Oscar Wilde on words:
“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”
QUIZ alert! Next month, you can test your grammar knowledge in our first quiz. Questions will cover many of the grammar and usage guidelines we’ve reviewed so far. There will even be a PRIZE! Did you know some of the most frequently-made grammar faux pas are ones you might consider small, grammar 101 errors? For example, check out our look at mixing up ‘compose’ and ‘comprise’ or ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. It’s easy to forget the basics. This blog is intended to refresh and extend your grammar skills. Here is this month’s guide:
Less or Fewer?
Choosing whether to use ‘less’ or ‘fewer’ should be easy, but it is often the subject of second guesses. Although many people don’t use ‘fewer’ in their regular speech because it sounds too formal, there are cases where it is the better choice. Tip: Use ‘fewer’ in reference to things that can be counted, (fewer cars, men, women, people, things, etc.). Use ‘less’ when referring to things that cannot as easily be counted (less air, gas, time, etc.). For example: “There are fewer people in the neighbourhood, with less time to get together.”
The Seven Words that can be Adjectives or Adverbs
The following words can be used properly as both adjectives and adverbs, depending on sentence structure: fast, half, straight, just, late, low, and most. Here are examples:
As Adjectives As Adverbs
Most : “We think most people would enjoy it.” “He attended class most of the time.”
Just: “If you have just cause, then go ahead.” “She just left the party an hour ago.”
Late: “We enjoyed a late supper al fresco.” “We worked late that evening.”
Low: “He had a very low, distinctive voice.” “Let’s turn the music down low.”
Fast: “Make sure it has a fast processor.” “We’ve got to move fast on this.”.
Straight: “He responds best to straight talk.” “When he called, we came straight over.”
Half: “The document was full of half-truths.” “I was only half kidding when I said that.”
Note – You might be quizzed on whether you can recall some of these dual adjective/adverb words next month!
Comprise or Compose ?
What’s wrong with this sentence: “My schedule for the week is comprised of meetings, seminars, and panel sessions.” Both ‘comprise’ and ‘compose’ are used often in business – particularly when talking about components or parts that make up something, such as a strategic business plan or budget. They are often used to explain statistical results in segments of a chart. But they are also often used incorrectly. In fact, one of the most common errors in business communications is to use ‘comprise’ in place of ‘compose’ or ‘compose’ for ‘comprise’. Tip: ‘Comprise’ should be used in terms of talking about components that make up a greater whole, as in “John, Nancy and Gilles comprise our sales dream team.”; ‘Compose’ is used when you are talking about the ‘whole’ that is made up of smaller components, as in, “My schedule for the week is composed of meetings, seminars, and panel sessions.” So, to answer my question, the sentence should have used ‘composed’ instead of ‘comprised’.
Pet Peeve Grammar Fail
- ‘Irregardless, …’– This suggestion comes to us from reader Elizabeth Fawcett. (Thanks, Elizabeth!) Many people think ‘irregardless’ is not a real word. It is, but as Merriam-Webster Online notes, it remains “far from acceptance.” The prefix ‘ir’ is a negative prefix. Add that to a word that’s already negative (regard-less), and it’s a dreaded double-negative. Tip: When tempted to use ‘irregardless’, simply say ‘regardless’ – it means the same thing.
Quiz Alert! Get ready for the first OnWords Quiz! To prep for next month’s quiz, you can scroll through previous posts of OnWords, dating back to September, 2013. It’s all here! So sharpen your syntax…polish your pronouns…and take the first OnWords Quiz. (You could WIN a great prize!)