Introduction to Grammar Guidelines

With texting, Facebook, and Twitter fast becoming main modes of communication, the new shorthand lingo that is developing will no doubt bring about a higher frequency of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. The rules that define proper English seem to fade into the distance as more people forget them and replace that knowledge with acronyms such as OMG and LOL. The hope for this site is to reinforce proper English grammar and continue to encourage eloquent writing and speech.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Whole Nother

"A whole nother" is a commonly used phrase. It is a habit that people don't even realize they are doing. The following is an example of the phrase being used in a sentence:

She is living in a whole nother world.

"Nother" is not a word. To correct this error, you could use "another," "a whole other," "a completely different," "an entirely different," etc.

Correct sentences:
She is living in an entirely different world.
She is living in another world.

82 comments:

  1. Even eloquent writing and speech change over time. Were that not so, Chaucerian prose would still be flowing from our lips. The challenge, I think, is to promote a dignified style in the present while recognizing that today's slang may be tomorrow's Shakespeare! Would a rose by a whole nother name not smell so sweet? Keep it up!

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    1. That is exactly how I feel. It seems people often think that language is static, and there are set rules that have been that way and will remain that way (what's in the dictionary). But the development of language has been a process, and it always will be. The usual approach is to take rule breaking as a bad habit or a mistake. But I ask, who made the rule? and how do I like this new manifestation of language? does it seem to naturally be manifesting from culture on a growing scale? And often these rules are ethnocentric.

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    2. You're ignorant. You should really go and find something productive to do with your time.

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    3. Nice job using greentext in a place that isn't your sekrit club.

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    4. That kid just got owned on levels unheard of.

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    5. "a whole nother" is simply not proper English.
      "A-whole-nother" is as bad as writing "abso-fucking-lutely".

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    6. ^ really? it's AS BAD as that? try again...

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    7. Assuming we all find "abso-fucking-lutely" so objectionable. . . .

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    8. I think that abso-fucking-lutely is as bad as a-whole-nother. It's the same exact thing. putting a word in the middle of another word. How can it be better or worse? That'd be like saying "more good" is better than saying "more better".

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    9. It's not rocket appliance

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    10. Anything that exists in actual dialogue and speech, has a place in the written word. I wrote an essay that was extraordinarily formal, and any time I used parenthesis I made sure to be as informal as possible in an effort to prevent statistics fatigue. I used "a whole 'nother story" at one point and feel it is appropriate.
      While using improper English, I managed to do it in a way that acknowledges that I made a decision to do so.

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    11. There is nothing grammatically incorrect about "nother", being merely an instance of tmesis, a common construction in Indo-European languages. Pedants having no acquaintance with Greek or modern German would no doubt find "nother" improper, but semanticists don't see it that way. One has to wonder if the owner of this page has heard of "nu movable". Probably not. Texas was "a whole nother country" until the tax evaders from New York and New Jersey came and corrupted the language.

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    13. Either neither way, you're all gay fag fuckers who can't spell to save a dick.

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  2. It's just slang. People know they are using it, and they know that "nother" isn't a word. It's an insertion of a word into the middle of a word, like abso-frigging-lutely. The real question is how to punctuate it and what those kinds of insertion combos are called!

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    1. Supposedly those kinds of insertion combos are called "infixes."

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    2. Maybe sometimes in written language, but when people say that in conversation I suspect they usually don't realize they're doing it. I even jokingly called someone out on it once, and they just got confused.

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    3. Not everyone thinks about all the words they are using. I doubt most do - e.g. the use of "well" at the beginning of a interviewee's response.

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  3. I would like to agree with the previous poster that people know they are using slang. Except when I see it pop up in writing, not speech writing but in text, like a book, that's when I realize not everyone is using this as spoken slang. Clearly, that somehow slipped by a proofreader and was taken as a legitimate word. That is just sad.

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  4. I accidentally use this all the time. I don't agree with Anonymous 2 at all, it's just the way some people talk.

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    1. I agree. We use it so often that it is not thought of as slang when we talk, like "abso-friggen-lutely" is. I never even thought about it until I tried to type it into a paper! .... And here we are lol

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    2. I agree with you guys. And the same thing happened to me while writing my paper haha.

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    3. I agree with the top reply up there. I came looking for this page because I was writing a formal letter to a newspaper editor and I wanted to say "a whole nother". But then I realized that it wasn't correct.

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    4. It seems when language goes through changes it's usually to accommodate for laziness and/or ignorance. When changes of this manner occur, an injustice to eloquence has been perpetrated.

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  5. Okay...I finally realized just how pervasive this phrase was when my dear friend, a senior editor with a major magazine, used it in conversation with me! I never thought I'd see the day. The fact of the matter is, that is just how language evolves - through usage that becomes more and more common and acceptable. Otherwise we'd still be speaking and writing as if we were in an old movie. True?

