Monday, June 26, 2006

Grammar and usage's 'Believe it or not'

Here's a sentence from the Wall Street Journal:

Analysts say the industry politics that led to the current format battle will likely end up keeping most consumers on the sidelines for awhile.

See any problems -- other than that it should be for a while (while is a noun, the object of the preposition for; awhile is an adverb used when there is no preposition)?


Take a close look at likely. Yes, according to the usage experts recently consulted by Copy Editor newsletter, it's not use well here as an adverb. Check your Webster's, and you'll find that essentially backed up. Despite that "ly" ending, likely most commonly is an adjective and should be paired with a "to be" verb. So the more correct form would be: Analysts say the industry politics that led to the current format battle is likely to end up keeping most consumers on the sidelines for awhile.

So when is "likely" an adverb? When it is paired with another: She will very likely go (to use the dictionary's example).

Who knew? And before you jump me and say, "Who cares?" please remember: Here at CSJ, we report, you decide.

Personally, I figure this one is quickly headed for the dustheap in the modern era, but not according to that range of folks CE newsletter consulted. Here is the usage note from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
Used as an adverb likely is most commonly preceded by a modifier such as very or quite: He will quite likely require some help with his classes. But the unmodified use of likely is common enough in educated writing, and though it might be better avoided in highly formal style, it should not be regarded as incorrect: They'll likely buy a new car this year.

Here's another one mentioned before, but worth noting again: Expect.

I expect he will be here Tuesday is incorrect.

Why? Because expect is a transitive verb. (Open your dictionary. Check it out.) As a result, it needs an object, not a verb phrase.

So the "correct" form would be I expect him to be here Tuesday.

Another one probably headed for obsolesence, but for now ...


At 6/27/06, 2:15 AM, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

-- I expect he will be here Tuesday is incorrect. --

Gotta differ with you there, Doug. Expect is in fact being used transitively in that sentence. Its object is the noun clause (that) he will be here Tuesday. Nothing ungrammatical about it that I can see. As far as I know, even Miss Thistlebottom herself would be OK with it.

At 7/5/09, 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Which is correct " He is expected Tuesday"; "The meeting ended Monday" etc., does the absence of preposition 'on' make it wrong grammar?

What is the correct way to write a slug?
SOMALIA: ANOTHER BOAT HIJACKED or using short sentences without emphasis on where?

At 7/5/09, 10:02 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

The use of "on" is optional and not incorrect grammar. It's a style issue, and AP, for instance, discourages it/

Slugs are entirely up to the style of the publication you are writing them for. In this search-engine-optimized world, however, location is generally considered very important.

At 6/10/11, 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have had an ongoing debate in the newsroom about the word 'remains', body or corpse. Which is appropriate when referring to a dead person as an object.

At 6/10/11, 3:42 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I'd generally go with "body" unless the body found is significantly decomposed, and then I'd use remains.

Nothing wrong with corpse; I just don't see it used that often.


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