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Amber Daugherty, United States
(415) 964-0559 andaugherty@scratchthatws.com
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Four Quick Grammar Tips

May 10, 2017

Disclosure: There are affiliate links used in this post as a way to promote products I have successfully used and love.


Does it bother you when someone corrects your grammar, punctuation, or spelling?


While some find it their life's mission to denounce common offenders, it can be done in a friendly, conducive manner. Personally, I find it pompous and irritating when someone corrects my grammar. For one, I am a writer and editor. I don't claim to be perfect (nor should anyone else), but for the sake of argument, I know the rules backwards and forwards. Secondly, I am not about to apply these commands in everyday conversation. Formal communication should be left for formal occasions (e.g., professional emails, reports, academia, etc).


That doesn't mean omit the rules entirely either. There is still an appreciation to be found in composed articulation.


The more you allow yourself to use "there" instead of "their," the more likely you will use this common transgression when you need to write professionally. When you are considering a product or looking at a website, you want to trust the brand and see its effort to impress you, the consumer. If the brand has misspelled words or uses poor grammar, it loses credibility.


In lieu of just correcting common blunders and causing major eye rolling, I will try to be helpful and explain cases where one may want to use common blunders properly. With there being too many to cover at once, below you will find the ones I come across the most often as an editor.



Let's go back to grammar school! 



Me and her are going to go to the movies.


Nails on a chalkboard.


I know some people choose to speak like this because they aren't mentally prepared to correctly construct their phrase in the moment. That, or they just don't care.


To remember the rule here, let me reintroduce the construction of a complete sentence: a subject and a predicate. Typically, the subject is found at the beginning of a sentence and tells what the sentence is about. The predicate is usually found at the end of a sentence and tells about the subject.


In this case, "me" and "her" are the subjects. When referring to yourself in the subject, you would say "I." With the above example, you would actually say, "She and I are going to go to the movies?" because you are referring to yourself in the subject. In the predicate, you would refer to yourself as "me." Which some people hyper correct and say, "It is just going to be her and I." This is wrong.


Tip: Take away the other person being referenced in a sentence and see how it sounds with just you. (Try this tip with any pronoun, whether placed in the subject or predicate).


Example: Do you want to go with Bob and I?  Now take Bob out of the mix and see how it sounds.

Incorrect: Do you want to go with I?

Correct: Do you want to go with me?

The sentence should read, "Do you want to go with Bob and me?"


Correcting a common mistake like this can give your statements more care. It may not always be of the utmost importance, but when you want to sound suave, or even like a highfalutin grammarian, look to this rule to affect your audience.


Speaking of affect...


The Effect of Using Affect Incorrectly


There really is no effect, other than just looking unclear of the words' usages.


In Susan Thurman's book The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need, she explains that, "Affect is usually a verb... usually mean[ing] change or shape... Effect is almost always a noun meaning result or outcome, appearance or impression."


Examples: Did it affect your day?

What was the effect of showing up late?


Tip: Try replacing the word with a synonym if you feel confused. Also, when you pronounce the words (even when typing them into a text, quietly pronouncing them) try putting emphasis on the vowels to help differentiate: [əˈfɛkt]; [ ɪˈfɛk].


(Note: There are rare exceptions to these rules. Sometimes "effect" can also be used as a verb, meaning to achieve or cause.)




The Apostrophe


One of my favorite [nerd] things to do is find apostrophe mistakes on signs. It makes me wonder how it ever got through a final okay at the printers or from the designer. Sure, most people don't care or notice this blunder. For those of us who do care about precision and detail, it makes a difference.


June Casagrande tells us in her book The best punctuation book, period., "Apostrophes have two main jobs: they show possession, and they indicate omitted letters or numbers." If you want to show ownership, you add an apostrophe. If the name ends in a s, then (unless used in news media, where it will just have an apostrophe) you will add either an apostrophe s or just an apostrophe after the s.


Example: This is the dog's bone. (The bone belongs to the dog.)

These are the dogs' bones. (There are multiple dogs and multiple bones belonging to the dogs.)


Exceptions: The contraction it's is the only time you use an apostrophe. If the sentence reads, "The dog chased its tail," then you omit the apostrophe to prevent confusing it with the contraction.


Also, if the proper noun ends in an s, and the next word starts with an s, just add an apostrophe.


Correct: James' shirt has a stain on it.

Correct: James's room is really messy.


These might seem like silly improvements to some, but to the right people, you can really impress.


Words That Are Not Words 


Another pompous (but sometimes necessary) thing someone can do is tell you that a word you said is wrong and in fact not really a word. Here are some words that phonetically make sense, but as far as Webster (with a few exceptions) is concerned, they are not:


- Funner (more fun)

- Alright (all right)

- Irregardless (not the opposite form of regardless)

- Whole nother (whole other)

- Firstly (just first)

- Prolly (probably)


If you choose to be one of the people on Facebook who comments on a post because the person uses "funner," you are probably just being a stickler. Now, if I am writing an article and make that sort of mistake, I would hope the client would not accept that sort of transgression from me or anyone else. As writers, we have to set the bar higher. While I can be bothered at times when I see these words, I would never vocalize this annoyance (unless you did something to make me mad).


In casual discourse, they slip from the lips of the best of us. Sometimes we just want to speak first and let our brain catch up afterwards.


That's OK.


The short lesson here is to take pride in your conversations and work communications. A little thought goes a long way.


So, if I sound overly couth (also, not technically a word) in a text or email, it's not to sound pretentious or better than you. It's an occupational hazard. My job depends on my ability to throw together engaging text quickly, whether or not you notice misplaced commas, missing apostrophes, or subject-verb agreement.


What broken grammar, spelling, or punctuation rule annoys you? Do you find yourself wanting to learn the rules but feel it's too late? Leave a comment or contact me for help! 















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