Usage Exercise (729)

In each of the following sentences, replace one or more words mistakenly used in place of others.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The accounts are chalk-full of errors.
Correct : The accounts are chock-full of errors.

This usage has nothing to do with chalk. The correct idiom here is the adjective meaning "overflowing."

2.
Original: Speculation abounds as boggled researchers pour over bizarre and mysterious images of one of Saturn’s moons.
Correct : Speculation abounds as boggled researchers pore over bizarre and mysterious images of one of Saturn’s moons.

Perhaps the writers who misuse the verb "pour" for "pore" (meaning "read or study attentively") believe that the reference is to pouring one’s attention on something, as if it were a liquid.

3.
Original: Jones said he sojourned around the country for roughly four years before landing in San Francisco.
Correct : Jones said he traveled around the country for roughly four years before landing in San Francisco.

"Sojourn" (a verb meaning "stay as a traveler or guest" as well as a noun referring to the stay) is, perhaps because of the root "journ"—also seen in "journey"—often mistakenly used as a synonym for "journey." But the root means "day"; the original meaning of "journey" is "a day’s travel" and that of "sojourn" is "a day’s respite from traveling."

4.
Original: She was distraught because her doctor had just informed her that she had fewer than six months to live.
Correct : She was distraught because her doctor had just informed her that she had less than six months to live.

Grammatical rules call for "fewer" to be used in reference to countable things, except when countable things are referred to as a unit; here, "six months" refers to a single period consisting of six standard durations of time, not to six individual units of time.

5.
Original: An elderly woman convinced auto dealers to hand over the keys to a car and drove away in it, authorities say.
Correct : An elderly woman persuaded auto dealers to hand over the keys to a car and drove away in it, authorities say.

English idiom calls for different phrasing for the very similar terms "persuade" and "convince"; the former takes the infinitive "to," and the latter is accompanied by a noun or pronoun followed by "that." The correct (but stilted) wording of this sentence using "convince" is "An elderly woman convinced auto dealers that they should hand over the keys to a car and drove away in it, authorities say."

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