7 Headlines, 8 Grammar Lessons

In the past, I’ve used headlines to show how to — but more often how NOT to — write or speak. Examples teach best.

This post’s seven headlines comprise three good and four bad examples that involve correct word use, incorrect word use, and redundancies.

One headline boasts a double whammy: two grammatical errors in just nine words!

Please know that the frequent appearance of the name Trump is simply due to the fact that so many headlines have been and continue to be about him.

THE GOOD

1) A Thai Shrimp Salad of Myriad Tastes

Myriad means many, a countless or infinite number. It also can mean both numerous and diverse.

Some would write or say a myriad of. However, when you consider the writing guideline of always expressing something in the fewest words, myriad by itself works just fine. Hooray for this headline writer!

2) Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite His Not Wanting It

What’s correct that warrants calling out? Many would think it should read:
Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite Him Not Wanting It

I consider this example noteworthy because it shows how to correctly use a possessive (his) with -ing words (gerunds) and why gerunds sometimes should be considered nouns.

Here’s how you can tell:
What would be another way of expressing Not Wanting It? Let’s try rejection to demonstrate how the sentence would be constructed with an obvious noun:

Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite His Rejection of It
When you view Not Wanting It as a noun, His is the best choice.

3) How Trump’s Labor Nominee Benefited From Undocumented Workers

I’m fond of saying that English is a confusing language, and this is a prime example. When you have a verb that ends in a consonant, you generally make it past tense by doubling the final consonant and adding ed:

plan, planned  |  slip, slipped  |  pop, popped

With benefit, you do NOT double the consonant for either benefited or benefiting.

Why not? If a verb ending with a consonant has more than one syllable, you don’t double the consonant if the first syllable is stressed:

ben-e-fit, ben-e-fited  | can-cel, can-celed  |  mar-shal, mar-shaled

THE BAD

4) Refugee Youths Find Safe Haven in Boy Scouts

Haven is defined as a place of safety or refuge, or an inlet providing shelter for ships or boats. Therefore, describing a haven as Safe is redundant.

5) Snatching Healthcare Away From Millions

To snatch means to quickly seize something in a rude or eager way, so Away is redundant.

6) Samantha Bee Slams Donald Trump for Diverting Attention Away from His Travel Ban

To divert means to change course or turn from one direction to another, or to distract someone or their attention from something. Therefore, Away is redundant.

7) Neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are Talking Education

First, when you use neither, its companion is nor: Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump …

Second, when you use neither, the appropriate verb is singular: is, not are.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is Talking Education

Think of it this way: Neither one is talking education.
The opposite would be: Both are talking education.

Other words that take a singular verb: each, either, everyone, everybody, nobody, someone

Consider sharing this blog with a colleague, friend or family member. And please excuse the seemingly heavy emphasis on Trump; he has dominated headlines.

If you see questionable headlines, send them to me: mailto:contact@ruthlesseidtor.com.

You’ll be helping demonstrate either good or bad writing … or maybe we’ll find the headlines just darned funny!

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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