Tag Archives: Common Grammar Mistakes

The Although Problem

If I had to make a list of troublesome words, although would be high on the list. Yes, it’s a useful word, and–surprise!–it’s easy to use. But there’s a particular error that’s so common that I’ve even caught professional writers doing it.

Can you spot what’s wrong with this example? (If you do, give yourself a gold star!)

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. Although, that night she forgot. INCORRECT

There are two problems with that sentence. First, NEVER put a comma after although. Never. Don’t do it!

Second, anything that begins with although is an extra idea and must be attached to a sentence. (For a complete explanation, click here and read about Comma Rule 1.)

Here are three ways to fix today’s sentence. Take your pick–they’re all correct.

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed although that night she forgot. CORRECT

Although she forgot to do it that night, Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. CORRECT

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. However, that night she forgot. CORRECT

(That third correction is an interesting one, isn’t it? Often when writers mistakenly put a comma after although, the word they’re really looking for is however. It’s a fix that works much of the time.)

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The “Although” Problem

If I had to make a list of troublesome words, although would be high on the list. Yes, it’s a useful word, and–surprise!–it’s easy to use. But there’s a particular error that’s so common that I’ve even caught professional writers doing it.

Can you spot what’s wrong with this example? (If you do, give yourself a gold star!)

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. Although, that night she forgot. INCORRECT

There are two problems with that sentence. First, NEVER put a comma after although. Never. Don’t do it!

Second, anything that begins with although is an extra idea and must be attached to a sentence. (For a complete explanation, click here and read about Comma Rule 1.)

Here are three ways to fix today’s sentence. Take your pick–they’re all correct.

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed although that night she forgot. CORRECT

Although she forgot to do it that night, Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. CORRECT

Chan told me she usually locked the back door before she went to bed. However, that night she forgot. CORRECT

(That third correction is an interesting one, isn’t it? Often when writers mistakenly put a comma after although, the word they’re really looking for is however. It’s a fix that works much of the time.)

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Right or Wrong?

Like all professionals, officers want to speak and write well. Most officers go over their reports several times to make sure everything is grammatical and correct.

Here’s a problem, though: Sometimes right sounds wrong. Today we’re going to look at three usage points that sound wrong to people who don’t have a solid background in English usage.

1.  That uniform looks good on you.   CORRECT

The man (or woman) on the street might mistakenly say “looks well.” Nope! “Looks good” is correct. Technically speaking, looks is a copulative verb that requires an adjective. No need to dig into all that grammar, though: Just remember that “looks good” is correct.

2.  Major Hanley asked Carol and me to lead the meeting.  CORRECT

Many people, thinking that “I” is more elegant than “me,” incorrectly say “Carol and I” in this sentence. Wrong again. Here’s how you figure this one out:

Major Hanley asked me to lead the meeting.

Major Hanley asked Carol and me to lead the meeting.

For comparison, here’s a sentence in which I is correct:

Yesterday I led the meeting.

Yesterday Carol and I led the meeting.

To learn more, click here and read about Pronoun Rule 3. You can also watch a short video here.

(By the way, you also need to avoid the hideous “to he” construction beloved of sports announcers: Ovechkin passed the puck to he. NO! It’s to him.)

3.  Fifteen minutes is usually enough time to get across town.  CORRECT

You’ll often hear “fifteen minutes are”–a common error. Fifteen minutes is a unit, not fifteen separate things: Use is, not are. On the other hand, you would say “Fifteen laptops are on order” because laptops are separate things. To learn more, click here and read about Rule 2.

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Test Yourself

Here’s a short quiz based on Part I of the 10 Top Grammar Mistakes that officers make. Click on the link for a review, and then try this quiz. Scroll down for the answers.

1.  The door was open, we heard a woman scream.

2.  The Powells’ house is located on a busy downtown street.

3.  The Powells’ have lived there for five years.

4.  I set up a time to talk to he and she about the break-in.

5.  I walked up to the car, it looked abandoned.

ANSWERS

1.  The door was open. We heard a woman scream. OR The door was open; we heard a woman scream. [Sentences end with periods or semicolons, not commas. If you use a semicolon, lower-case the next letter unless it’s a capitalized name.]

2.  The Powells’ house is located on a busy downtown street. [Correct: Think house of the Powells.]

3.  The Powells have lived there for five years. [No apostrophe: There’s no “of” idea.]

4.  I set up a time to talk to him and her about the break-in.

5.  I walked up to the car. It looked abandoned. OR I walked up to the car; it looked abandoned. [Sentences should end with periods or semicolons, not commas. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: It starts a new sentence. Semicolons are followed by lower-case unless it’s a capitalized name.]

How did you do?

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