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  7. To the first poster: It's one thing to be TOO uptight and uphold, as you say, "Chaucerian" standards...and it's another to devolve into a world like the movie Idiocracy. Too much slack on grammar and spelling (just like what's happening today), what do you think will come of it? It's getting to the point to where mispellings/grammatical errors are becoming more & more prevalent in places like NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, BILLBOARDS, NEWS PROGRAMS? What's happening???

    I'd rather suffer with the tedium of proper grammar than the mouth-breathing cranial atrophy that's beginning to happen all around us...or better yet, a happy medium, if there even is one lol.

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    1. Who cares if people can understand it though? language is about communication and as long as you get your point across i have no issue with anyone using improper grammar.

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    2. The problem is that, in order for language to be effective, we all have to follow the same set of rules. If we let spelling, grammar, word definitions etc. deteriorate too far, we may reach the point where nobody can really tell what anybody else is talking about because we'll have such different ideas of what a phrase means. That's why we have dictionaries and things, and that's why it's important that we follow them.

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    3. ironic that you misspelled "mispellings"

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    4. The ones who argue in favor of
      lazy grammar, are the ones who don't think it is their fault they did poorly in school.

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    5. As if performance in school were an accurate means by which to judge a person’s intelligence; and as if that person’s intelligence were an accurate means by which to determine the validity of the opinions they speak.

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  8. Honestly, it's hard for me to say everything's "devolving." It's all just changing. This word demonstrates that "another" has been reanalyzed from being "an+other" to a single word "another," so we place the whole after the end of the first syllable. And since the n in another is phonologically the onset of the second syllable, whole foes after the a. I don't see how that's at all inappropriate unless you want to rule out all language change, which is an absurdity.

    As for the poster above me, I would mostly disagree with you. The rampant spelling errors are a symptom of a much deeper problem: The way our language is written down only tangentially reflects how we pronounce our words. For God's sake, we have digraphs representing sounds that haven't been used in a couple hundred years, at least outside of Scotland! Instead of using a 400-year-old spelling system that was never properly standardized in the first place and then complaining when people screw up, maybe we should update the spelling system first. As for grammar, if you mean actual grammar (i.e. syntax, morphology) there are no serious problems. Language changes, and people need to deal with it. If you mean punctuation, then I agree that people need to learn to use it better, as it's a great aid for replacing a lot of the intonational features in our spoken language and helps organize ideas.

    The Descriptivist

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  9. A HOLE NUTHER ARTICLE ON THIS JUNK? SHEESH!

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  10. Samuel Johnson believed that the meaning of words should be defined by how it is commonly used by its users, not a strict and prescriptive definition. You can stop being nit-picky, "a whole nother" is all good since a large group of people use it and know what it means.

    Besides, "Nother" IS A WORD. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the oldest reference to it in Literature came in the 1300's:

    a. A second or other; a different one. Usu. with indefinite article, and freq. contrasted with one. Cf. another adj. 6, other adj. 5 – 7. Obs.

    c1330 Otuel (Auch.) 83 Ich am comen her‥To speke wiþ charles‥& wiþ a kniȝt þat heet Roulond & a noþer hatte oliuer.

    The entry above is in Old English, but here is an entry from 1559:

    1559 J. Aylmer Harborowe sig. E4, Of Paul I shal speak of at a nother time.

    Notice "a nother" is two words back in those days but evolved to one word over time, as other people have eluded to in previous posts.

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    1. This is completely false.

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    2. Actually it is "an other" the indefinite article "an" is used before a vowel. I found nothing to support your claim of "a nother". The definite article would be "the other" and the indefinite article would be "an other". Thus, it is correct to say, "a whole other", as you would NOT say. "an whole other" (a is used before constanants). It is not rocket science.

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  11. I didn't read everything that you've written here... I'll save it for another day. I found you when I looked up 'whole nother' because I hear so many folks say it. I'm not a word prude by any stretch and you'll likely have to play editor to my errors, but I wanted to check on this misuse of 'another' as I let my guy in to the evidence.

    I think that 'whole nother' is a word phrase that shows that folks are not listening to what they are saying, but that they are instead following the norm by accident. Words do change, but a 'whole nother' sounds just a bit odd to this human, who has grown up saying words incorrectly and who must have taught her son to say 'on accident' by accident. I have a German mother and it wasn't until I was 18 that someone told me that I said 'cottage cheese' this way... 'cotta cheese'.

    Language and understanding morph away another day, but 'whole other' go away, please!

