Compounding the problem
Today’s topic is probably the most frequent grammatical error, which abounds in newspapers and every type of literature to be found. The miscue is ubiquitous, and is the downfall of even top-notch writers. I refer to the failure to insert the conjunction and before the last item in a series in a compound sentence.
Okay, that’s a bit difficult to absorb. Let’s clarify with an example. An example? My file has grown to so many that I’ve lapsed into ignoring, instead of saving, them when I lack for time. This week, I tossed a newspaper article containing a doozy – and now I can’t find it.
Lazy is as lazy does
What’s wrong here? This is a compound sentence – two sentences in one. It contains two verbs, are and have. Yet the sentences, connected by the conjunction and, are treated as though they comprise a simple sentence. The last item in the first sentence is lazy, but the writer was too lazy to drop the comma after apathetic and insert and to connect those items to the verb are. Further, he needed to insert a comma after lazy to separate that sentence from the one that follows, which has the understood subject parents, or its pronoun they, and the verb have. Reading that two-part sentence, one is left with a disjointed feeling. The sentence should read this way: “Too many parents are apathetic and lazy, and have a ‘leave it to the schools’ attitude.”
A newspaper article informs us that the school board “will pass or postpone some 31 roofing projects, renovations to two dozen school air conditioning systems and find some other way to meet the computer needs … .”
Here is another clear case of a compound sentence treated as a simple sentence. What the reporter meant was: The board will pass or postpone “roofing projects and renovations to two dozen school air conditioning systems, and find some other way … .” In the first part of the simple sentence, the verbs are will pass and (will understood) postpone, and the verb in the second part is (will understood) find.
This example is a compound sentence consisting of, not two, not even three, but four sentences: “It’s our free gift to you because we believe it is vital that you have this information and we want all of you to feel amazing, pain-free and enjoy optimal health!”
First sentence: “It’s our free gift to you.” Second sentence: “We believe it is vital that you have this information.” Third sentence: “We want all of you to feel amazing and pain-free.” Fourth sentence: “(We want all of you to) enjoy optimal health!” The four-parter would read better as two two-parters: “It’s our free gift to you, because we believe it is vital that you have this information. We want all of you to feel amazing and pain-free, and to enjoy optimal health!”
Al Sears, M.D.
This one, by Dr. Al Sears (or more likely his publicity writer) is uncomplicated: “It’s safe, natural, and works at a cellular level to restore all the characteristics of a youthful heart.”
Left as it is, the first part of this compound sentence would read: “It’s safe, natural.” That may be okay for informal writing, but it’s not the correct way to communicate. Obviously, it should read: “It’s safe and natural.” Thus, the compound sentence would read: “It’s safe and natural, and works at a cellular level to restore all the characteristics of a youthful heart.” Stinginess with and makes for choppy and unclear sentences.
Another newspaper example, this one in the caption (cutlines, in newspaper jargon) for a photo: “(So-and-so) has served as a professional educator in Palm Beach Schools, a real estate associate and is recognized as a Distinguished Rotarian and activist for the eradication of polio.”
The writer is not recognized as a Distinguished Grammarian for the eradication of sloppy writing. The error is easily corrected: “has served as a professional educator in Palm Beach Schools and a real estate associate, and is recognized as … .” Two verbs here: has served in the first part of the compound sentence, and is recognized in the second part.
This is by a certified nutritionist: “A young man between 20 and 40 is going to get fat burning results a heck of a lot faster than an aging female who has dieted for years, damaged her metabolism and has hormones that are all out of whack.”
Whew! Some rereading is required to discern that one. First, it has a hyphen problem: “is going to get fat burning results.” The initial thought is that the young man will become fat by burning results. A hyphen is needed to connect fat with burning: fat-burning. The meaning would be more clear if the compound sentence were restructured into a simple sentence: “an aging female who has dieted for years, thereby damaging her metabolism and throwing her hormones out of whack.”
Here’s something written by a doctor, or maybe a nutritionist, that’s a little different. A compound sentence is not involved here, but the omission of and is. Or is it? One can’t be certain, for it’s a mind twister: “When we look at neurochemistry, there are 100 billion neurons, trillions of immune cells, glial cells and trillions of connections in the brain. Every one of these depend on healthy cell membranes.” Let’s first dispense with an unrelated error. It should read: “Every one of these depends on … .”
How many of what are there in this sentence? Should it be 100 billion neurons, trillions of immune cells and glial cells, and trillions of connections …? Or does the writer mean 100 billion neurons, trillions of immune cells, trillions of glial cells, and trillions of connections …? Or was the intended meaning 100 billion neurons, trillions of immune cells, an undetermined number of glial cells, and trillions of connections? Who knows? Could be any one of the three.
The sentence is different from the other examples for another reason, as well. It’s a complex sentence: one containing an independent clause and at least one dependent clause, which in this case is “When we look at neurochemistry, … .” The rest of the sentence is an independent clause.
Oh lordie, I’ve ravaged only half of my stack of confounded compound-sentence concatenations. I’ll grant you, the reader, surcease from any more examples, and retain the leftovers for another day.
#verbs #DrAlSears #simplesentence #complexsentence #compoundsentence