Monday, July 6, 2009

Pet Peeve #2

I shall continue to post from time to time, but for now let's look at my #2 pet peeve in grammar. The problem involves a three-letter word--"nor." In my many years I've never learned or seen a reason to use "nor" except for one situation: "Nor" is to be employed with "neither." Period! The end. Case closed. Do not use "nor" with "not," "never," or any negative other than "neither." If you do, you're creating what we used to call one and a half negatives. "Neither . . . nor" we always referred to as correlative conjunctions. Wrong: "I can't read nor write." Correct: "I can't read or write." Also correct: "I can neither read nor write." Wrong: "Never talk during church nor leave the ringer of your cellphone on while you're in the chapel." Substitute "or" for "nor." Does the sentence sound right now? If so, "nor" can't be correct because "nor" and "or" are essentially opposites, ok? Speaking of church, the scriptures use the word "nor" constantly. Let's face it, the scriptures often warn us of what we shouldn't do. There are negatives throughout. "Nor" is strewn out through the chapters, and unfortunately it is repeatedly improperly used. I have seen certain segments that are consistently properly written. Most of the prophets/writers/translators, however, have major trouble with "nor."

Continuing, don't write, "You are not leaving the house while I'm gone, nor do I want you to turn on the television!" Correct: "You are not leaving the house while I'm gone; neither do I want you to turn on the television!" Understand that "neither" means "not either" and may be used alone (without "nor"). Hence, the correct version means, "You are not leaving the house while I'm gone; I do not want you to turn on the television either." That version is exactly what is meant to be conveyed. Again, the incorrect version at the beginning of this paragraph combines "not" and "nor" and thus creates that one and a half negative situation again.

In summary, "nor" does not properly substitute for "neither" but should be used only in conjunction with "neither." If there's no "neither," don't introduce "nor." Further, never substitute "nor" for "or." They're opposites!

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