Michele Bachmann’s Crime Against Grammar

Michele Bachmann Official Photo circa 2007
Image via Wikipedia

Some might say that the very least of Michele Bachmann’s problems in her run for president is her command of the English language and rules of grammar. To that, grammar purists the world over say “nay.” Or possibly “pish.”

I was alerted to this fundraising letter by the people at the political blog Balloon Juice. In it, she (or, more likely, her staff) commit a variety of grammar and usage fouls. But the one that really sticks in my craw occurs not once, but twice.

And it’s an error committed countless times a day by sales people and fundraisers when they make their pitches to customers and funding sources. They begin by trying to relate to their target with an “As a” phrase, as in, “As a valued supporter” or “As someone who appreciates the arts.”

That’s all well and good, but then 9 times out of 10, they blow it by following that phrase with the word “I,” as you can see in this excerpt from the offending Bachmann appeal:

See what’s happening here? Bachmann is actually saying that SHE herself is one of her strongest supporters. Which is probably true, but decidedly not what she intends. And she does it twice! Including in the very first sentence (which is where this error most commonly occurs):

I myself am not positive what the technical term is for this offense. My reading of Grammar Girl points to a dangling participle or modifier. I don’t know for sure, as I am not a grammar expert. I usually can tell when something is wrong, but I don’t know a gerund from a predicate.

But I do know how to fix it, at least. If you insist on the “as a” construction, then the next clause has to flip from an “I” to a “you” statement. So it’s, “As one of my most valued supporters, you should be the first to know.” Or “As one of my strongest supporters, you’re entitled to your own copy today.”

These are a little awkward, of course, so another alternative is to dispense with the “as a” intro altogether. You could say, “You are one of my most valued supporters, and I wanted you to be the first to know …”

I will leave it to pundits to determine whether her faulty command of grammar is behind her precipitous decline in the polls. In my world it would be, just as surely as Mitt Romney’s weird sense of humor┬ámust condemn him to also-ran status.