Friday, June 17, 2011

The Grammar Hero is in the House! Say What?

By Kristen House
My mom recently sent me an email asking me to take a 10 minute survey. And although I love my mom, I simply could not do it. Say What? That’s right I couldn’t do it because a hyphen is needed to create a compound modifier from two nouns. Neither “10” nor “minute” could stand alone to modify “survey.” You wouldn’t say “10 survey” or “minute survey” because neither 10 nor minute is an adjective: they're both nouns! So I put on my Grammar Hero cape and jotted her a quick note that read, " I can't do this, Mom. But, I would be willing to take a 10-minute survey!" Grammar Hero to the rescue!

I pulled a late night and when I woke up this morning, I was devastated to find that I had run out of coffee and milk. I was also out of toilet paper. Still in my pajamas, I drove to the grocery store to purchase three items. And there, under the flickering fluorescent lights of my local grocery store, I once again donned my Grammar Hero Cape. A woman with dozens of coupons clogged aisle four, the only open checkout lane, but there was nobody standing in the "Ten Items or Less" aisle. Guess where I went? Yep, aisle four. Say What? The sign on the express lane should have read "Ten Items or Fewer." "Fewer" is used to describe a countable number of items, whereas "less" modifies measurable mass. For example, "I weigh less now than I did when I was pregnant," or "I sure wish I had fewer pounds around my middle." The cashier and her manager were very impressed. Grammar Hero to the rescue!

Kristen House is an Adjunct Instructor of Writing at Belmont University, and the Chief Executive Muse of A Novel Idea. She writes fiction every day for hours, even when there isn’t anything to write about. Kristen lives in Nashville with her husband, Andrew, sons, Holden and Shephard, and a yippy little dog named Osie.

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