Grammar Wednesday *Edited*

I do love CaliforniaTeacherGuy. He sent me this email last week:

My dear Mrs. Chili,

Here are two tortured sentences for you. Perhaps you’ll be kind enough to tell your readers what’s wrong with each one:

Ecuador wants $350 million a year for it not extracting oil under the Yasuni reserve.” (Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2008)

It’s estimated that one in 150 children in the United States have autism.” (NEA Today, February 2008)


I love CTG – he finds great Grammar Wednesday fodder for me in some pretty reputable places.

The first sentence references back to this GW episode on gerunds. Ecuador wants the money in exchange for the ACT of not digging in its reserve. We need the possessive pronoun there because it’s the county’s action (or, in this case, its lack of action) that we’re talking about.

The second sentence goes back to my gripe with General Mills; have I told you about this already? About a year ago, I was sitting behind a box of Fruity Cheerios when I saw that the cereal company makes the claim, right there on the box, that only “one in ten kids get enough whole grain.” The subject of that sentence is KID – singular, ONE kid. The same with CTG’s sentence – only one child in 150 children HAS autism – the verb should be singular to reflect the singular subject of the sentence. (I double-checked whether the numbers should have been worked consistently – if one and 150 should either have been written out in numbers or in words – but found here that writing one in words and 150 in numbers is grammatical).

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

*Kizz commented that it would be helpful if I included corrections for the sentences when I write GW posts like this, and I think she’s absolutely right. Here, then, are the corrected sentences for CTG’s examples:

Wrong: Ecuador wants $350 million a year for it not extracting oil under the Yasuni reserve.”

Right: Ecuador wants $350 million a year for its not extracting oil under the Yasuni Reserve. (note here that I capitalized “Reserve,” as well, as I suspect that “reserve” is part of the place’s name…)

Wrong: It’s estimated that one in 150 children in the United States have autism.

Right: It’s estimated that one in 150 children in the United States has autism.



Filed under about writing, Blogroll, colleagues, Grammar, out in the real world, reading, Yikes!

11 responses to “Grammar Wednesday *Edited*

  1. It would be helpful for those of us that aren’t very good at this if you would post the corrected sentence, too, when you do this. I was able to make the correction in the second one. I made A correction in the first one but upon reading your explanation I suspect it isn’t right.

  2. Sorry, Kizz – you’re absolutely right and I’m going to fix the post so that corrected sentences are included. Thanks for pointing that out….

  3. drtombibey

    I see it, and know you are right. I do wonder why you guys aren’t slaying old Doc though.

    God bless my mama, who was an English teacher. Without her influence I’d be much worse. (Worser as they say in the South.)

    Dr. B

  4. You know, Mrs. Chili, you ought to be a copy editor for those two publications–you’d do wonders for ’em! Thanks for coming through for readers once again!

  5. At least if there are no more college teaching positions available around here, you could seriously consider CAteacherguy’s suggestion to go into editing. (:

  6. Clare

    As a former copy editor, I’d be inclined to change the first sentence to “In exchange for not extracting oil under the Yasuni reserve, Ecuador wants $350 million a year” or “Ecuador wants $350 million a year in exchange for … ” You would also need to check Yasuni’s official name before capitalizing reserve. It may be a national park or have some other official designation, in which case the reserve should remain lowercase. (Yes, I know I’m a word pedant.) Like your blog and wish you the best of luck in finding another job.

  7. Claire, you’re absolutely right – I SHOULD have checked before I capitalized the name of the reserve; I’d have been more careful if I were actually editing the piece.

    I agree with you – it would have sounded more natural the way you reworked them. Of course, I’m kind of in love with the gerund, so I’d probably have left it just the way it was written and just added the possessive…

  8. Julia

    OK, I have question about the second error you addressed. Would it be any different if it was worded “One in EVERY 150 kids?” Maybe that isn’t grammatically correct, but I have seen statistics expressed that way. Since we would then be referring to more than just one child (one in every 150 would mean 67 kids out of 10,050) would we treat it as a plural?

  9. Julia, I don’t think so, unless the number of the “one kids” was specified – as you did in your parenthetical. The subject of the structure is still the ONE kid, and one is still singular. If we’re talking 67 kids out of 10,050, then we’ve got a plural subject (kids) and we need a plural verb.

  10. Pingback: More Dissatisfaction « A Teacher’s Education

  11. Pingback: Grammar Wednesday | A Teacher’s Education

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