Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Learning From Donald Trump's Grammar Mistakes


Over the weekend, Donald Trump wrote an ungrammatical sentence in a press release that was shared with Entertainment Weekly as part of his damage control strategy. I guarantee that either no staffer looked at it, or no staffer was permitted to edit it.

Pertaining to his having been fired by NBC, Trump wrote, “My view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC.” The word much is an adjective that typically modifies non-count nouns: much love, much happiness, much fun. Different is an adjective. What Mr. Trump is looking for here is an adverb - a word that modifies an adjective, not a word that modifies a noun.

The obvious choice here is very, the English language’s most common intensifier adverb. All very does is turn the heat up a little bit. It makes whatever adjective succeeding it just a bit more of what it already is. Trump's view would then be very different, rather than much different. Still, most professional writers recommend against the overuse of adverbs in general and of very in particular, as it is very overused and very unilluminating. 

Next we have, “different than the people at NBC.” Some grammarians permit the “different than” construction. I do not like it one bit. Things differ from one another, not than one another. Thanks to the unquenchable objections of the hyper-permissives, it is not a grammatical error per se, though tens of thousands of writers reject it out of hand. Unsurprisingly, this fractured part of the press release found its way into the headline, with what I'm sure was a lightly suppressed chuckle from the editor.

My preferred translation of Trump's inscrutable utterance would be, "My views on immigration differ from NBC's."

Donald Trump packed two grammar oversights into three words in a written statement that was supplied to the press. In releasing this hack language to news outlets, he shows such a shameful disinterest in expressing himself properly that he merits every harsh rebuke that this tawdry little corner of the Internet can muster.

And I guess that was it.