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.