresh your memory if you like before reading farther. I’ll wait.

All right. I just encountered the following.

“Each of these disparate images have their own story […]”

The problem is that phrase “of these disparate images.” Without that, we know that “each” implies a singular thing, one item, and therefore takes a singular verb. However, as soon as we put a phrase after it that contains a plural noun, things get complicated. The MWDEU invokes Copperud and says that “notional agreement appears to be gaining ground over grammatical agreement.”

That means, in plain language, that people are using plural verbs with “each” in this situation about as often as they’re using singular ones. The notion of number (singular or plural, as perceived by the reader/writer) is malleable.

Except it’s not to me, because I’m an old hard-ass. I’m with Garner, who says (in the 4th edition):

“… the best practice is to write each … is regardless of whether a plural noun intervenes (each of the members is).”

For myself, in my head I hear/see “each one” instead of “each.” That cements it for me. “Each one of these disparate images has its own story…” That construction relegates “each” to an adjective, modifying “one”, which becomes the subject.

Some of you will be clucking your tongues and shaking your heads and muttering about me being a stick in the mud. To you, I say only “Singular they should be used whenever it is appropriate, which is almost always.”

Stick THAT in your mud.

Passive voice: the good zombie rule

(I’ll admit it’s not a rule so much as a test, but I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. Live with it.)

First, an apology to all my readers for not having written about this here on the blog before today. I know I’ve discussed it elsewhere on the ‘net, but an omission of this magnitude could not go unaddressed any longer. Continue reading “Passive voice: the good zombie rule”

Ee-ther, eye-ther …

This post isn’t about song lyrics. It’s not about pronunciation in regular speech, either. It’s about word placement.

When you use the conjunction “either” or its negative form “neither,” you need to be aware of what you’re comparing. Placing the word correctly is vital, or you end up with an illogical construction. Consider this:

“He was either too tall or those trousers were too short.” Continue reading “Ee-ther, eye-ther …”

Commas: plain-language explanation #1

I expect this to become a series, so I’m numbering this post. If I’m wrong, well … I’ll come back later, in a year or two, and edit the title.

Aaaaanyway, let’s get to it.

This is about commas and adjectives. When you have a string of adjectives before a noun, how do you know if you need commas between them? (In grammar-speak, these are called coordinate or coordinating modifiers. No one remembers┬áthat, though, except for grammar geeks. Hence my choice to use plain language.) Continue reading “Commas: plain-language explanation #1”

Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)

First, here’s a link to the story I’m about to discuss. Read that and come back when you’re finished. I’ll be here.

::goes to get coffee::

Ready? Okay. Here’s the thing. The court claims that without a comma before the coordinating conjunction “or,” the meaning of the wording is ambiguous.

I beg to differ. There’s absolutely no reason to put a comma there, and doing so doesn’t help clarify anything (because it doesn’t belong there in the first place). Continue reading “Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)”