January 7:  Grammar No-No Day

On this day in 1948 the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was released. Directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, the film is the story of four American men and their desperate quest for gold in 1920s Mexico.

Treasuremadre.jpgOne particular scene in the film features some famous dialogue between one of the Americans, Dobbs, and bandits posing as a police officers:

Bandit: “We are Federales… you know, the mounted police.”

Dobbs: “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

Bandit: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

The last line of dialogue concerning “Badges?” was chosen as number 36 on the American Film Institute’s list of most memorable movie lines  In addition to being a famous movie quote, the line “We don’t need no badges!” is an example of one of the most infamous of grammar no nos: the double negative.  Using two forms of negation in the same sentence is considered non-standard English, primarily because it confuses the reader, as in the following examples(1):

Double Negative                     Correct Version

I don’t have no time to eat.      I don’t have any time to eat.

I can’t find my keys nowhere.  I can’t find my keys anywhere.

I can’t get no satisfaction.        I can’t get any satisfaction.

We don’t need no education.   We don’t need any education.

Since keeping sentences lucid and clear for the reader is a priority of every writer, double negatives should be avoided.

Today’s Challenge:  Turning Wrongs Into Rights
If you were to teach a lesson in English grammar, what common grammar mistakes would you consider explaining?  Select one specific grammar faux pas to address.  Then research and write the text of your lesson, including examples of the error and corrections.  The following are examples of some classic no nos.

Dangling participles

Misplaced modifiers

Run-on sentences

Sentence fragments

Comma splices

Passive voice

Lack of parallelism

Lack of subject verb agreement

Apostrophe errors

Incorrect word choice

Vague pronoun reference

Capitalization error

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar.  –Michel de Montaigne