Can’t See the Forest or the Trees

Sometimes it’s the grammar or punctuation on a sign that has me scratching my head. This time, it’s the context: A block-long construction project with nary a tree in sight. Look closer, and all you see is a giant excavated pit.

Turns out, a Tree Protection Zone is designed to ensure construction doesn’t disturb trees surrounding the area, as well as any root systems that might branch into the site.

Comprising Not Just Another Pretty Face

If you, like me, are of a certain age, you were lucky enough to learn a lot about grammar through reading. Books, magazines and newspapers were well-edited, and correct usage imprinted itself upon your brain.

So it was with glee that I spotted this locution in InStyle magazine and pounced on it to share as an example. Turns out, it is a good example – not because it’s wrong (as I thought), but because it’s correct.

And I’d bookmarked an entire article that I’d read a few months ago about the difference between “comprise” and “compose,” and thought I got it.

Now, I hope, this one finally has sunk in, thanks to a quick check with Grammar Girl, who shares two important lessons about using “comprise”:

  1. the whole comes first, then the parts, (just like InStyle does it here: one earring: 100 diamonds), and
  2. comprise can never be used in the past tense (the phrase “is comprised of” is incorrect)

Well done, InStyle magazine!

What about you? What grammar rules or words continually upend your sense of correct word usage?

It Pays to Edit

The New Yorker, once known for its excruciating attention to detail, could use some editing help. A good editor might’ve avoided this repetitive sentence in “Streaming Dreams,” an article about YouTube.

How might editing fix this? Consider that you’re stuck with the “pay” in “PayPal” because it’s a proper name, so you need to remove the other two instances, perhaps like this:

The founders had no outside financing at the time. They used Chen’s credit card and profits from eBay’s 2002 buyout of PayPal to cover the cost of equipment and bandwidth.