Writing Glitch #617

Today’s glitch:

(It’s a character description originally intended to be used as a writing prompt. Please don’t complain to me if you find it less than exciting, because I’m just using it to explain correct grammar and punctuation.)

How it ought to be written:

This race of elves is dusky-skinned and has warmly colored eyes. They are easily addicted to certain substances. They lack inventiveness; their technology and knowledge are ages old. Their history conceals a great secret.

Why it ought to be written that way:

The noun that goes with the verbs in the first sentence is race, not elves: This race is… and has…

Don’t hyphenate a compound adjective containing an –ly adverb.

A dash is used to indicate an abrupt change within a sentence. There is no such abruptness in the third sentence. In fact, there’s a clear connection between They lack inventiveness and the rest of the sentence. Use a semicolon instead of a dash, or replace the dash with a comma followed by and, or make the sentence into two sentences (although the connection will be less clear if you choose this third option).

I got rid of all because it’s an unnecessary word.

When you have a compound subject (in latter part of the third sentence, the subject is technology and knowledge), you’re talking about more than one thing, so you need a plural verb to go with the compound subject. Replace is with are.


About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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2 Responses to Writing Glitch #617

  1. Donnalee says:

    I’m a dash man/lady myself, but I won’t quibble over it.

    I agree with ‘the race’ being one item and requiring a singular verb form, but in the UK, aren’t collective nouns used with plurals? I recall hearing a lot of ‘our firm use the latest in technology’ style of thing when I lived there, and it was correct within that country. How do you know that the sources didn’t come from a place where that is the correct norm, or are you just adjusting it for US-English? (This is just me chitchatting with an educated person.)


    • Some of my examples do come from sources using UK English, which is why I don’t “correct” the word traveler spelled with a double-l, for example. (I really dislike sans-serif fonts… That’s a lowercase L, not a capital I.)

      When I know the source is using American English, however, I use the rules for American English.

      You’re right that in UK English, groups (collective nouns) are construed as plural.


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