Just when you thought it was safe to make grammatical errors again, Grammar Man has come back with a vengeance. This time, he’s not going to overlook even the smallest infraction. Well it’s possible he might but only if he’s in a good mood. Don’t think this is your cue to start making major errors, however. We’re still watching you to make sure you don’t start sentences with ‘anymore’ or asking if we know what you mean. We have prepared more examples of corrections that need to be made.
End that sentence!
I know that since you were good and capable of starting that sentence that you are just as capable of finishing it. How does a person go about starting a sentence and then not finish it? It goes something like this. For the most part, the person is anticipating that the other person in the conversation will finish the sentence in their mind. One example would be a person saying, “I just ran out of milk and eggs, so…”
Note how the words trail off at the end. The person thinks that you know what is going to be done as a consequence of their running out of milk and eggs. This is clearly not always the case. Are they going to go to the local convenience store? Are they going to go to a supermarket, or perhaps a mega-corporate discount chain that has added groceries to its lineup?
Maybe today your friend is going to go to a local farmer’s market. There’s really no way of knowing unless you are really that familiar with the friend – and even if you are that familiar, why would you necessarily know where they are going to go to get their milk and eggs – if they are going to get them at all?
What if, instead, the person is insinuating that since you are their friend, you are the one who should go out and get the milk and eggs? What if, as a result of the sentence not being finished, you don’t go out and get the milk and eggs and you wake up the next morning and find yourself without french toast because you didn’t know that you were supposed to get the milk and eggs? It’s quite a costly decision and one that can be spared simply by finishing a sentence.
Another kind of leading sentence I have noticed is one in which two options are given but you are presumed to fill in the second option. “Would you like to go to the farmer’s market to buy some milk and eggs, or…” What are the other options?
Why are we being pressured into presenting other options when, in fact, there may be no other options other than to sleep in the infamous house of dogs at night? (For that matter, why do dog houses have such a bad rap when it comes to places for people performing poorly in their relationship? I recall a comic strip dog having an amazing house which was the envy of his owner.
I know – real life is not a comic and most people don’t really go and sleep in the dog’s house when they are bad.) The worst example of this leading sentence is when it is a concretely black and white issue. “Are we turning right onto this road, or…” is a question that seems nonsensical when the only other option is to turn left. It completely confuses me and leaves me scratching my head, wondering the purpose of this trailing sentence.
Watch that Pronunciation
I understand that a lot of times, word that come to us from outside the English language that cling tightly to their origins can be tough to pronounce. I’m sorry that it can be such a struggle. Believe me, I have felt fairly foolish myself when mispronouncing certain phrases in Japanese and was told that I said something completely different from what I thought I had said.
The thing is, we have to grasp the fact that we have erred and grow, as it were, so that we don’t continue to make the same mistake. When we stumble through the word concierge or mispronounce the name of a popular Italian restaurant, even if the manager of the restaurant himself has said it incorrectly, the proper thing to do when corrected is to be at least somewhat cogniszcant that we have an opportunity to change for the better.
A lot of people have a somewhat hostile reaction, saying that the way that they are saying it is they way they have always said it and they don’t want to say it any differently. Frequently, it helps a lot to explain exactly why a certain word is pronounced a certain way and why it isn’t pronounced the incorrect way.
In any case this should be done carefully and without any hint of superiority in your tone when you are correcting because otherwise the greatest likelihood is that you will receive the hostile reaction. Instead of this, you should approach them as a friend and sometimes with a little hesitation – “Oh, I think it’s actually pronounced…” and you can insert the proper pronunciation. Much more likely to get through to someone.
Redundancy and Repeating Yourself
When you use an acronym and then use part of the acronym afterwards, it is more than a little redundant. For example, the N in “PIN” stands for Number. Therefore, asking someone for their “Pin Number” is asking for their Personal Identification Number Number.
Similarly, saying “RSVP please” is the same as saying “Respond please, please.” You use an ATM, not an Automated Telling Machine machine. A somewhat less frowned upon redundancy is to say that you’re going to the GP practice as the P stands for practice.
Why is this less frowned upon? Although plenty of people just say that they’re going to the GP or going to the doctor, most people don’t say they’re going to the General Practice.
Rather than perhaps getting angry when you are approached by someone, even if they don’t go about correcting you in the best way possible, you can realize that they most likely have the best intentions in mind in correcting you. You can look at the correction as an opportunity to grow rather than some sort of belittlement or some way to rub in superiority.
Even in the worst case scenario – that’s exactly what the person had in mind in correcting you – you can still take the negative thing that has been thrown at you and turn it into a positive by growing as a person and, in the end, speaking more properly. Let’s not get Grammar Man angry.