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Grammar* Dos and Don’ts (Part 1)

September 4th, 2012

 

I really wanted to drive the “don’t” point home. Those two up there? Definite don’ts.

 

Luckily for everyone, I’m not hormonal this week, which means I won’t yell too much when I see a misplaced freaking motherloving crap apostrophe, or the word “your” used to mean “you are.”

 

Still, I can’t keep quiet any longer. I’m seeing too much rampant misuse of the English language and it is slowly killing me. I mean look, I know I make grammar mistakes too. I put commas where they shouldn’t be, and dangle participles, but some fundamental rules should never be violated. If you write for a living or work in the social media space or just exist as a person, please observe the following so my brain doesn’t shoot out my eye socket and impale itself upon an unread The Elements of Style.

 

Its versus It’s

Its is the possessive and DOES NOT require an apostrophe, as in “I felt its legs scurry across my arm.”

It’s is a contraction used to mean “it is,” as in “It’s scary to have a spider crawl across your arm.”

There are no exceptions.

Speaking of apostrophes, another soul-eating mistake I see often is writing “Do’s and Don’ts” This is incorrect. Do’s would be spoken as “Do is,” and that is wrong. “Dos” is the plural of “Do,” and should never have an apostrophe.

 

Historic versus Historical

I know it’s random, but I see “historical” used in place of “historic” and it’s just one of those things that puff my panties. “Historic” pertains to events usually that are or were significant or momentous. “Historical” means “of the past” or relating to history.

For example, “Braveheart was a historical film” versus “I wish I’d been there for Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech.”

 

Lay versus Lie

This one messes me up sometimes, and I have to repeat the “rules” to myself to remember when to use one or the other. Here’s the thing: “Lay” is the present tense and needs a subject and an object (or objects) to be used properly. For example, “I lay my head on the bed.” In that case, “I” is the subject and “head” is the object. If you were to use the past tense, it would be “laid,” as in “Last week I laid my head on the bed.”

 

Lie” does not need an object and is the present tense. For instance, “I lie down on the sofa.” The tricky thing is that the past tense of “lie” is “lay.” Proper usage of the past tense would include “The dogs lay in the house after the hike yesterday.”

 

Farther versus Further

“Farther” refers to measurable distance, and “further” refers to more ambiguous distances you can’t always measure.
For example, “I ran three miles farther than Sue” versus “If you whine further, I’m putting you to bed.”

A good way to remember this rule is to think of “far,” which usually pertains to miles or distance of some sort.

 

Since versus Because

“Since” refers to time, and “because” refers to reasons (causation). For instance, “Since I became pregnant I’ve been more patient,” and “Because I’m pregnant I take better care of myself.”

 

That’s it for now. I’ll be back when I’m more hormonal. That ought to be fun!

 

*Apparently, none of the above are grammar tips. Read why here. I kind of like it when I write an essay with “rules” and broke the biggest one myself – misuse of the very word, “grammar.” It reminds me that I don’t really know anything. When you’re 43, you feel like maybe that means you won’t die anytime soon.

 

On September 4th, 2012, La Jolla Mom said:

Its versus it’s is one of those things that I mistype when I’m tired or typing waaay too quickly (or after wine).

On September 4th, 2012, green girl in wisconsin said:

Never knew that about the it’s not being possessive…

On September 4th, 2012, Joann Woolley said:

I now wonder if you want to reach through and slap me every time you see me post on Facebook with dashes – not that it was part of your list here – but I know I abuse them and it must drive some crazy. I have yet to be called out on it. I don’t think I’ll ever remember the lie/lay thing so I’ll avoid using it altogether to be safe. I’m looking forward to your next more hormonal post!

On September 4th, 2012, Kate SDDS said:

I am guilty of bad grammar. In my defense I was on the Dean’s list throughout college. That being said, my kids have ruined me. For some reason my rough drafts have become ‘good enough’ finals. Someday I will get it together….someday.

On September 5th, 2012, heidi said:

Great list!
I can’t believe that your and you’re is still such a problem. That one kills me! Lie and lay trip me up, though.
And “puff my panties” made me laugh!!

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