(Page 2 of 3)
n Who is stationed outside the White House? A “group.” The “group” (singular) is the subject. A “group....is stationed.” The phrase “of angry protesters” is parenthetical information; it doesn’t determine the subject. Sometimes such intervening elements, particularly if the subject and verb are separated by many words, throw off the writer or speaker.
n I’ve included this common error before. “Each” and “every” both take the singular. Therefore, make it: “each brought his or her own way of doing things. ” In the “old days,” simply “his” was used; however, to be politically correct and up-to-date, use “his or her.”
n How do you make compound subjects plural? Not this way! The “s” goes after the word “attorney,” not the word “general.” It should be “attorneys general.” Another example: What is the plural of “mother-in-law”? It should be “mothers-in-law,” not “mothers-in-laws”-- which I hear all the time.
n The word “none” means “not even one.” Hence, “none” takes the singular. The sentence should read: “None of the candidates is going to address...”
nI’ll bet many readers tampered with the semi-colon. No! It’s correctly used. This is one of the most common errors my students make. I tell them that the general rule is to use a semi-colon only if a period can be substituted; it closely connects two related thoughts. The previous sentence is the perfect example. I could have divided the sentence into two separate ones. I will use the semi-colon several times in the paragraphs below to reinforce this point.
nBut what is the error in this sentence? Comparison: stronger vs. strongest. With just two, it would be “stronger.” With more than two, use “strongest.” In this case, there are four-- so we need to use “strongest.”
nOnce again, it’s a numbers game. There are three candidates. Use “between” when there are two; use “among” when there are three or more. In this case, the debate is “among the three candidates.”
nThe error in this sentence is probably number one on my hit list: the comma splice. It can be corrected one of two ways. First, you can insert a semi-colon (as just noted) before the “however.” Or, second, you divide this sentence into two separate ones, beginning the second sentence with the “however.”