Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some More Proofreading Examples from Works by Editors

All of the grammatical errors (the yellow text) in this article were found in The Editor Devil's Guide to Dialogue by Christine M. Fairchild, and are used here under the Fair Use provisions of title 17 U.S. Code.

Make it clear who is speaking by attaching dialogue to the character’s action. But don’t overdue this either.
Be careful of homophones.
. . . don't overdo this, either.

Again, moderation and variation of pattern is best to maintain reader interest.
A compound subject requires a plural verb.
. . . moderation and variation of pattern are best . . . .
The above is true UNLESS the two subject items are normally thought of as a single name, such as "macaroni and cheese." Such a pair is treated as a singular subject: it's "macaroni and cheese is tasty," not "macaroni and cheese are tasty."

Overall, women use more pronouns (I) and articles (it, them), while men use yes/no more often and name people, places and things directly.
This isn't actually a grammatical error, just wrong information about grammar. "It" and "them" aren't articles. They're pronouns. The three articles are the noun determiners a, an, and the.

Or the parent who allows their teen, who went on an under-aged joy ride in the Porsche, get arrested by cops to show the kid a lesson.
There's a word missing in that sentence; do you see it? Or, maybe more accurately, not see it? There's no "to" introducer in front of the verb "get," is there? You have sharp eyes. The words in red here are just misspellings: there's no such word as "under-aged," and "joyride" is one word. The goof you're most concerned with as a proofer is the wrong expression of the infinitive, because it makes the sentence ungrammatical. Let's fix it.
Or the parent who allows their teen, who went on an underage joyride in the Porsche, >to< get arrested by cops to show the kid a lesson.
Of course, there's also the use of the adjective--strictly speaking, possessive pronoun--"their" with the singular antecedent "parent," but if you want to do this and don't think anybody holding sway over your work's fate should or will mind, well, knock yourself out. The author of The Editor Devil's Guide to Dialogue (from which all of the examples in this article were excerpted) uses plural pronouns with singular antecedents for the sake of gender neutrality dozens of times in this book, sometimes resulting in sentences with split personalities wherein both the default "he" and gender-neutral plural forms are used in the same sentence, such as this:
This is also where the hero/heroine/protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses are inventoried and assessed, like a student getting graded and told what he still needs to learn to overcome their obstacles and reach their next goal.
Zealous devotion to imposing neutering plural pronouns on singular antecedents can also result in absurd-looking phrases such as this one from the book: " . . . during which time
the reader asks themselves what's so critical . . . ." Now, there's a clause that fairly begs to be recast in some way that doesn't  require doing whatever it takes, no matter how odd, to enforce gender neutrality. 
. . . during which time readers ask themselves what's so critical . . . ."
. . . during which time the reader wonders what's so critical . . . ."
. . . during which time the reader asks what's so critical . . . ."  
Well, you get the idea. There are almost always plenty of construction options that make it unnecessary to use conflicting pronouns and antecedents, so one really doesn't need to draw this gender-neutrality line in the sand at the expense of pronoun/antecedent agreement very often. Still, it's your call. The practice has been in place for speech and informal writing since Late Middle English, and quite respectable authors have been writing things like "anybody can grow their own vegetables" and "no one gets everything they want" for hundreds of years, but name-dropping Jane Austen or Dan Brown or Shakespeare or anybody else who does it or ever did it won't make it okay for you to do it in the eyes of those who don't like it. Some style guides adopt a sort of resigned acceptance of it nowadays; some others, including no less an entity than the big gun of matters grammatical, The Chicago Manual of Style, don't care for it. Your prospective publisher may or may not care.

Tired of reading about pronoun/antecedent disagreement? Me, too. Let's finish  up with something simple. Here's a sentence that just needs a proper adjective and possessive.
And it's in his blood, as he uncle was the first to find the ring and bear it's weight.
Replace the pronoun "he" with the adjective "his." "It's" is the contraction of "it is"; lose the apostrophe to form the possessive "its."
And it's in his blood, as his uncle was the first to find the ring and bear its weight.