Posts Tagged grammar
Buzzfeed shows us The 20 Most Unforgivable Spelling Mistakes of the Year gleaned from Twitter, and there are some real gems on that list. It is because of errors like these that I give grammar advice and tear at my hair over spelling mistakes. This is why grammar nerds exist and why we want you to be aware of when you’ve spelled, punctuated or conjugated something incorrectly and how to do it correctly in the future. It’s because we want to prevent you from becoming one of those typists. It’s because we want you to communicate clearly.
To communicate clearly, you need to be aware of how a spelling error can change the whole meaning of a sentence, and usually not for the better. Some errors merely make the user look sloppy or uninformed, but some actually render the message incomprehensible. For clear communication, one should know the difference between COLON and COLOGNE. One should know that OVERREACT is a single word and OVARY has no place in that sentence. If you put EAGLE where you want EGO, I might not catch your meaning. If you’re going to use the expression “time heals all wounds,” you should know what it means, and if you don’t know the difference between WOUND and WOMB, you probably don’t understand the expression.
If you think there is an O in GENIUS, you are not a genius at anything that involves language. If you think there is an A in COLLEGE, you will not do very well in a lot of college courses.
If you have Internet access, you can find an online dictionary, which will show you that SILHOUETTE is not two words. Yes, I see that it’s a tricky word. If you can’t remember whether it’s one word or two, try using SHADOW instead. In this case, the meaning is close enough. I know that AMBIANCE is also difficult, so if you’ve never seen the word in writing, try using ATMOSPHERE to get the same meaning across. You might misspell atmosphere, too, but you’ll probably get the first letter right, and that will make the sentence much clearer.
Look up VICARIOUS in the dictionary. Now, look up BI-CURIOUS. Not synonymous, are they?
If you can type HIPPOCRATES with perfect spelling, you should know that a HYPOCRITE is something else.
Yes, I am aware that English is a non-phonetic, idiom-heavy language full of exceptions that only weirdos like me ever manage to learn. Except, actually? No, I won’t take the excuse that English is so incredibly hard. I’ve learned and spoken Spanish and Albanian, and let me tell you: there is a lot of shit that we English-speakers don’t need to worry about. We hardly conjugate our verbs at all, our plurals are nearly effortless, we don’t adjust our adjectives for number or gender, and in fact our nouns are all gender-neutral. If you don’t need to worry about hitting the right form of the imperfect tense for an irregular verb, or how to decline a masculine plural noun in the accusative case, you should know the difference between ORGASM and ORGANISM before you try to use either word in a sentence.
I’m working on making up some grammar guide ebooks to hand out for free, and I’m trying to get my notes organized. Since there’s no plot to be spoiled, and language learning is good all the time, I don’t see a problem with putting this up on the blog ahead of time. This is mostly for my benefit. Here is a list of words that people frequently misspell; I’m trying to force some order onto it.
How is that I never heard of The Oatmeal before? They come up with the most amazing example sentences!
First we have How to Use An Apostrophe. Their ultimate rule is, “When in doubt, DON’T use an apostrophe.” I appreciate this. Apostrophe abuse is so rampant nowadays, I’d rather see one missing than used inappropriately. We have this discussion here to show us that writers are not immune to the scourge of apostrophe abuse, either.
Then we have 10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling, in which they remind us that “If you put an A in ‘definitely,’ then you’re definitely an A-hole.”
I’ll make a confession: I tend to abuse commas. My last revisions on Charlinder’s Walk involved a lot of hunting down and excising unnecessary punctuation. Also, I genuinely love adverbs. It is, admittedly, a sickness.
Am I always the last one to find out about these viral email sensations?
Jezebel brings us the news of Keara O’Neil making the mistake of bringing her bridesmaids into a GASP store to shop for dresses. Ultimately, she just shouldn’t have gone into the store in the first place. No, seriously, that’s what area manager Matthew Chidgey says to her in response to her complaint of obnoxious, inappropriate treatment by the salesman. I’ll boil it down to save you the Teal Deer and spare you the atrocious grammar:
It’s YOUR FAULT that Chris behaved like a jackass to you because you suck way too hard to spend your money at our business. You should be so lucky as to aspire to emulate the likes of Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry. We hire people like Chris to get rid of customers like you. Don’t darken our doorstep again.
Please note that Chidgey’s assertion that Chris is a “retail superstar” who is “too good at what he does” and knew that Ms. O’Neil and her friends wouldn’t buy anything before they even showed up at the store is directly contradicted by Ms. O’Neil’s account of Chris’s behavior, which involved inappropriately badgering her to buy a particular dress. He was unsuccessful, because she and her bridesmaids walked out empty-handed. To label this person a “retail superstar” is to use a definition of “retail” which is unrelated to doing business by selling clothes.
The linguistic superiority on display from BBC readers is really quite funny. Some highlights:
2. The next time someone tells you something is the “least worst option“, tell them that their most best option is learning grammar. Mike Ayres, Bodmin, Cornwall
It’s less cumbersome than saying “the least of several evils” and more nuanced than calling it the “best option.” I won’t apologize for using the phrase.
9. “Touch base” – it makes me cringe no end. Chris, UK
Keep on clutching those pearls and you’ll break the string.