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    1. Agreed. It's one thing for language to evolve due to efficiency, simplicity or to just make more sense. It's a "whole other" thing for changes in language to happen because of ignorance. Slang is usually a conscious effort to change language. Slang users can often easily use the proper form of the language if they choose to. Sometimes the slang version makes more sense and it sticks. A whole nother, supposively, nucular, addicting, "would of" are just examples of people not paying attention to what they are saying or writing. They are mistakes not slang. It's not evolution it's devolution.

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  12. Most people who say this do it out of habit, and without thinking

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  13. This is the kind of slang that I didn't even realize that I say until I tried to write it down. Speaking it, it sounds perfectly natural, and I don't think anybody is likely to call me on it. Going to write it, however, it looks completely wrong.

    I still go back and forth on the subject of "proper" language. Language is an ever evolving beast. The speech of today would sound hopelessly improper to an English speaker of 300 years ago, just as the speech of people 300 years from now would sound to us.

    That said, while I will continue to use the phrase "a whole nother" in conversation, I'll only ever write it down as character dialogue.

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  14. Thank you! So many things being said that drive me crazy, a whole nother is one of them.

    Almost all the people I talk to never talk with accuracy in mind.

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  15. This is off topic, but has anyone else been bothered by the common misuse of "I couldn't care less"? I hear it said "I could care less" more times than not and it drives me nuts, as it completely changes the meaning of the phrase. Just a thought.

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    1. I thought "I could care less' was American English. Brits would normally say " I couldn't care less".

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    2. It's not American English. It's incorrect on either side of the pond (speaking as an American); but, as people have mentioned, it happens because people don't pay attention to the sense the phrase makes or doesn't make depending on if you say "could" or "couldn't."

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  16. This isn't an error, it's part of the grammar of today's spoken English, right up there with positive 'anymore' and quotative/discourse-marker 'like'. The real question is not how to avoid using this phrase, but how it originated, how it's distributed, and how its usage is spreading. One prescriptive blog described it as "splitting of the adjective another". 'Another' is not an adjective, but a determiner: "*Give me an another slice of pizza" is entirely ungrammatical. But it could easily have been reanalysed as determiner+adjective 'a+nother' (although the origin of the word was probably 'an+other' !). This would make 'nother' the result of the same process as 'newt' (from 'an ewt'). But why should its use be restricted to this set phrase? What about other instances of article - quantifier - 'nother' ? Like... 'a couple nother sandwiches', which sounds pretty bad to me? It would be *great* to find some intelligent discussion of this on the internet, instead of prescriptivist whining.

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    1. This lets me draw the conclusion that 'alot' is now a word, then. :)

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  17. Perhaps we should also finally endorse indecipherable ebonics and Kentucky walmart customer banter as legitimate English.

    Has anybody here seen the film, "Idiocracy"? Welcome... you've endorsed its beginnings in reality.

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  18. I am sick of people saying "whole nother". Nother is not a damn word and slang or not, it's poor english and I don't think most people recognize that. I even heard anchors on national television use it, at which point I wondered if I was the only one whose ears bled a little every time someone uttered the stupid phrase. I'm not a super-scholar, but I'm educated and know the difference between real words and "nothers". Give me a break. Be as liberal as you like with "modern English", sure it will change over time but I for one will not endorse Walmart customer banter either. Lame. Now there's a word.

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    1. I grew up saying nother. Today was the first time I tried to write it & that's how I came to this page. N-o-t-h-e-r just didn't seem right. & that's bc it isn't a word. Well I used it so much I never thought about it until it came time to spell it. Im sure plenty of other people are the same. One day I'll bet it will be a word. Just like bling. Or ain't. You can find both of those in the dictionary now

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    2. I have found eleven grammatical errors in your critical comment. Nice.

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  19. I tend to agree that most users of "a whole 'nother" are aware that it's a colloquial or slangy or even jocular construction.

    Slang is not a bane; it's a whole sublanguage unto itself, and works beautifully in many, many social situations, written and spoken. The truly wise and canny writer knows both "good" grammar and a healthy dose of colloquialism/slang, even so-called "proscribed" language.

    It's fun, for example, to read John Updike's fiction when he introduces a teenaged or highly uneducated figure into his story [e.g. "Spin" and "Phil" and "Deirdre" in TOWARD THE END OF TIME, or "Verna" in ROGER'S VERSION] Updike has such a good ear for the way people really speak that he can capture the nuances of the figure's nonstandard-isms correctly. That makes for great reading.

