Please point out the grammar, or punctuation errors in this blog post.

Ok, grammar guardians, punctuation police, and bored editors, this one’s for you.

I read an article on a blog that I check every so often, and thought it was good, but there were a few things that stuck out to me as being either incorrect or just not very flow friendly.

I shot my mouth off as I’m sometimes wont to do, and posted a comment on the guy’s article. I wasn’t really trying to be an ass or anything, I was just being honest. My verbatim comment was “There was some decent advice in that piece. The numerous grammatical errors in it were a distraction though.”

The author replied “This is the author of the piece. Could you point out for me where my errors were? Upon reading it this morning I still thought it read fine. I’m always looking to improve the quality of my writing.”

I’m no English expert by any means, in fact I’m fairly sure that I overuse commas on a regular basis. However, I don’t really feel that my assessment was way off base. The guy wants me to point out where things could have been improved, but frankly I’m not really qualified to do so. I think he deserves an informed critique of his piece, especially because he is trying to better his writing.

It’s really not a long piece at all, but I hesitate to post it in its entirety here, mostly for plagiarism reasons, and the guy’s right to have his stuff published where he want it to be.

The link to the website is his essay is entitled “Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - Committing to Change”

I found several sentences that were, in my estimation, run-on sentences. I may be wrong about that, but I’m almost sure that there are one or two in there. the only errors in word usage that I noticed were in the following sentences.

“One night I went out with a handful of my college friends and drink beer at a popular bar in Nashville.” It seems to me that the word “and” was supposed to be “to”.

“I resolve to overcome to resist the temptation for quick and easy meals; instead I commit to eat what is best for my body and I will eat it in moderation.” Here it seems that the word “to” should be the word “and” in order to make sense.

If someone who at least considers themselves to be qualified to critique a papers grammar, punctuation and word usage reads this, I’d be very appreciative if you could offer some specific corrections. I would either c/p these suggestions into the comment thread, or you could post them if you want.

If nobody takes on the task, I’ll either just not comment on the article, or maybe make my own educated guesses about what might have been improved and post those. I respect the fact that the guy is open to constructive criticism. If I can act as an intermediary, and get an informed analysis of his article, I think it might benefit him.

I hope that was clear enough. If not, of course I am available to clarify things. Thanks in advance if anyone chooses to take this on.

Former copy editor/English teacher checking in. I’ll be a total Nazi about it all because I’m in a bad mood, and you can choose which ones you want to pass on. Most of these are minor issues that only us obsessive types tend to notice.

Grammatically, this suggests that he lost 40 pounds today. Better to phrase it “As of today I have lost…”

As you noted:

I’d change “and” to “to,” or “drink” to “drank,” or something.

Bulleted lists should flow grammatically from and within the sentences around them, but his first two bulleted lists don’t. (The second two lists are fine.) Items in bulleted lists can be either complete sentences that end with periods, or ended with semicolons, with “and” at the end of the penultimate item and a period, if appropriate, after the last.

I’m sure that was confusing, so here’s an example, which I’m just making up:

I saw several things wrong with the car:[ul]
[li]the door was missing;[/li][li]the paint was peeling and chipped; and[/li][li]it was an El Camino, instead of the Model T I’d been promised.[/li][/ul]
There are other ways to do it, but they should flow with the surrounding text in terms of grammar and punctuation.

Moving on:

This is a comma splice. After “the first step,” he should use either a period, a colon, a semicolon, or a “comma, and.”

Personal pet peeve: Meaningless adjectives such as “little” as it’s used in the above-quoted passage.

This is sloppy, writer-oriented (as opposed to reader-oriented) writing. It confused me. We read the phrase “because society compels them not to…” and we’re expecting a verb: Society compels them not to do what? I’d rephrase the whole thing.

He writes “waiver” when he means “waver.”

As you noted, one bullet point reads:

I disagree with your interpretation, though. I suspect that he originally wrote, “I resolve to resist the temptation…” Then during editing he decided “resist” wasn’t self-empowered enough and decided to change it to “I resolve to overcome,” a much stronger verb, but in adding it he forgot to take out the original construction. This happens all the time.

