The gerundsLet us take a look at some random sentences taken from a local daily, and one from social media to help us put this into perspective. “Maweu said the deceased was shot as he tried to remove his Nissan Matatu of registration KCU 552 X from the parking.” “Maweu told us on phone that two bullets went through the left chest of Otieno damaging his lungs.” From the social media; “This one is only for backward thinkers who doesn’t want to think beyond their nose the voters have not spoken just wait for the real day and let it be counted one by one don’t use scaring tactics and yet forecasting the weather is impossible which you only wait until it drizzle” (reaction to the warning that those who resist the census will be punished). The last quote is not only a 52 word rambling sentence; it defies the rules of subject-verb agreement. Some of the tenses and the gerunds do not fit in the sentence well. ing’ have been added to them. The power of punctuation marks cannot be overemphasised. The sentence above is so jumbled as to be completely meaningless, and this is because its author neglected to use commas and the period.
Singular subjectsShorter sentences, unless one is adept in the use of commas, semi and full colons, are preferable to long ones that leave the reader winded. The positioning of words in a sentence is critical to the readers’ understanding of what is being put across. One word coming before or after another can significantly alter the meaning of a sentence. For example, “James comes here” and “Here comes James” mean different things even though the words remain the same. The first refers to an action that was in the past, is in the present and is likely to continue in the future. The second draws the attention of a second or third person to something happening at that particular moment. ‘Scaring tactics’, as used above, should have been written as ‘scare tactics’ to demonstrate that what the writer was referring to were the ‘tactics’ used to ‘scare’ someone or some people. As originally used, the impression given by use of the verb ‘scaring’ is that it is the ‘tactics’ that were being ‘scared’. On subject-verb agreement, note that singular subjects take on singular verbs. However, we need to be careful while using nouns like ‘everybody’ ‘everyone’, ‘each’ that may seem plural, but which are used in the singular form. We say “everybody is (has been) accounted for”, not “everybody are (have been) accounted for”. [email protected]