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.

When beginning matters

“He began to walk across the room.”

“She started to answer.”

Why do I need to know this? Why can’t it just say “He walked” and “She answered”?

This is one of the most common issues I see in my fiction editing work. Characters are forever starting and beginning things they could, quite honestly, just do. So, when does beginning matter? Continue reading “When beginning matters”

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 …”

About that word Comey used

There’s a lot of discussion (I’m trying to be neutral, here) about FBI Director James Comey’s use of “nauseous” in the last day or two.

Pedants will shout that he should have said “nauseated,” because “nauseous” is only and ever used to mean “capable of creating nausea” (like some fumes, or some votes in the US House. But I digress). Continue reading “About that word Comey used”