Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: couple (4).

couple (4).

Today: With Words of Comparison.

When “couple” is used with comparison words such as “more,” “fewer,” and “too many,” the “of” is omitted. In the sentence “I’d like a couple more shrimp,” “shrimp” is the direct object. It is modified by the adjective “more,” which in turn is modified by the adverbial phrase “a couple.” There is no place in the example for “of” (neither “a couple of more shrimp” nor “a couple more of shrimp” makes sense). But ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Run-On Sentences (2).

Run-On Sentences (2).

Today: The Distinction.

The distinction between a true run-on sentence and a comma splice can be helpful in differentiating between the wholly unacceptable (the former) and the usually-but-not-always unacceptable (the latter).

That is, most usage authorities accept comma splices when (1) the clauses are short and closely related, (2) there is no danger of a miscue, and (3) the context is informal. Thus: “Jane likes him, I don’t.” But even when all three criteria are met, some readers ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: roof, n.

roof, n.
The plural is “roofs,” not *”rooves.” But the mistaken plural occurs with some frequency — e.g.:

o “But the view from the classroom (which his son uses to run a cramming school) is of rooves [read ‘roofs’] and television aerials, so the farmers’ cause seems already lost.” “The Last of the Left,” Economist, 4 Feb. 1995, at 32.

o “The birds scoured yards for food, roosted in eaves and pooped liberally on tile rooves [read ‘roofs’].” Susan M. Loux, “Dairy ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: rife; ripe.

rife; ripe.

While a tree may be “rife” (= abundant) with fruit, and that fruit may be “ripe” (= fully mature), the terms are unrelated. To confuse them is a surprisingly common malapropism — e.g.:

o “Iowa State . . . made an impression in Florida, ripe [read ‘rife’] with high school players coach Dan McCarney’s staff would love to lure to Ames.” Miller Bryce, “Worth Every Penny,” Des Moines Register, 26 Aug. 2002, at C6.

o “The movie is ripe [read ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: “wreak” for “reek.”

reek; wreak (2).

Today: “wreak” for “reek.”

“Wreak” for “reek” is a surprisingly common slip-up — e.g.:

o “Watching Jagger, a grandfather, singing the songs of his youth is embarrassing — like watching an old tart plastered in powder, wreaking [read ‘reeking’] of cheap perfume, stumbling along the Champs-Elysees, leering at passersby.” Natasha Garnett, “Focus: The Rolling Stones,” Daily Telegraph, 7 Aug. 1994, at 14.

o “Though such a statement wreaks [read ‘reeks’] of hyperbole, Alexakis truly seemed more comfortable with the intimate give-and-take ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: self-addressed stamped envelope.

self-addressed stamped envelope.

Though sometimes condemned, this phrase is now firmly entrenched in American English (especially in the abbreviated form SASE). “Self-addressed” isn’t merely “addressed by oneself,” but commonly means “addressed for return to the sender.” The prefix “self-” prevents vagueness: an envelope that’s merely addressed could be addressed to anybody.

How should one pronounce SASE? And which indefinite article should it take, “a” or “an”?

Dictionaries say that each letter should be enunciated /ess ay ess ee/. But in informal speech, ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: couple (1).

couple (1).

Today: Number.

“Couple” (= pair) is a collective noun like “team,” “company,” or “faculty.” As a rule, a collective noun in American English takes a singular verb unless the action is clearly that of the individual participants rather than collective. When two people form a couple, they may act as individuals or as a single entity. But unlike other collective nouns, “couple” should take a plural verb far more often than a singular one. The plural construction is also ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: role; roll.

role; roll.

These are sometimes confused.

“Roll” has many senses, including breadstuff, but the only sense that causes problems is “a list or register; roster” {the teacher took roll}. “Role,” by contrast, means “a function or part, as in a drama.” E.g.:

o “She has no children with names such as Johnny, John, Peter, Paul, Mary or Martha. Instead, a sampling of names on one of her roles [read ‘rolls’] includes Tiana, Victoria, Carmen, Melissa, Christopher, Phillip, Tyler and Allegra.” Marlene Feduris, ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: remorselessly.

remorselessly.

Part A: And “unremorsefully.” These two terms are essentially equivalent. “Remorselessly” is far more common and somewhat more pejorative.

Part B: Mistakenly Made *”remorsely.” Although “remorsely”* isn’t recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary or other dictionaries, some writers have taken to using it — apparently as a contracted form of “remorselessly.” E.g.:

o “Ever since then, the belt stars have been slowly but remorsely [read ‘remorselessly’] rising in the sky.” Graham Hancock, “Riddle of Sphinx Lies in the Stars,” Daily Mail, 5 ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: “reek havoc.”

reek; wreak (1).

Today: “reek havoc.”*

These homophones are occasionally confused. “Reek,” vb., = to give off an odor or vapor {the house reeked of gas}. “Reek,” n., = an odorous vapor {the reek of garlic spoiled our conversation}. “Wreak” = to inflict, bring about {to wreak havoc}.

The misspelling “reek havoc”* is a frequent blunder — e.g.:

o “Past hurricanes have reeked [read ‘wreaked’] havoc on this small fishing community of east Apalachicola.” “The News in Brief,” Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 1995, ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sanctionable.

sanctionable.

Like “sanction,” “sanctionable”carries a double sense of approval and disapproval. Most often, “sanctionable” means “deserving punishment” — e.g.: “‘It had never been suggested that a physician’s discussion of marijuana as a medical option was illegal or otherwise sanctionable,’ the suit states.” Mike McKee, “Doctors Fight Back on Prop 215,” Recorder (S.F.), 15 Jan. 1997, at 1.

But the word sometimes means “approvable.” Avoid it in this sense — e.g.: “In Massachusetts, Gov. William Weld has weighed in with a proposal that ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: danglers (4).

danglers (4).

Today, Part A: Past-Participial Danglers.

These are especially common when the main clause begins with a possessive — e.g.: “Born on March 12, 1944, in Dalton, Georgia, Larry Lee Simms’s qualifications . . . .” Barbara H. Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle 79 (1988). (Simms’s qualifications were not born on March 12 — he was. A possible revision: “Born on March 12, 1944, in Dalton, Georgia, Larry Lee Simms had qualifications that . . . ...

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