Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grammatical errors that make KittyMarie angry...and you won't like her when she's angry.

The following are common grammatical errors that I have noticed in my day-to-day life. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but below are just a few of my pet peeves I would like people to take note of and store in their minds for future reference. I am certainly not a linguistic expert, but I think I should know something about grammar since it's kind of my job. However, for my position I often refer to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. I'm sure not everyone would enjoy reading this slim volume for pleasure, but it is filled with the best and most often misused words and phrases. The following are simply my own observances.

Now I probably could not diagram a sentence if my life depended on it (don't tell my boss...or Mrs. Fehrenbach!). However, I generally know when something is wrong when I read or hear it. What can I say, it's a gift and a curse. These are the more glaring written errors:

1.There, Their, and They're: Use "there" to express a place (Diana's nuclear explosion shelter? Yes, I'm going there when the Red Fury descends.) Use "their" to express two or more beings' possessions (Cynthia and Dave's ostrich? No, that is not their ostrich). Use "they're" as the conjunction of "they are" (They're headed to the contortionist's house tonight to learn a few moves). If in doubt, just use "they are" and save me the headache.

2. Possessive S: Take care to put the apostrophe in the correct spot. It generally determines whether the noun is singular or plural. It was the bird's food (one bird). It was the birds' food (more than one bird). Otherwise, it determines if the noun is simply possessive (It was Diogenes' blog). For the record, s's is also acceptable, but I prefer a cleaner look with just s'. Personal preference dictates.

3. To, Two, and Too: The use of "to" seems self-explanatory (I plan to renovate the tree house in late Victorian style). Obviously, use "two" as a number (There were two paraplegic prostitutes). Use "too" in the place of "also" (I watched the kid eat glitter, too).

Bonus (Speech): The above are dependent upon the written word. However, when speaking refrain from phrases such as "I seen this bird one day that exploded in mid-air" or "He done the coolest thing ever when he jumped off that cliff." If you speak improperly and sound ignorant, people are going to think you're ignorant. It's just the truth.

In the words of Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady: "The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it's the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative, and musical mixtures of sounds. And that's what you've set yourself out to conquer Eliza. And conquer it you will."

Or perhaps this quote is a bit more accurate: "There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven't used it for years."


Diogenes said...

I always wondered how to properly us 's and s'. Does this make my name plural if someone adds a ' at the end? No one ever explained this rule to me and since most of my English classes were E.S.L. (English as a Second Language), we worried more about pronunciation instead of grammar and punctuation.

I do "good" with there, their, and they're if I am paying attention since my fingers have a mind of their own and like to type something different from what I tell them to. Those bastards.

Then and than are a slight problem for me sometimes.

I will try my hardest to have as few grammatical errors on my blog as possible but I ain't gon' promise nothing. Heh.

KittyMarie said...

See the edits to the post. You're correct, s' also just designates whether or not someone possesses something (since your name ends with an s, obviously there is not more than one of you, the apostrophe just means that whatever follows belongs to you).