A sudden change to Mr. Rewrite's world view

All of a sudden Mr. Rewrite is going to be a lot more careful with the phrase all of a sudden.

That's because it is officially all of a sudden and not all of the sudden. Mr. Rewrite spotted this today while cruising Paul Brians' (cue angelic chorus) Common Errors in English Usage site for ideas. Garner's Modern American Usage backs this up.

All of a sudden is an idiom used when something happens abruptly and without warning, like regular unleaded topping $4 a gallon.

Mr. Rewrite did a thorough 15-second search and couldn't find the origin of all of a sudden. Here's all he can offer: Top usage guides say to do it that way, and you risk a tongue-lashing by those smarter than Mr. Rewrite if you say or write it incorrectly.

All of a sudden Mr. Rewrite wants to see how those paid to know better deal with this idiom. The answer: Not very well. Google News indexes hundreds of articles containing all of THE sudden.


Here's a grammar error amusing to everyone but taxpayers in Missouri. The first copies of that state's redesigned license plates say "Show Me State" rather than the correct, hyphenated "Show-Me State." It took an English professor to point out the problem.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rewrite was amused to see two significant errors in an Associated Press story about this mistake:
  • It refers to the plates as "newly-designed." You don't hyphenate compound modifiers that begin with adverbs ending in -ly. How does Mr. Rewrite know this? IT'S IN THE AP STYLEBOOK!!!!
  • The second paragraph begins: "Motorists on Monday were issued ..." This is astonishingly passive. It's easy to flip and make active: "Motorists on Monday received the ..."

1 comment:

Thomas Fowler said...

Maureen Dowd reported recently that Katie Couric uses a mnemonic, "I'm a dinner jacket," to remember how to pronounce the Iranian president's name-- Ahmadinejad.

I've never heard her say "all of the sudden" but if I do, I will send her the name of my old friend (imaginary), Oliver Sutton, to help her keep it straight.

But surely there is someone at CBS to supply her with these necessities. It must be very frustrating to national news readers like Katie when they work hard to learn new names--like Lech Walesa--then, Oliver Sutton, Aleksander Kwasniewski (bless you!) gets elected.