Embarrassing Errors #5

Yet Another

By Annette Rey

The mother site of this error disturbs me more than the error itself. It is a major broadcasting television channel I have trusted for integrity. I believe the producers, directors, editors, and other staff, produce high quality material.

So, if they predominantly please, why is targeting any error important? Why do I complain and why do these discoveries bother me?

The way we communicate matters. At a very basic level, miscommunication translates into misunderstanding. Between couples, a disagreement or needless argument may take place. At a national level, leaders of countries may take a regrettable action in response to a misspoken statement. If an instructor does not give correct information, students may be misdirected and learn in error. Misinformation can follow them for life. Do you want to be that misled or misinformed person?

I don’t want to reveal the actual sentence and website on which I saw the sentence error. I will mask the error using the same structure of the sentence error, but using substitute words.

Find how funnels fed mackerels through Jack Smith.

Besides sounding somewhat nonsensical, what is grammatically wrong with this sentence?

Funnels did not feed mackerels. Jack Smith is the subject of the sentence – the doer of the action. Jack Smith fed mackerels.

The correct construction for clarity for the listener is:

Find how Jack Smith fed mackerels through funnels.

As dry and boring as it may seem to you, studying diagramming sentences is advisable. You can look at a sentence that doesn’t quite ring true. You may not know exactly why it’s not clear unless you can break the words down into their individual function. If you know how to diagram, you can plug the correct words into a diagram. Diagramming allows you to clearly see where you should position a word or words, as in Error #5 above.

You can correct some sentences by being a cruel editor. A sentence my not sound right. Look at it closely to see where you can cut unnecessary words.

I saw this sentence on Facebook. He is too nice a person to say no. Much ado was made of this sentence. Should of have been added – too nice of a person…? Some people wanted to know why nice a might be correct.

No one considered editing the sentence. The sentence construction makes it sound troubling. And since the combination of the two words nice and a is awkward, let’s reconstruct the sentence.

Where do we start?

First, there is a redundancy and superfluous words all in the same spot. Can you see it? The words to delete are – a person.


Because obviously the he the sentence refers to IS a person! A dog can’t say no. Humans say words. So, the words a person are both a redundancy and are superfluous.

How does the sentence read now?

He is too nice to say no.

Simple. Direct. Concise. Clear.

This is the writing you should be shooting for.

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