Your Grammar Gremlins

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about mistakes in grammar, mechanics, and usage that stop me in my tracks—my crotchets— and  invited readers to submit their own. Here are a few that arrived via e-mail:

Sylvia S: “It drives me crazy when writers say they are working on a “fictional novel”. Come on, people! All novels are fiction.”

Sylvia, I see this mistake most often in writers’ workshops devoted to crafting pitches and queries. A writer may work on fiction, or on a novel, but not on a “fiction” (or “fictional”) novel. For that genre of novels called “women’s fiction” the work- around to avoid the phrase “women’s fiction novel”  is simply to call it “a work of  women’s fiction”.

Kristi P writes: Writers who use the wrong homonym trip me up. Last week in the newspaper, a columnist wrote that “Congress is asking every agency to pair down the budget. ” He meant “pare.”

The wrong homonym stops me, too.  One of our local writers–a very good writer–said in a recent column that he and his family had spent Sunday “pouring” over family photographs, when what he meant was of course, “poring.”  Another pair of words that trip up writers fairly often: faze and phase. Most often, writers will choose, “the decision did not even phase me”   when they have should have chosen “faze.”  The easy fix for this gremlin is to remember that “faze” is always a verb, “phase” is most often used as a noun.

And finally, this from Mary C:  Have you seen the TV ad from Victoria’s Secret that says, “There’s five new ways to be fabulous?”  There is five new ways?Really? On national TV?

I saw that ad, too while indulging my addiction to American Idol,  and had the same reaction, Mary. Of course it should have said, There are five new ways…but aside from the grammatical error, beginning a sentence with “there is” or “there are” is usually not the strongest choice. A better sentence: Victoria’s Secret presents five new ways to be fabulous.

But they didn’t ask me.

Thanks for sharing your crotchets. Keep them coming! They’re fun to read and  keep me on my toes.