Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style. (Some frequently asked questions are here.)
In noting a recent rash of “bona fides” in our prose, I pointed out that writers often treat the expression as plural, though in fact the Latin phrase is singular (“good faith”).
A similar problem often arises with another classical borrowing, the Greek “kudos.” It means “praise,” and like “praise,” it’s singular. But the “s” at the end often misleads writers.
Some recent missteps:
Mooresville’s tremendous focus on one data point — the percentage of students passing proficiency exams — has its pitfalls as well. At November’s quarterly data meeting, there were kudos for several numbers whose rise or dip was not statistically significant, and no recognition that the students who passed by one or two questions could very well fail by one or two the next time around.
Of course, “there was kudos” may sound awkward or wrong to readers who mistakenly think the “s” in “kudos” signifies a plural. What to do? Well, there’s always English.
If more kudos are to come its way, they might go to Max von Sydow.
Kudos go to Memphis for losing by only eight, but that reasonable final margin disguises how miserable the Grizzlies looked in their half-court offense.
These two plural uses of “kudos” appeared on the same day.
The Comma Police
Here’s an example of a very common punctuation error:
The photo was later included in the book, “Final Salute,” which includes photographs by Mr. Heisler and is written by Jim Sheeler, a former Rocky Mountain News reporter.
There should be no comma after “book.” Since there was no previous reference to the book, this is a “restrictive” construction — the title is necessary to the meaning of the sentence and could not be omitted. When an appositive is used that way, it should not be set off with commas. (The comma after the title is correct,…