Report Of Alligator In Restaurant Delivers Plan vs. Preplan And Other Grammar Lessons

Alligator photo - alligator in the newsAn astute reader of this blog sent me a link to a report about an alligator named Albert who made a three-hour appearance at a new Midwest restaurant as part of a grand-opening event.

The restaurant owner could be considered short of possessing common sense, not to mention lacking understanding of safety and sanitation codes.

The writer of the article also could be considered short of something — short of possessing what my reader and I consider a mastery of grammar.

Consider this for starters:

Although the alligator’s visit wasn’t pre-planned, Shaul said, other openings that his business partner Charlie Burrows has hosted have often included animal trainer Monty Krizan and one of his rescued animal friends.

Plan can be a verb: 

The promotor plans to bring an alligator to the grand opening.
Let’s plan for the grand opening by ordering balloons.

Plan can be a noun:

The restaurant owner met with the promoter to form a plan.
Although animals were not part of the plan, the promoter showed up with an alligator.

Preplan: to plan in advance (Really?)

According to one online dictionary, when you preplan, “You plan something out in advance or determine in advance how something should go. When you map out your route before you go on a trip, this is an example of a situation where you preplan a trip.”

My first question: Can you plan something out (or plan something in), or do you simply plan it?

My second question: I fail to see a difference between plan and preplan. I doubt that I’m alone in considering preplan nonstandard usage.

Then we have:

(Albert) is like a little puppy, he was raised by Monty and he takes him everywhere.

Each phrase in this statement represents a complete sentence; each has a subject and a verb:

Albert is like a little puppy.
He was raised by Monty.
He takes him everywhere.

From a punctuation perspective, there could be a semicolon after puppy and a comma after Monty:

Albert is like a little puppy; he was raised by Monty, and he takes him everywhere.

Or there could be a period after puppy and a comma after Monty:

Albert is like a little puppy. He was raised by Monty, and he takes him everywhere.

Now that we have improved the punctuation possibilities, we’re left wondering if “he takes him everywhere” implies that Monty takes Albert everywhere or that Albert takes Monty everywhere. Given alligator Albert’s size (body and jaws), I suspect it could be either.

(I’ll ignore the redundancy of little puppy, although all puppies can be assumed little in relation to an adult dog of their breed.)

Good writing leaves no questions in the reader’s mind. This story, meant to be entertaining, didn’t hit the mark. Thanks to the reader who provided the opportunity for multiple grammar lessons.

If you see a story that misses the mark in terms of words, punctuation or clarity of message, please send it my way. The best lessons are real-life examples.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson 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)