RESPECT: Showing Consideration for Readers through Economy of Words, Elegance, and Correct Grammar

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Ulla de Stricker, de Stricker Associates

Following on her piece in the September 2013 issue, Ulla de Stricker offers additional examples of common but easily avoidable errors in English language usage.

Is there a cure for the phenomenon of “phenomena” masquerading in singular garb?

The word phenomena is plural, referring to several instances of a phenomenon (meaning incident, occurrence).

WRONG: This phenomena shows how much we must care about the environment.
CORRECT: This phenomenon shows …
CORRECT: The melting of the polar ice and many similar phenomena illustrate how …

Pour or pore: Are we reading … or dispensing tea?

WRONG: I’m pouring over the report.
CORRECT: I’m poring over the report.

Myself or me? I must give “myself” a pass unless I’m giving myself a gift!

WRONG: Bob and myself thank you … Please be in touch with Bob or myself at …
CORRECT: Bob and I thank you … Please be in touch with Bob or me at …

“Myself” is correct if you are describing a situation of solitude: “I did it by myself”.

Predominate, Predominant. Here’s a memory trick.

WRONG: The students are predominately young. It is predominate in our school that we play instruments.
CORRECT: The students are predominantly young. It is predominant in our school …

Predominate is something we do: Tall people predominate in basketball.
Predominant describes a state of affairs where a condition is more frequent than other conditions: The basketball team is made up predominantly of tall students.

Trick: Predominate is like impregnate – an action. Predominant is like pregnant – a condition. …

Please let’s prevent “preventative”. Forever. No matter how much it rhymes with ‘tentative’.

My fellow professionals, here is an easy one. Never again say or write “preventative”.The word is “preventive”.
Memory trick: It has the same sound pattern as “prevent it”.

Latin plurals …. Oh wow, how scary can it get?

WRONG: An alumni of the university donated her life savings.
CORRECT: An alumna of the university …

Male graduates: One alumnus, two alumni. Female graduates: One alumna, two alumnae.
When the meaning is “all past graduates”, the masculine plural may be used: All alumni are invited …

WRONG: Graduate school curriculums require students to provide …
CORRECT: Graduate school curricula require students to provide …

Due to the similarity in pronunciation, it’s no wonder there’s confusion between “–ae” and “–i”. But “–ums” ought to give anyone pause! If in doubt, check it out … or rephrase to avoid the conundrum: “Commonly, a curriculum requires …”