Writings Wrongs: My Mistake

“When you’ve finished LEADING them and you have LED them, use L-E-D, like the author of the above quote should have done.”

I’m quoting myself from last week’s Writing Wrongs post. There is incorrect grammar in that sentence. Do you know what it is? I know, because a commenter pointed it out, saying, “‘Above’ is not an adjective.” In proper English I should have said, “the quote above” instead of “the above quote.”

Adjectives are those descriptor words that modify (by way of further explaining or enhancing) the word that follows. I could have said “nice quote” or “funny quote” or “boring quote,” and I’d have been correct. But “above quote” is not proper English, according to one school of thought.

What? How can such things be debatable? Isn’t grammar either right or wrong? Yes and no. At least, that’s my school of thought.

Grammar is part of writing. Writing is communication. If I’m reading along and suddenly I stumble because a word or phrase or itty bitty dot of punctuation throws me off, then the writer is not being clear and I haven’t received the communication. If I understand what’s written without tripping over it, then the communication is received.

The commenter was thrown off because I said “above quote,” and that person is not wrong to feel that way. I’m willing to bet money that most readers were not thrown off, however, so I’ll leave it as is. “Above” is traditionally used as an adverb or a preposition. Yet these days you’ll see it used not only as an adjective but even as a noun, as in: “See the above.”

The English language is constantly evolving, and not everyone agrees that this evolution is a good thing. I’m glad it evolves, otherwise the commenter would have said something like, “Ofer [is] nâ wiðerbreca tôgeîcendlic,” and I’d be screwed.

One source says “Adjectiving below is not always well received,” which itself brings up enough questions to confuse us all. (This source is verbing a noun, which isn’t well received either. Or should that be “received well”?)

Feel free to point out any errors of mine you see, or to disagree with my grammatical opinion. Just be nice.

 

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#above

Comments

  1. chris - January 21, 2018 @ 03:55

    Well u taught me something… does that follow suit with : “As mentioned in the above forwarded subject,”(?) I am guilty in using the word ‘above’ as you have shown here as well as in emails I will say the sentence about ‘forwarded subject’…
    If I am wrong on that count, I am guessing the person reading the email did not see the mistake or understood the intended.
    Boy, does this look and read confusing. 🙂

    • Petrea - January 21, 2018 @ 07:21

      Not confusing, Chris, I get what you mean, and I’m sure the person you sent that to also understood. “As mentioned in the above forwarded subject” is common usage, and I think everyone would recognize it. If you’re writing a business email and you want to use traditionally proper grammar, try “As mentioned in the subject forwarded above.”

  2. William Kendall - January 21, 2018 @ 10:47

    I think I’m just more used to common usage in this case that it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

    • Petrea - January 21, 2018 @ 10:51

      I think many of us are, William. Language just works that way.

  3. Dina - January 21, 2018 @ 12:09

    would have said something like, “Ofer [is] nâ wiðerbreca tôgeîcendlic,” and I’d be screwed

    Haha, good one, Petrea. But still, I would prefer to leave out both of those commas.

    In the old days we would write “in the above-mentioned [whatever].” Does that sound too formal in modern American English?

    • Petrea - January 21, 2018 @ 14:06

      I think “above-mentioned” works. It’s not too modern. Hyphenating “above” with “mentioned” would make it into an adjective.

      As for commas, there are so many schools of thought that it’s hard to keep up! Some say you must have a comma before a quotation, though I’d use that rule only for a sentence or a quote, never before a single word or a title. Some would say the “and” in “and I’d be screwed” serves the same purpose a comma would. “But” or “yet” would do the same thing. Brits seem to use fewer commas than Americans do, yet I’m sure you’re aware of the Oxford comma debate.

  4. Lowell - January 21, 2018 @ 13:26

    My head, which is above my neck, is hurting. Or maybe I should have said, above my torso is my neck above which is my hurting head. Ouch! 🙂

    • Petrea - January 21, 2018 @ 14:13

      Oh, the possibilities! English can do so many creative things. 🙂

  5. Foundpoem1 - January 21, 2018 @ 17:58

    Usage such as “Please see the below agenda for Thursday’s workshop” seems to be rampant in the office these days, as is “as a,” as if a verb were needed here: “She was elected as a member of the Etymological Society of America.”

    No; she was indeed elected a member. I know of no metaphor implied in the selection committee’s decision.

    • Petrea - January 21, 2018 @ 18:27

      Good one!
      We tend to get fancy when we’re trying to sound businesslike. Or at least that’s what we think we’re doing. The passive voice comes to mind as popular office blather.

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