11. Transportation. What’s wrong with transport? Greg Porter, Hercules, CA, US
“Transport” is a verb. “Transportation” is a noun.
15. What kind of word is “gotten“? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington
We use a different participle for “get” here in America. We looked at all those verbs with irregular participles and decided that “get” would make a nice addition. It’s totally sound grammar here.
22. Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
You mean you call it something else?
23. To put a list into alphabetical order is to “alphabetize it” – horrid! Chris Fackrell, York
Oh, we’re such horrible, renegade Anglophones, with our using two words to do the job of six!
29. I’m a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
“Fortnightly” is one of those words we gave up when we told King George III to go fuck himself. We don’t need to pick it up again. “Bi-weekly” is much clearer.
32. Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard. Ric Allen, Matlock
It’s called an idiom, and our language is full of them. You might want to look up the concept some time.
36. Surely the most irritating is: “You do the Math.” Math? It’s MATHS. Michael Zealey, London
Here in America, we say “math.” No one here says “maths.” It’s just one of the ways that Americans’ use of the English language has changed since we ceased to be an English colony. We think “math” is a perfectly suitable abbreviation of “mathematics” and we tend to see it as a non-count noun. It saves us a tricky set of consonants.
42. Period instead of full stop. Stuart Oliver, Sunderland
Perhaps because “full stop” sounds like a driving instruction?
48. “I got it for free” is a pet hate. You got it “free” not “for free”. You don’t get something cheap and say you got it “for cheap” do you? Mark Jones, Plymouth
Actually, we talk about getting things “for cheap” all the time.
I’m aware that the complaint was originally supposed to be about how US English is affecting UK English, but some of the list items are really just comments on the way Americans talk. Unless the British still speak exactly the same way as they did in the late 18th century, they shouldn’t be surprised to hear some different words coming from our mouths.
Man, I just stopped reading in the middle of what was probably a very decent blog post on the recent anti-immigration law in Alabama when the author used the phrase “by in large.”
I’m sure it’s a mark of irrational bigotry on my part that I react so badly to spelling/grammar errors, but, fuck it, I’m letting my freak flag fly. Especially since the blog post in question was posted on a social network for writers. We should know better.
The phrase is “by and large.”
“By in large” makes no sense.
And don’t even get me started on using “of” in place of have. Perpetrators of would of/could of/should of, I am glaring unpleasantly in your direction.
To be quite honest, I don’t care how many spaces you put after a period nearly as much as I care about how you use apostrophes.
Why, you ask? Why do I care about the senseless abuse of apostrophes? I care because apostrophes actually mean something. Two spaces vs. one space after a period doesn’t affect the meaning of the sentence before or after that period. It just makes the page look different.
Meanwhile, there is such a thing as using an apostrophe where there should be none, omitting it where there should be one, and placing it at the wrong place in the word. Why couldn’t Slate feature an article about that?
Are: Present tense, second/third person form, of the verb to be. I am, you are, he is, she is, we are, they are.
“Where the Hell are you?”
Our: Possessive form of pronoun we. My, your, his, her, our, their.
“When is our reservation?”
When spoken from an American mouth, “our” often comes out sounding like “are.” I haven’t (yet) seen anyone type “our” instead of “are,” and yet I manage to see otherwise intelligent people writing “are” where it should be “our.”
THE TWO ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE.
I can understand mixing up to/too, or there/their (though how “they’re” gets mixed up with the others, don’t get me started), affect/effect, except/accept. “Our” isn’t even pronounced similarly to “are” except spoken quickly in the middle of a casual sentence. The real pronunciation, even from the coarsest Yank mouth, is closer to “hour.” Try to remember that, folks: closer to “hour” than “are.”
If you know how to spell the vast majority of English words correctly, then how is it possible that you managed to sleep through language lessons so many times you can’t recall the difference between a possessive pronoun and an irregular verb? I mean, REALLY?!
*stumbles off muttering about what do they teach the children in these schools*
Populace: Noun. Refers to the people living in a certain area.
Populous: Adjective. Refers to the state of having a lot of people in a given area.
They are pronounced the same way, and are both related to population, but they are not used interchangeably. Anywhere that people live has a populace, but some places are more populous than others.
Snatched from Failbook:
see more Failbook
Someone not only does not understand the there/their/they’re distinction, in fact xe (I want to say the first speaker is female because xe’s complimenting someone’s boots, but really I have no idea) is willfully ignorant of how contractions work. First we have the first speaker, depicted with white outlined in black, whom I will call MW for Multiple Wrong. Then we have the second speaker, shown in white outlined in pink, whom I will call PW for Partial Wrong.
MW not only is determined that THEIR means THEY ARE and I suppose THEY’RE never occurs to this person, but xe also uses “y’all” inappropriately. The phrase “yall all” is nonsense. I am Southern enough to know that “y’all” (note the apostrophe) is a contraction of “you all,” and therefore the second “all” is meaningless.
PW correctly points out (though MW is too ignorant to understand the correction) that THEY’RE should take the place of THEIR, but xe also misuses ITS in the place of IT’S. We need a verb phrase here, not a possessive, which means that IT’S takes an apostrophe. That was something they both got wrong.