Watching my Grammar

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/more-trouble-with-only/

I enjoy writing. I think I’m fortunate that my teachers taught me good English grammar and I attempt to use the lessons I learned all those years ago in this blog.

It’s very easy to get into bad grammatical habits. This piece from the New York Times reminded me that I misuse the word “only”. “Only” should refer to one person or thing: “The only photographer …”. I should not write “one of the only cameras …”. It is better grammar to write “one of the few”.

Recently I wrote “My only complaints about the Canon MP610 printer are …”. I should correct that – but “My few complaints …” does not sound right to my ears. Sometimes grammar is an art not a science. I think the best solution is to eschew the adjective: “My complaints …”.

I will take more care in future. WordPress has added some grammar checking features to the editor I use to compose blog posts. It catches some errors but many times I disagree with it.

Leave a comment if you read bad grammar on this blog. I want to improve.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=grammar&iid=3150783″ src=”a/a/e/7/Lesson_3f9b.jpg?adImageId=8548562&imageId=3150783″ width=”380″ height=”439″ /]

British school in 1962.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=grammar&iid=3150784″ src=”b/7/5/5/Classwork_8d02.jpg?adImageId=8548565&imageId=3150784″ width=”380″ height=”383″ /]

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2 Responses to “Watching my Grammar”

  1. Gabe Says:

    Don’t worry; the use of “one of the only” isn’t a bad grammatical habit. The Times’ argument is that “one of the only” is illogical because “only” can only refer to a single thing, but that’s just absurd, since a sentence like the “my only complaints…” one you used is obviously correct. (“My few complaints…” is really bad to me, and I’m a native English speaker.)

    I wrote a longer post on this a few months ago (http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/are-they-trying-to-misunderstand-what-people-say/), but seriously, anyone who tries to tell you that “one of the only” is wrong is a pedantic fool.

    • BKKPhotographer Says:

      Thanks for the reassurance! One of the most interesting things about English grammar is that there are few absolutes. My Thai friends are constantly frustrated when I attempt to explain a point of grammar. All I can say is that our grammar is constantly evolving and its complexity provides guaranteed employment for English teachers all over the world.

      Many times all I can say by way of explanation is that construct A “sounds better” than “construct B”. I have to admit that “sounds better” may be cultural. What sounds better to a British English speaker may sound unnatural to an American English or Australian English speaker.

      I tend to be very cautious with my opinions. I hesitate to opine that something is “obviously” correct or that someone with a different view is a “pedantic fool”.

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