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  20. Why do you need "nother" when we already have "other"? I agree with the Idiocracy comment. I refuse to descend with the rest of our so-called civilization. When you are rich and comfortable, with that comes a certain responsibility, not lazy stupidity.
    You hear people in the media speaking this way. They don't deserve the privilege of being on the air!
    Another pet peeve of mine is our loss of "begs the question" which used to mean a circular argument until the unwashed heathens bent it into just evoking a query. This points up the problem in even starker contrast, since loss of the ability to reason and recognize logical fallacies is at the heart of our loss of democratic freedoms and the growth of centralized control from the top. Why do we worship dope while maintaining suspicion of intelligence?

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  21. Agreed, nother is not a word. People who use it dont know what they are saying. They hear others use it and then begin to use it. Some dumb person said it once and other dumb people picked up on it.
    For those that said "well, language changes over time", then I will begin to say stop when I mean go and go when I mean stop...over time it will catch on and should be ok right...wrong

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  22. I think this comes from the fact that "another" is really a fusion of "an other", in the same way that you have "the other". I use "a whole nother" quite a lot, it just rolls of the tounge a lot easier than "a whole other". It's an imagining that "another" can actually be split into "a nother", and in that sense is technically correct.

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  23. "a nother" or "an other" so what? We're talking about the usage "whole nother". The "whole" is added for emphasis and, since it's needed first, the "a" is dropped. The user doesn't wish to add the emphasis at the end, as in "another ... entirely". This is not so dumb. Will it catch on? Seems to me it already has. Maybe it will die out, maybe not. Maybe something else will take its place. That's what keeps language alive.

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  24. One good reason to start saying "whole nother" is simply to piss off people like the uptight wads commenting here.

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  25. A whole nother sounds like it came from a Yogi Berra quote. Kind of like deja vu all over again.

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  26. Do you people actually avoid saying "whole nother"? Do you think that carefully about the words you use when you're telling a story? It seems a bit silly to me.

    If we're talking about the use of the phrase in literature, well, that's a whole nother story.

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  27. Just putting my two cents in....

    I think it should be written "a-whole-nother" as a way of showing the interjection of "whole" into the middle of a word. Of course, this should only be used for improper dialogue in prose. The truth is that people talk like this, so we should be able to use it without bad marks if we do so in the right context.

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  28. Just to piss people off, I am right clicking "nother" so I can "add to dictionary". Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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  29. Nother is a word, according to the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Its first known use was circa 1909, according to it. Feel free to blame the rotted corpse from which the word was first issued, if you have a problem with it. Otherwise, the only real recourse for lexicalizatiphobes is to talk to their therapists, but then they might get their knickers in a tighter knot, as many words as their like has invented.

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    1. What the hell is a lexicalizatiphobe?

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    2. Search it... You have the Internet.

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  30. Wouldn't the correct sentence be: "It is a habit that people don't even realize they are practicing"?

    Rather would it be: "It is a habit that people don't even realize THAT they are practicing"?

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  31. I hate the word irregardless. It pours from the mouths of the uneducated as easily as a whole nother. All nonsense.
    I don't want to live in idiocracy land.

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  32. What if your transcribing someone verbatim?

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  33. I hear two things when I hear "....a whole nother matter."

    A. Misuse of the "nother" for "other. In a phrase like, "I do not like the game, but as to you liking it, that's a whole other matter." being turned into, "I do not like the game, but as to you liking it, that's a-whole-nother matter."

    B. Sly-full addition of a contraction to add similarity to a seemingly contradictory staement. Such as, "He likes women, but as to him liking of men, it's a whole n'other matter." In this phrase breaks apart the usual "a whole other," and adds a "not" which gives the speaker the ability to add nuance. In the example, I would read that as the speaker either liking men more than women or not at all--context would be needed--the speaker could add exaggeration by adding an unnecessary "not," or the speaker could be saying that on the surface the things are unlike, but as you know more it should be apparent that they are not at all that different. You can see where a good speaker can add implications with an apparent mis-use of language.

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  34. I feel as though we should continue saying a whole nother. Who is with me??

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  35. I always thought it was "a whole nether" which would indicate a large subset.

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  36. Wouldn't it be like saying, "That is entirely 'nother subject." With 'nother in replacement of another? Food for thought. :)

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  38. Here's my thought.

    People want to say, "A whole another". But that sounds strange. Because the 'a' sound is doubled. So they say "A whole 'nother". The 'a' is implied, or even cribbed from the article at the beginning.

    They could say "A whole other". But 'other' connotes different, but 'another' connotes more of the same. Usually people are lamenting that they have to deal with something all over again for no real benefit. "I have to wait a whole 'nother year to do it? Aw man!" Luke Skywalker used it to complain to his uncle about staying on another year at the moisture farm instead of leaving for the academy.

    I find it slangish, but not incorrect. It's very useful and sounds right and the alternatives don't suffice.

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    1. There are many grammatical errors in your comment.
      :P

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