The first sentence of the last paragraph (which begins, “Now you have the moral foundation…”) has a couple of sloppy constructions. If I were editing this piece for print, I’d rewrite it like so (additions are underlined):

Now that you have the moral foundation you’ll need for the long road ahead, [del]by identifying[/del] having identified the pressures that produced your current lifestyle, you’ve recognized that you have the power to choose not to be affected by those pressures.

On a quick cursory reading, that’s all that jumped out at me. Nothing I’d make a big deal of, and certainly a cut or two above the typical blog entry.

Clicks submit, waits for Gaudere’s Law to work its magic.

No glaring grammar errors that I see. The writer’s just bland. I couldn’t finish what he wrote, because: Gah! Can’t Write!

Thanks jackelope, I feel slightly less bad about having insulted the guy’s work. At least I wasn’t off my rocker, and his syntax was impeccable. I think he’ll appreciate this.

Does that mean “not interesting”? I don’t quite follow you.

Sorry, I shouldn’t have been so glib. I feel bad for being all critical like that.

Yeah, I mean not interesting. He doesn’t seem to have a very good grasp of tone. The words he uses are so completely generic it’s impossible to deduce any sort of personality whatsoever in the writing.

This is obviously not related to grammar errors, but this generic style of writing is enough to give one pause, make one feel something isn’t ‘‘right’’ or is unpolished about the piece. You may have been responding to that. He needs to think about his target audience and choose his words more carefully, more specifically

Unfortunately, grammar is a lot easier to fix than voice. I’d recommend he read some writers with really defined voices-- Salinger, Dickens, Poe (only replace all those with journalists–Tom Wolfe?) He might even try mimicking some voices for a while until he finds his own. He just needs to start writing out of the box. The English language has a plethora of exciting words and phrases–he should seek them out, and figure out which ones fit together fluidly and which ones don’t.

Crap, I totally forgot I used to be a writer and everything.

Wow. You basically nailed what I thought was missing in that piece. As soon as I posted that there were “numerous grammatical errors” I knew it wasn’t the best way to put it. But there was something not right about it.

I found a stack of papers that I wrote for a comparative studies class a few years ago (the class was several years ago, I found it one year ago). I was impressed by my own work. I’m the last person to brag about anything usually. I was just surprised that I used to be much more articulate than I am now.

Heh. That gives me an idea. Retrospective critiques of short college papers.

I just might try it. Especially because both media that I was comparing are available at any good library (and some online).

I get really depressed when I read fiction I wrote in junior high and realize I had a much better handle on my writing then. Some of it is so good I can barely even believe that I wrote it. It’s sad, really.

I like your ‘‘retrospective critiques’’ idea. Most of my college papers are in Spanish though. :o I mean, other than a few very terrible philosophy papers.*

*All right, I’d bust out my paper on Zen Master Dogen or Nietzsche vs. Socrates. How do you define ‘‘short’’?

Another editor checking in here. I agree, the article is bland. However, it is much better written than most of what I edit, despite the fact that most of what I work on has been drafted by people with advanced degrees.

A couple of nitpicks:

“Self Destructive” should be hyphenated, just as he has hyphenated “self-motivated.”

I guess the heading “Realize the Succumbing to these Pressures is a Choice” is okay, but “Realize THAT Succumbing…” falls much more nicely on the ear.

Huh, I was closing the window and I think I spotted one more flaw. He says he had “ambivalence to my own health,” but he almost certainly meant “indifference,” not “ambivalence.”

Bona fides: Former newspaper editor, MA English candidate, teacher of college students in English comp.

I’d say **jackalope ** pretty much nailed it. And these aren’t petty or nitpicks. As you said, it distracts the reader. Anyone who’s interested in getting his or her message out must be concerned enough to make the copy readable. Noun-verb agreement, tense agreement, punctuation – it’s all important.

He got my email and replied that it was very helpful. Good job guys!