Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Lesson in Grammar

I am a total nut when it comes to spelling and grammar. It's probably because of the summers spent with my mom drilling my sister and me on spelling and grammar. I'm sure it also has to do with the fact that my dad is a perfectionist and will not tolerate bad spelling and grammar. Needless to say, I am better than the average bear when it comes to grammar. This means that seeing grammatical errors makes me want to cringe.

I realize that I am neither the first nor the last to write a blog post about spelling and grammar pet peeves, but I've been wanting to do this for years, so THERE.

1. "Without further adieu"
FYI, it's ado, not adieu. Adieu means "good-bye" in French. If you don't believe me, look here.

2. "It's" and "Its"
It's = it is (contraction)
Its = belonging to it (possessive)

3. "Their", "There", and "They're"
Their = belonging to them
There = a place
They're = they are (contraction)

4. "I" versus "Me"
We are taught at school that "me" is a no-no. For example, we don't say, "Me and my friend went to the movies," or "My friend and me went to the movies". Instead, we say, "My friend and I went to the movies". That is correct. But then there's a variation of this rule which confuses the living crap out of people.

So you end up with, "Here's a photo of Mildred and I standing in front of the Great Wall". It should instead be, "Here's a photo of Mildred and me standing in front of the Great Wall". People are so freaked out about using "me" in the sentence that they end up with a grammatically-awkward and grammatically-incorrect sentence. Fortunately, there is help for you! The rule is pretty simple: when saying a sentence which involves you and another person, remove the other person from the sentence. Does the sentence make sense if you use "I" or "me"?

Our sentence, "Here's a photo of I standing in front of the Great Wall" suddenly makes no sense. It sounds much better with "me" in lieu of "I", doesn't it? Similarly, "I went to the movies." makes a hell of a lot more sense than "Me went to the movies."

5. "Advice" and "Advise"
Advice is a noun. As in, you give someone advice. Advise is a verb. This means that you advise them on something. So you should say, "Please advise", not "Please advice". The funny thing is that if you were to write "Please advise" in MS Word, it would try to correct you with "Please advice". Just goes to show that you shouldn't trust a grammar-checker.

6. Never start a sentence with "So", "But", "Because", "However", "Or", etc.
As I write this, I am fully aware of the fact that I do it too. The difference, however, is that I'm aware of it, and do it on purpose so that my prose sounds a little more conversational. Most people do this because they just don't know any better. If you need to "start" a sentence with one of these words, they should actually follow a semicolon, rather than a period. While we're at it, here's how to properly use a semi-colon.

7. Comma Splices
I hate comma splices. People over-use commas like there's no tomorrow. If there's a hard stop in your sentence, don't go throwing commas around like confetti at a New Year's Eve party. Commas are used for lists and pauses (it's kind of like taking a breath). If you're an excessive comma user, here's a piece of advice for you. Read your sentence, and replace your commas with periods (please don't do this for lists). It will probably work about 90% of the time.

8. "The Point is Mute"
Newsflash: the point is moot, not mute. If you're gonna use a funny word, please, for the love of god, learn how to spell it. Über-cringe.

9. "Maybe" or "Mabey"
I used to see this a lot when I was in high school. Kids just could not spell "maybe". Here's an easy way to remember. Maybe = "may" + "be". Easy as pi.

10. "Congradulations"
This one totally makes me cringe. People can spell this word in its short form: "congrats", but when they try to spell the big, long, word, the "t" suddenly becomes a "d". It's "congratulations", not "congradulations".

11. Plural Form
I don't get why people have so much trouble with the plural form. It's pretty simple. If you have more than one of something, you add an "s". You do NOT, however, add an apostrophe followed by an "s". That, my friends, is the possessive form.

Therefore: "I bought myself a ton of T-shirt's." is WRONG WRONG WRONG
The correct form should be: "I bought myself a ton of T-shirts."

12. The Decade
This is a common goof. People often refer to the '90s as the 90's. Writing "90's" means that it belongs to 90 (i.e. possessive), which is WRONG.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I think you would love this book then:
Eats, Shoots and Leaves