Need Grammar Help!

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Pamela, Mar 5, 2004.

  1. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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    Hello, all you grammar gurus and word mavens. I need some clarification on word usage. Background: We have a new VP who is on our case about typos. A doctor came into his office today, complaining about a typo on the front of an old Breast Center brochure. He says there's a typo in the headline. The VP agrees. We say it isn't a typo. It's correct.

    The headline reads:
    Every woman is at risk of breast cancer.

    He thinks it should be:
    Every woman is at risk for breast cancer.

    Who is right? And why (any grammar rules)? I say they can both be used. Any and all help would be appreciated. I've looked in the Stylebook and a grammar guide and I can't find anything.

    Many thanks for your help!
     
  2. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    I agree that both headlines are equally acceptable.
     
  3. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    I'm of the opinion that it should be:

    risk of [verb]

    or

    risk for [noun]

    In other words, the correct sentence would be either:

    Every woman is at risk of developing breast cancer.

    or

    Every woman is at risk for breast cancer.


    I honestly don't have anything backing me up, but that's what sounds correct to me. The first sentence, as you have written, sounds very wrong to me. I'd definitely use the "for" version. But what do I know, I'm not a grammar nut or anything. [​IMG]
     
  4. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    I agree with Leila, though I also can't find anything that states this as a rule.
     
  5. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    As they stand, I think each would be acceptable. However, the assumption is that the risk is one of acquiring or contracting the disease, not, say, of mispronouncing it or finding a cure for it. Although there's nothing wrong with leaving out this assumed element, the sentence should still be structured such that inserting the assumed element wouldn't destroy the sentence.

    For instance, if I were to compare myself to an athlete, I could say one of the following:

    "He runs faster than I."

    "He runs faster than me."


    The assumption that has been left out is that I'm comparing his running speed to my running speed and not, say, my driving speed. (Duh!) But if I were to fill in the assumed element, I get the following:

    "He runs faster than I run."

    "He runs faster than me run."


    Clearly, inserting this element makes the second sentence incorrect. This means that the second sentence is incorrect even without the assumed element being there to "break" it, which is too bad because the vast majority of English-speaking people will prefer to use the latter, incorrect expression without the assumed element being present.

    If we insert the assumed element in your sentences, we get the following:

    "Every woman is at risk of acquiring breast cancer."

    "Every woman is at risk for acquiring breast cancer."


    With this added clarity, I think I'd give a definite vote for the first one being more correct.

    [Edit: Leila and Mark are too fast for me! [​IMG]]
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    Both are correct. Very pedantically, the 'for' usage is better, but grammatical rules change over time, and (with due respect to the good doctor) it now looks rather old-fashioned. Whilst some aspects of changing english should be fought, this is one instance where arguably the new usage is clearer.

    However, as has often been noted, accurate grammar offends nobody whilst bad or debatable grammar is bound to offend someone. In your situation, Pamela, I'd promise to change the text on the next re-printing.
     
  7. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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    Thanks to everyone for your input. It's a very frustrating situation. I wish the doctors would just stick to medicine. [​IMG]
     
  8. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Well whichever version of the headline is correct, you're still right in saying that there isn't a typo involved. By definition a typo is a "typographical error". Typing "it's" where you mean "its" or typing "tehy" for "they" are typos. A mistake in grammar or usages is a mistake in grammar or usage. The two have nothing to do with one another. If these people are going to be pedantic about language it might help if they knew what the words they are using mean. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  9. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    Half right; most people that type "it's" when "its" should be used are making a grammatical error rather than a typo and, for some reason, generally don't like being corrected.
     
  10. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    It depends on how the mistake was made...

    Typo: "a mistake in printed matter resulting from mechanical failures of some kind"

    If you forgot the apostrophe because you didn't hit the key hard enough, then it's a typo, but if you didn't use it because you thought it was right, then I'd say it's more of a misspelling than a typo. [​IMG]
     
  11. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    and while we're in a thread about grammar, I'd like to know something that's been bugging me.

    I was working on a web site and was informed that it is correct to say "The theater is an historic..." as opposed to "The theater is a historic..."

    Since then, I've heard "An heroic man..." and "An hysterical woman...", but I came across this from the Johnny English DVD: Click here for the cover art

    Is "A hilarious comedy" proper as opposed to "An hilarious comedy"??? What's the rule with words that begin with H?
     
  12. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    If the "h" is silent (as in "hour"), use "an".
    If the first syllable is stressed (as in "horrible"), use "a".
    If the first syllable is unstressed (as in "historic", "heroic", "hysterical", and "hilarious"), you can use either "a" or "an".
     
  13. andrew markworthy

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    Joe has hit the nail on the head. However, I think it's worth adding that in the final category, having decided on using 'a' or 'an', be consistent.

    Incidentally, there's a book that's enormously popular in the U.K. at the moment called 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', which is all about punctuation. Has it caught on in the USA?
     
  14. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    I agree with this, but I have a question. If the choice is between "He is taller than I" or "He is taller than me" would it still be preferable to use "I"? On the one hand, the same assumed logic applies (He is taller than I am vs. He is taller than me is) but couldn't you also say that taller is an adjective and thus me would be valid?
     
  15. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Shouldn't these VP's and Doctors be expending their energies on treating and preventing Breast Cancer rather than being so anal about a minor, possible "typo" in an old document....
     
  16. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    I'm crap with the technicalities of grammar, but here I would've thought that since "he" is the subject of the sentence, you are the object and therefore "me" is correct, not "I" (which is the subjective personal pronoun)?

    Ugh. I have no clue on these things: I just use what seems correct; fortunately I usually get it right. But here's opening myself up to correction and, God forbid, ridicule...
     
  17. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Brian Perry wrote (post#15):


    This was originally distributed dialectally. Those dialects that dropped [h] in word-initial position or didn't restore [h] in word-internal position used the an-form of the indefinite article. (Note, for example, the difference in the standard British (SBE) and the standard American Englisih (SAE) pronunciations of proper names, such as Buckingham vs., say, Durham.) Where [h] was restored, the a-form was used. (Definite or indefinite articles in English are clitics
    , word-forms that combine with what proceeds or what follows them to form single phonetic units.) Of course, some words are spelled with initial which is never pronounced (e.g., hour). And the sociolinguistic phenomenon of dialect borrowing from so-called prestige dialects has messed up this historical scheme.
     
  18. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Second Unit

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    So what's the answer?
     
  19. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    I agree with your answers Andrew, but your use of "whilst" gives away your location. Though it's certainly not incorrect, in America we would generally use "while." [​IMG]
     

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