I shared some of my grammatical pet peeves with you all in a post this week.
Here are a couple more before I turn this subject over to you:
“A number of . . .”
When you hear or see that phrase used by a reporter or a TV news anchor, it means they don’t know how many. I heard it again last night on the TV news in reference to an earthquake that brought down “a number of buildings.” Was it two buildings? Was it 10? Was it 100? A thousand?
Could you be more specific, please? Could you give us an estimate? If not, how about being straight up and saying something like, “some buildings collapsed, but we don’t know how many yet.”
I remember one crusty old editor named Leon sent a reporter back to an awards ceremony because he had written “a number of awards were handed out.”
Fortunately, the ceremony was just a block away from the office and was just winding up. The reporter returned with the precise number.
I see it occasionally in reporters’ copy, and I almost always change it, or simply delete it — because it is often not needed. One critic once wrote that “a number of readers had contacted” him. I queried the writer. How many? He hummed and hawwed, then admitted it was fewer than 10. When pressed again, it was actually only a few. But it sounds like a lot more when you say “a number of,” yes? At that point, it is simply deceptive reporting. I changed it to “a few readers.”
Another pet peeve: “He Monday said that he would do something about it.”
Who talks like that? Who puts the time element in front of the verb to create such an awkward sentence construction?
Well, some reporters do it, and most editors will change it to something like: “He said on Monday that he would do something about it.”
But if one is determined to get the time element before the verb, it could be written this way: “On Monday, he said . . .”
OK. So, I’ve shared a couple of my pet peeves with you here.
Now, it’s your turn.
Talk about the grammatical bloopers in the media that really bug you.