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Ben Yagoda: Also My Hero

It turns out, I have many grammar heroes: George Carlin, Sherlock Holmes and Ben Yagoda.

You do not know of Ben Yagoda? You should. He writes grammar books, including his latest, How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them.

 He also wrote You Need to Read This: The Death of the Imperative Mode, the Rise of the American Glottal Stop, the Bizarre Popularity of “Amongst,” and Other Cuckoo Things That Have Happened to the English Language (yes, that’s the entire title).

I am not one who usually quotes writing rules, but my wife found Ben’s “7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to” on the, and I love the first rule because I didn’t know it.

It reads: “When you’re writing about a non-true situation — usually following the word if or the verb wish — the verb to be is rendered as were.” So,

If I were a rich man, and I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener are correct.

However, using if for other purposes requires using was. So,

The reporter asked if he was happy and If there was a burglary, the intruder would have left footprints, so let’s look around are correct.

I’ll save other rules for future posts. Thank you, Ben!

Until next time! Use the right words!


July 7, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,

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