Monday, July 6, 2009

Pet Peeve #1

There is a troublesome construction that I happened to notice while I was in high school. Many years later my thoughts on the matter were confirmed and well explained by a local writer in his grammar column. As soon as I hear something to the effect of, "He's one of those men who . . . ," I am prepared for the mistake that mainly for its frequency is my #1 pet peeve. Don't say, "He's one of those men that likes blondes." It should be, "He's one of those men that like blondes." The word "men" tells virtually nothing until it is qualified, that is, explained. In order to qualify a plural, a plural verb must be used: ". . . men that like blondes." Another way to see such a construction clearly is to flip it around: "Of those men that like blondes, he's one." Note the following: "My father is one of the men who are laying bricks." That sentence is essentially the same as, "One of the men who are laying bricks is my father."

Rarely you will run into a situation like this one: "One of those men, who, by the way, is the tallest, is my father." Note how commas separate a parenthetical or unnecessary clause therein. The writer keeps the reader from thinking that all the men are being described by setting off the height information with commas.

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