Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 15 of 16)

Dropping or keeping the final e in words can be troublesome. Many words end with a silent e— brave, move, late, rinse. The general rule is to drop the final e when you add endings that begin with a vowel.

Advise + able = advisable.

Guide + ance = guidance.

Force + able = forcible.

If the final silent e is followed by an ending that begins with a consonant, keep the e.

Like + ness = likeness.

Accurate + ly = accurately.

Care + ful = careful.

In English, we seem to have exceptions for every rule, so here they are.

Sometimes, we retain the silent e before an ending beginning with a vowel to avoid confusion with another word.

Dye + ing = dyeing. (Otherwise it looks like dying.)

Another reason is to prevent mispronunciation of words, like mile + age to become mileage.

To further complicate the rule, we sometimes retain the silent e after a soft c or g. That’s to show that those two letters aren’t pronounced with a hard sound.

Courage to courageous, and the list includes changeable, noticeable, manageable, embraceable.

One more exception. We often drop the silent e before an ending that begins with a consonant, if it’s preceded by another vowel.

True + ly = truly.

Argue + ment = argument.

Due + ly = duly.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 14 of 16)

Let’s look at sentences that begin with there is or there was. I suggest you avoid using that construction for three reasons.

1. It adds nothing to the value of the sentence.

2. It makes sentences longer. (And today, the rule is short sentences, or bite-sized.)

3. Using that construction means you put the verb before the subject, which is normally not the way we write or speak in English.

Here are examples of ways to make your sentences better.

There are your keys on the desk. 
Better: Your keys (subject) are (verb) on the desk.

There will be 500 people attending the meeting. 
Better: Five hundred people will attend the meeting.

It was disappointing that Elsa wasn’t nominated. 
Better: Elsa’s not being nominated was disappointing.

Here’s an example of wordiness. 

There were delays and cost overruns that troubled the tunnel’s builders. 
Try this: Delays and costs troubled the tunnel’s builders.

How about this one?

It was the fear of investors they wouldn’t earn profits once the tunnel opened. 
Change it to: Investors feared they wouldn’t earn profits once the tunnel opened.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 13 of 16)

For a long time, I was unsure of the correct way to finish this sentence: Helen is shorter than . . . Shorter than me or shorter than I?

The proper term for this construction is an elliptical clause. That’s a grammarian’s way to say, “Finish the sentence to get the meaning.” Technically, it means that some words are left out because they’re understood.

In the sentence above, complete the thought: Helen is shorter than me am short or Helen is shorter than I am short. If you do that, you'll see that the obvious answer is Helen is shorter than I.