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Many loyal soldiers in the grammar fight

My admission a couple weeks ago that I spend my life mentally correcting grammar mistakes brought many wonderful responses from anal-like-me language lovers with their own peeves.

At the risk of appearing as if I'm angling for grammarian James J. Kilpatrick's job, I must share.

Local mystery author Mignon Ballard's redundancy hit list includes “most unique” and “the end result.” “What other kind of result is there?” she asks. Ballard would also be happy if she never again heard the phrase “at this point in time.” “What's wrong,” she wonders, “with just saying now?”

A couple readers questioned the accuracy of the phrase “went missing” in cases where a person disappears – Natalee Holloway in Aruba, for instance. “Went missing” suggests the person chose to disappear, says Nancy Flowers of Charlotte.

Flowers also hopes someone tells S.C. highway officials that their signs should read “Reduced Speed Limit Ahead,” not “Reduce Speed Limit Ahead.”

My colleague Ann Helms thinks it's time to call in a grammar SWAT team to fix a sign in front of a Gaston County church: “IF YOUR 2 BUSY TO PRAY YOUR TO BUSY.” Just as bad was a sign she spotted at a Wilkinson Boulevard fried chicken joint: “THERE BACK LIVERS.”

English teachers are our best defense against such atrocities, so I was happy to hear that Providence High teacher Debbie Ipock continues to fight the good grammar fight. In my recent column, I'd recounted a grammar debate over the oft-used phrase “national best-selling author.” Park Road Books' Frazer Dobson argued it should be “nationally best-selling author,” with “nationally” an adverb modifying the adjective “best-selling.”

Ipock agrees, but offers another option: “national, best-selling author” – two adjectives modifying “author.” She teaches this rule: If you can reverse the adjectives and the meaning stays the same (“best-selling, national author”) then you need a comma between the two adjectives.

Speaking of commas, I must mention Jeff Rubin, founder of National Punctuation Day. On his Web site,, he describes the Sept. 24 holiday as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotes and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”

The site includes good explanations of correct and incorrect punctuation usage and numerous examples of public signs – sent in by fans of proper punctuation – that demonstrate egregious punctuation misuse.

Rubin also peddles punctuation-themed T-shirts, posters and mugs. (The perfect gift for National Punctuation Day!) And – perhaps my favorite thing of all – he includes a recipe for semicolon-shaped meat loaf.