Usage and Grammar
Q. OK, this may be silly, but is there a hard and fast rule about verb agreement when the subject and verb are split by an additional subject that is offset by parentheses or em dashes? My thought is that this “extra” subject should be ignored, but I’m guessing, and I can’t find a clear answer. Example: The evolution (and inspiration) is just beginning. Or should it be, The evolution (and inspiration) are just beginning? I feel like the absolutely correct version is the former, not the latter. As always, thanks for your expert recommendation!
Q. Recently my wife corrected my grammar several times in one day, in front of her family, which led me to seek an opportunity to publicly correct her. I contended that she should have said “high quality” instead of simply “quality.” She insisted that I was wrong, and I fear that I may indeed be wrong, but I would like your insight on the off chance that I might be right.
Q. When quoting from Scriptures, which are often interpreted as God literally speaking, is it grammatically correct to say “Psalm 1:1 reads” or “Psalm 1:1 says”?
Q. As an editor, I am usually a big fan of the dictionary, as well as a generally obedient disciple. However, I was shocked to see that my dictionary allows “timely” to be used as an adverb. Is it true? I feel betrayed. I have spent a lot of time changing “Policies were implemented timely” to “Policies were implemented in a timely manner.” Do I need to find a new dictionary?
Q. I am editing an important policy statement (with legal implications) and wonder whether this sentence needs a singular verb (“is” instead of “are”): A complainant who wishes to withdraw the complaint and/or a respondent who does not wish to participate in the hearing process are advised to contact the manager.
Q. My younger colleagues see absolutely no problem with this construction: “Based on the report, the authors drew up a summary.” I see this everywhere now and wonder if my reaction, which is to change this into “On the basis of the report, the authors . . .” or “The authors drew up a summary based on the report,” is because I’m a dinosaur.
Q. I work with middle-school students who produce a yearbook. Does it matter what tense they write in? There appear to be two views: past tense, because the events have passed and the kids are no longer in the mentioned year, and present tense, because past tense can simply seem weird. (For instance, writing about the school’s mascot—a live Labrador—in past tense seems morbid.) Still, most students like the notion of writing in the past tense, as it suggests they’ve moved to the next grade.
Q. Can I use the first person?
Q. “Between” vs. “among.” I’m going insane. I think the editor who changed my wording is just clueless or hasn’t given the issue enough thought. Please help. I’ve read the advice in CMOS, Garner’s Modern American Usage, Bernstein’s The Careful Writer, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, and a few other sources, but I can’t decide. Should I say “competition between companies” or “competition among companies”? They’re competing with each other, severally and individually. At least, that’s what I think. Or is “among” justified on the grounds that competition implies vague, intricate relationships? Do I need an economist to clear this usage question up? Are there right and wrong answers in this case? The phrase is “competition between/among companies is intensifying.”
Q. Which of the following is correct? “Canadian customers, call 1-800-etc.,” or “Canada customers, call 1-800-etc.”? I’m inclined toward the former, but keep thinking about that darn Canada goose.