Celebrating National Grammar Day

Today is National Grammar Day. To celebrate, I’m sharing some amusing grammar mistakes that made it into print.
“Except for a tragic accident, the 35th annual Bath Heritage Days parade went off without a hitch.” The Times Record (Bath, Maine). A tragic accident is a minor deviation from going off without a hitch!
“The Patchwork Quilt Guild met to celebrate Christmas with a gift and cookie exchange. Kay Hanley wore a necklace and she was lit up and flashing all during the meeting.”  From the Fallon (Montana) County Times. What was in the punch?

“Hundreds of marijuana plants were discovered growing in a south Lakeland home Saturday. Two were arrested.” From the (Polk County, Florida) Ledger. Only two out of hundreds?

“Domestic diva Martha Stewart still needs a crutch to lean on as she recovered from hip surgery during a cocktail party in the Hamptons.” From the Globe. Most of us have surgery in a hospital.

“On All-Star weekend, the city gleamed with banners welcoming visitors hanging from lampposts.” From the Titusville (Pennsylvania) Herald. What about the visitors who persist in walking around?
Each of these examples violates both a rule of grammar and common sense. In this case, forget about the rules, because very few people mentally thumb through rule books as they write. Hopefully you’ll catch these as you reread. Use these tips to up the odds of finding errors like these and other less amusing ones before your general readership does.
  1. Set your work aside for a day or more. A week or month is even better. Letting some time pass weakens the memory of writing those words and refreshes your vision.
  2. Read your work aloud. If you can get someone to listen as you read, so much the better. If not, read it aloud just as if someone were sitting there. This requires you to focus on each word.
  3. Trade proofreading with a writing pal. E-mail works well for this purpose.
  4. Show it to a critique group, local or online.
  5. Hire an editor. This step is calling in the big guns, not a step you take for casual material.
If a mistake like this does slip through, console yourself by realizing how much fun people are having reading it and don’t beat yourself up.

Write now:
if you don’t already have one, find a writing buddy or two, and also a critique group. Do an online search to look for groups. Margot Finke published an excellent article on this topic. You’ll find other suggestions in my post, "What to Do When You Can’t Afford an Editor."


Kathleen Pooler said...

Enjoyed the post,Sharon. I have found reading aloud to be a very useful tool in picking up my own mistakes.


JoAnn said...

My father was the recording secretary for the local fire department in our little village of 751 people. At one time, I found an article he had written following a house fire.

He wrote, "The fire was put out before much damage could be done by the local fire department." I asked if he should not re-order that sentence. He smiled and said it was written as accurately as he could truthfully tell the story.

I learned the value of humor in writing from wry examples such as this!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Quite aside from the editing value of reading aloud, I love reading my stories, giving them the drama they deserve. I wish it were easier to find an audience!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Your father had a great sense of humor, and how droll, to use what appears to be a gramatical error to convey the Truth of a situation with compassion and discretion. May we be so wise.

Kendra Bonnett said...

Happy National Grammar Day to you too, Sharon. I enjoyed your post on the subject. These sorts of headlines are always fun to read. I know these sorts or error (e.g., misplaced modifiers, phrases, and clauses; split infinitives; and squinting modifiers) are common in high-school English papers, but I'm always surprised by just how many pop up in newspapers. Great fun reading. Thanks

Pat's Place said...

I find that reading my things aloud before I do any other proofing really helps make the flow of the writing go better--and helps me identify areas that are rough.

Sharon Lippincott said...


I believe that having fun is the best way to learn, so I love finding examples like this. Guess I should share them locally -- I read our local school district's quarterly newsletter to the community and almost lost my cool. Those grammatical atrocities were not the least bit amusing!

Here's to better grammar, and strong writing skills!

Sharon Lippincott said...


I'll bet reading your work in your reading group is both helpful and fun too.