My degree in English literature may not have netted me big bucks, but it has paid off. These days, better known as the Age of Texting, grammar is suffering. Many folks now make their mistakes public on Facebook and Twitter, but—armed with my fancy diploma—I manage to avoid the following nine issues, all of which annoy me enough to blog about them.
Lay vs. Lie
You lay a book down, but you lie down in bed. It’s like the difference between set and sit. You set your keys down, but you sit at a table. I blame “Now I lay me down to sleep” for screwing up even professors on this one. By the way, once you’ve laid the book down, it’s then lying on the bed.
You’re vs. Your
This seems simple enough, and yet here I am trying to explain it. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” whereas “your” indicates something attributed to you. If you graduated from grade school, you’re smart enough to know your teachers should’ve gone over this rule a few more times with some kids.
Me vs. I
Lots of intelligent people mess this up. Bob gave the book to me. Clearly, it’s not, “Bob gave the book to I.” Somehow, when another person is added, folks forget this rule. Chris gave the book to Kim and me. No way would this be correct: “Chris gave the book to Kim and I.” If you simply remove the other person, you’ll soon re-discover that “I do something,” whereas “something is done to me.”
Who vs. Whom
This one is often hard to grasp. “Who” is a lot like “I,” while “whom” operates much like “me.” Take this sentence: Jim hurt Frank. Jim is the one who did the hurting. And whom did he hurt? That would be Frank. It’s not, “Who should I call?” but “Whom should I call?” because the person on the other line receives the act of your calling.
Commas and Periods Inside Quotation Marks
In Britain, all punctuation marks go outside the quotes. But early American printers were worried that commas and periods would be lost somehow if they ended up outside the closed quotes. So, in America, this sentence should read: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool.” Most people, though, write: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool”. To confuse things further, colons and semicolons always go outside quote marks, wherever you live.
Its vs. It’s
The crowd is on its feet is correct because “its” is attributed to the crowd. “It’s,” however, is the shortened version of “it is.” It’s a beautiful day, you’d write to a friend. This problem resembles the “you’re vs. your” issue discussed in part one. In both cases, the words sound alike, but the grammar rule demonstrates the difference between the two.
Than vs. Then
“Than” is used in comparisons, such as, Mike is taller than Joe. I’ve seen people mix this up with “then,” which is used to indicate a current condition or some point in the future. If you’re too short, then you can’t ride the rollercoaster. Mary will see Sally then. Again, because of their similar sound, these words tend to confuse some writers.
There/Their/They’re and To/Too/Two
This one aggravates me. Here’s another example of words that sound alike but mean something different. “There” is a location, “their” shows that a group (they) own something, and “they’re” is the contracted form of “they are.” Why folks don’t know that “to” is a preposition, “too” is an adverb, and “two” is a number, is beyond me.
Should’ve, Not “Should Of”
Oh my, this one’s amazing. “Should’ve” stands for “should have.” The rather unfortunate “should of” exists in error only. It’s another example of sound confusing sense. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve let these language issues go, but the English major in me couldn’t keep his good grammar snobbery to himself.