October 24, 2014

It’s not just that I care. I’m right.

Last night my sister-in-law called me to a share her frustration with an editorial in the local paper. The thing is, she wasn’t calling to discuss the content of the piece, but rather to confirm that a distracting word choice in the conclusion was, in fact, an error.

At the end of a solid discussion of the controversial termination of University of Oregon president Richard LaRiviere, the author states that “[Gov.] Kitzhaber has showed Lariviere who’s boss…”

And there it is —  has showed — a distracting, sloppy substitute for has shown.

I am not going to get into a picky back and forth about whether this turn of phrase is now acceptable (Though I would like points for refraining from a rant about all of the other drek that has become acceptable) and will instead stick to the  point: A lack of attention to the finer points of language distracts readers. It takes them away from your message. It leaves them calling their local grammar expert to complain.

So, let’s take a moment to take a stand for what is right and by association, what should NOT be acceptable.

The Myself Syndrome

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It is a combination of a possessive pronoun and “self” used to indicate interaction with the self. That means that “myself” cannot be a subject and it can only be an object when I am the subject. In other words, myself can’t do anything so stop trying to make myself act

Here is an example of how trying to sound official just makes you sound pompous:

“I’m sure that in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there is going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president,” Obama said.

  • The personal pronoun following the preposition “between” should be an object. The objective case of the personal pronoun is “me.”

The correct usage would be:

“… there is going to be a substantive conversation between the president and me …”

In this example, actress Glenn Close correctly uses “myself” by keeping the relationship between her and  herself:

“I’m boring myself, so I must be boring you. I think I’m going to go home”

Redundancy is the reason for …

It is a little bit like shooting fish in a barrel to point out redundancy in writing — in other words, there are examples everywhere —  but that is no excuse to let them exist without comment.

Top on the redundancy list today is the multiple ways we manage to mangle the use of “reason” in writing. (In this case, we are addressing the word “reason” not the concept.)

1) The reason why…

The reason is why. There is no need for “why.”

Here is an example from The New York Times:

“Coal’s preponderance is a reason why the U.S. government invests and encourages private efforts in carbon capture…”

  • Better to write:

Coal’s preponderance is a reason the U.S. government invests and encourages private efforts in carbon capture…

2) The reason is because…

Websters defines because as “for the reason that.” So it should be clear that the use of  “reason” with “because” in this construction is redundant.

Here is another example from the Times:

“The reason that these are the most useful is because they are the emotions that I feel most often, so I would be able to use these emoticons more than the others.”

The sentence could be rewritten correctly as:

“The reason that these are the most useful is that they are the emotions that I feel most often, so I would be able to use these emoticons more than the others.”

or

These are the most useful because they are the emotions that I feel most often, so I would be able to use these emoticons more than the others.”

3) The reason why is because

Is it really necessary to explain this at this point? In effect, it is a redundancy of a redundancy.

We’ll stop picking on The New York Times and offer an example instead from The Times of India.

The reason why we apparently forgive a Shiney Ahuja or Tiger Woods is because we get bored of disliking them.

This can be written correctly as:

The reason we apparently forgive a Shiney Ahuja or Tiger Woods is that we get bored of disliking them.

  • or

We apparently forgive a Shiney Ahuja or Tiger Woods because we get bored of disliking them.

On that uplifting note, we’ll stop. Not to worry, other opportunities for annoyance and frustration are just around the corner.

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