As the semester winds down, the quality of English I’m seeing in student writing is way up. No wonder: by now, you’ve been living in New York for the better part of a year, and there’s only one better way to pick up a language: have a significant other who’s a native speaker. You may want to work on that over the summer.
So this post will tie up some loose ends. (That’s an idiom meaning to complete a task by dealing with the small details.) That is, it will answer some of the questions from this semester that didn’t get a post of their own.
Read this, everybody
From Elena Popina: “If I say, ‘Hello Diane,’ do I need a comma?”
Yes, you do. Grammatically speaking, it’s called the vocative case, from the Latin root vocare, to call. When you address someone directly using his/her name or a substitute for the name, set it off from the rest of thee sentence with commas:
It’s the same principle as parenthetical phrases, those you could lift right out of the sentence (or put in parentheses, hence the name) without doing any damage to its meaning:
By the way, registration has been postponed until next week.
The class schedule, however, has not changed.
I had hoped to write a full post on danglers, but I haven’t seen enough of them this semester — great! Just be on the lookout for them in your writing.
Dangle means “to hang loosely,” according to merriamwebster.com. In English, a dangling modifier (dangler for short) is an adjective or a phrase that hangs loosely on a sentence, generally because it’s misplaced. Remember last fall’s post fall on pronouns and antecedents, which stressed that the link between them must always be clear? The same applies to danglers.
An example from student work:
New York lawmakers recently proposed to raise the smoking age. If passed, New York will become the first state where tobacco products can be sold only to adults.
If New York passed? That’s what the sentence says — and that’s a dangler. If passed, in this sentence, modifies New York, when the writer meant the proposal. So:
If the proposal (or bill) passes, New York will become . . .
If a new smoking age is passed, New York will become . . .
This one is technically not quite a dangler, but close:
By contracting as a corporate user, Uniqlo employees will be able to use the app without buying it.
The employees won’t contract as a corporate user; Uniqlo, the corporation will. Better:
By contracting as a corporate user, Uniqlo will enable its employees to use the app without buying it.
If Uniqlo contracts as a corporate user, its employees will be able to use the app without buying through markets.
I have high hopes of finding more danglers when the class of ’14 starts turning in copy. Stay tuned.