Understanding the Grammar Day Contest, Part 1

Thanks to everyone who entered The Writing Resource’s National Grammar Day Contest. A reader asked me to explain the answers, so I thought I’d offer my explanations to everyone. Today we’ll look at sentences 1 through 5, and next week we’ll look at 6 through 10. Let’s dive in.

1. The title of the book was very interesting, and the book itself was very dull.

In our first sentence, we have two opposing ideas: the title is interesting and the book is dull. To show that the ideas are at odds, we can change the conjunction to but:

The title of the book was very interesting, but the book itself was very dull.

2. Father Meyer came to the house daily, from which a sturdy friendship grew.

What does which stand for in this sentence? House? Father Meyer? You probably understand that which is actually referring to something that isn’t explicitly named: Fr. Meyer’s visits. One way to fix the problem is by giving the two ideas equal weight, though the reader still has to make a leap in understanding:

Father Meyer came to the house daily and a sturdy friendship grew.

Instead, let’s turn the sentence around and drop the pronoun to get more directly at the main idea:

A sturdy friendship grew from Father Meyer’s daily visits.

3. Chicago stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan, which makes a beautiful shore drive possible.

In this sentence, we again have a pronoun problem. What does which stand for? That fact that Chicago is along Lake Michigan’s shore. Two elegant solutions are eliminating the troublesome pronoun and rewording the sentence to make a direct statement:

Chicago stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan, offering visitors a beautiful shore drive.
One can take a beautiful drive in Chicago along the shore of Lake Michigan.

4. Critics agreed that the movie was unrealistic and it was too long and that it wasn’t interesting.

Sentence 4 seems to go on and on; its main problem, however, is parallelism. Critics is the subject, agreed is the verb, and the first that is a conjunctive. Following that are three more clauses, but they aren’t all parallel:

Critics agreed that the movie was unrealistic.
Critics agreed that it was too long.
Critics agreed that that it wasn’t interesting.

With two consecutive thats, the last sentence is ungrammatical. One fix is to delete the extra that:

Critics agreed that the movie was unrealistic and it was too long and it wasn’t interesting.

But, really, we can do better. We can make the sentence more concise and get rid of the feeling of going on and on (whether the sentence is now a run-on is arguable):

Critics agreed that the movie was unrealistic, too long, and uninteresting.

5. Come to the meeting prepared to take notes and with some questions to ask.

Sentence 5 also has a parallelism problem. After prepared, the sentence has one verb phrase and one prepositional phrase:

Come to the meeting prepared to take notes.
Come to the meeting prepared with some questions to ask.

Separated, the post-verb phrases are grammatical. But parallelism dictates that used together, the phrases must be of the same type. Let’s make them both infinite-verb phrases and let them share the to:

Come to the meeting prepared to take notes and ask questions.

How are you doing so far? Leave your questions and comments below. Next week, we’ll finish with the contest.

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug...hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
This entry was posted in Grammar Quiz and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.