I've had fun writing for this column, and the one that received the most responses was the one about English teachers running around correcting the world's grammar. Everyone who responded shared his or her pet peeves. So here is a test. Correct these sentences:
1. Despite the large crowd, everyone wanted their pets to win the contest.
2. Susan Smith was born in 1901 to the late George and Jennifer Smith.
3. Susan and me decided that we needed to change our clothes before digging in the garden. Can you pass that stack of cookies to Susan and I?
4. Please do me a favor and bring that book to Susan who is sitting across the room.
5. Getting crowded into a corner, Susan thought there too many people in this room.
6. Divide the candy between the three of you.
7. The Covington City Council announced that it would study: pink painted fences, planting trees on medians, crazy English teachers and the price of tea in China.
8. Its entirely possible that you are now bored with this column.
And now, the answers:
1. This is the error I correct the most in proofreading The Covington News. I blame it on political correctness. Everyone, anyone, everybody (anything that ends in one or body) is singular. To be plural, the words would have to be everytwo or everybodies. So it should read everyone wanted his pets to win the contest. The rule is if you don't know the sex, choose masculine. But in an effort to be politically correct and not offend the feminists, people choose to be grammatically incorrect and use their.
2. This is the sentence I correct in almost every obituary. Outside of the reference by Shakespeare that Macduff was "untimely ripped from his mother's womb," it is pretty rare that someone is born to a mother who is dead, much less two dead parents.
3. A retired teacher and administrator complained about this problem to me when I was grocery shopping. I, we, he, she and they are always subjects or predicate nouns. Me, us, him, her, and them are always objects, either direct, indirect or of prepositions. So the sentences should read Susan and I decided and pass the cookies to Susan and me. If that is too complicated for those of you who are grammatically challenged, I am sure somewhere along the way an English teacher said to you, "leave out the ‘Susan and.'" You would not say me decided or give the cookies to I.
4. I got an email from a retired teacher complaining about the misuse of bring and take. Bring means it is coming to you. Take means it is going away from you. It should read take that book to Susan.
5. They're is they are. There points to a place. Their means people own something. It should read Susan said they're too many people in the room.
6. Between is for two people; among is for three or more. It should read divide the candy among the three of you.
7. There is only one use for the colon in English. It introduces a list that is an appositive. 'What is that?' you exclaim. It is something that renames what it directly follows. Mrs. Travis, my teacher, is crazy. My teacher is an appositive. The reason why the colon is wrong in the sentence is the list has nothing to be in apposition to. It should read the Covington City Council announced that it would study the following: ...Or just leave out the colon completely.
8. That's an easy one. It's means it is. Its means possessive of it.
If you corrected all eight sentences, you are a grammar wizard and should give yourself a pat on the back. If you found seven or six errors, you need to study more, but you passed. If you only found five or less errors, I am sure I was not your English teacher (that's a joke).
Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.