Grammar Schrammar

Received email at work the other day warning us that there’ve been a number of plural-singular mismatch errors slipping through lately, along the lines of (and I’m making this example up)

The inclusion of updated widget tables and expanded reticulation equations make this new edition especially valuable.

I found myself grinding my teeth a bit, partly because my ego doesn’t like people thinking I’m capable of such an elementary editing error (even though I know perfectly well that we all are when we’re working at a fast clip), but mostly because the mismatch of the singular subject “inclusion” and the verb “make” seems to me to be least of this sentence’s problems. Good grammar doesn’t redeem weak writing.

Two rules of thumb:

If you have to actually stop reading a sentence in order to work out whether the verb should be “make” or “makes”, then your sentence structure is just too damn complicated.

If your subject is an abstract noun like “inclusion”, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got the wrong word as your subject.

The real fix:

This new edition is especially valuable because it includes updated widget tables and expanded reticulation equations.

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