Usage and Grammar

Q. In the sentence “I thought more people would be interested in knowing what happened to XXX, but I see that his fate, his life, doesn’t seem to bring folks together the way the water did,” would you use “don’t” instead of “doesn’t”? Or does that comma after “his life” keep the verb singular? The author will not tolerate the insertion of “and” between “his life” and “his fate.”

Q. Hello, CMOS Gurus—I cannot seem to locate the rule that proves (or disproves, I guess) the following to be correct: More than 28 million pounds of scrap is reclaimed every year. I thought that units of measurement or money took a singular verb, not plural (such as, three million dollars is a lot, or five miles is a long way). Are there other quantities that this applies to (such as years)? Or am I wrong entirely and should all three of my examples above take a plural verb? —A stumped copyeditor

Q. Dear CMOS Editor: In my technical publications work group, we have a difference in approach about using the verbs “to type” and “to enter” when instructing a reader to provide data to a computer screen interface. “Typed” data is “entered” to the computer by clicking a named control button such as “OK.” Should a reader be instructed “Type your password and click OK” or “Enter your password and click OK”? The Microsoft Manual of Style indicates that “enter” should not be used as a synonym for “type.” I would appreciate the editing perspective of CMOS.

Q. Oath of Office. Who was grammatically correct, President Obama or Chief Justice Roberts? Should faithfully as an adverb come at the end of the sentence or after execute? Or is the oath correctly written with faithfully as an adjective before execute?

Q. My daughter is filling out a college application that tells her to “write a brief answer (150 words or less) to both of the following questions.” The two questions are unrelated. We’re wondering whether to read that as “write 150 or less on each of the questions” or “write 150 words or less on both questions together.”

Q. My colleague and I are editors and are debating the form of the verb in the sentence “As a schematic design (fig. 1), there are a main reactor for the co-precipitation reaction, a cation reactor for the Ca2+ diffusion, and an anion reactor for the diffusion of phosphate ions.” I say that the sentence should read, “there is a main reactor,” but my colleague says there are three items in the list and hence the verb should take the plural form. Could you please help resolve this debate?

Q. Should the following sentence use the plural of century? Even in the late third and early fourth century[ies?], military resources were stretched.

Q. Hello, I saw Barack Obama speak and he seemed to make a grammar error. I was wondering if I was missing something. He said, “President and Mrs. Bush invited Michelle and I to come to the White House.” Another time he said, “It was for Michelle and I.” Shouldn’t it be “Michelle and me”? My husband thinks I’m crazy to spend my time thinking about things like this, but it bothers me.

Q. “The first of which is better.” I said this is a sentence fragment, but a student pointed out that it has a subject and predicate. Who’s correct?

Q. I work as an assistant editor, and I’ve been having trouble with the phrase “as well as.” In some sentences, it means “in addition to,” as in the sentence “I ate the burger as well as the fries.” In other cases, it is used as a form of comparison, as in “I play the guitar as well as the piano,” meaning that I play both instruments with equal skill. Is one of these uses incorrect?