27 June 2007

Four Grammar Pet Peeves

I have a very little right brain. Yes, I like to make cute things, but I just called it "re-creative" since I'm only copying what others tell me to do. And yes, I like to cook, but again, I'm simply following a set of directions. Due to this lack-of-a-right-brain handicap, I always hated English class. The first time I took it, I had to drop my required college writing course. I really do like to read, but I do not like to "analyze how Trumbo uses such techniques as point of view, selection of detail, and syntax to characterize the relationship between the young man and his father." Puke! (Note: The quoted text was taken from the 2007 Free-Response section of the AP English Literature and Composition exam, question 2.)

The only redeeming thing about English classes was the time spent on grammar. Ooooh, I loved the grammar. Rules, wrongs and rights...it was all so beautiful to my mathematical mind. And given the fact that my mother studied English in college, she helped enforce and put into practice those rules. (Ignoring the fact that her incessant reminders on correct usage were quite annoying. I look forward to doing the same thing to my children.)

Back in March, my friend Gretchen blogged about her grammar pet peeves. Today I'll do the same.
  • First, please learn the the difference between "its" and "it's." One is possessive; the other is a contraction. How do you know which to use? If you can substitute "it is" in place of the word, then use "it's." If not, use "its." For example...do not say, "Membership has it's rewards," as a poster at my gym does. "Membership has it is rewards" just sounds silly, as well as just plain wrong.
  • Second, "their," "there," and "they're" are separate words with separate meanings, as are "your" and "you're." Please don't tell me, "Your special," because I'll ask, "Your special what? Your special dog's tongue is touching my leg? Your special sister has a sweet spirit?"
  • Third, if you use the "Emily and I" statement in the subject of a sentence, then good for you! If, however, you are using it as the object of a prepositional phrase, then shame on you. You're just trying to look smart. For example, "Give the Hot Tamales to Emily and I" is soooo wrong, but you think you're so smart for using I. I bet you wouldn't dream of saying "Give the Hot Tamales to I," now would you? I thought not. The correct sentence is, "Give the Hot Tamales to Emily and me." Now really...give me the Hot Tamales.
  • Finally, although I'm not sure if this counts as grammatical or not, I have to mention it. There is a big difference between $0.75 and 0.75 cents. The former is equal to three quarters, or three-fourths of a dollar. The latter is only three-fourths of a penny. So if you are a store and you want to advertise something for 0.75 cents, don't be surprised when I plunk down the item, give you a penny, and tell you to "keep the change." I won't be surprised when you then tell me the true price is actually 75 cents. But then don't you be surprised when I then sue you for false advertising.

Hopefully I haven't made any egregious grammatical mistakes here. But feel free to flog me if I have.


Gretchen said...

Yeah, e! Love your rules. I'll confess though, I always fall victim to the it's/its rule. I'm slowly learning to break the "use an apostraphe s to denote possession" rule. It's hard for me. But I couldn't spell "does" for years, so that's not saying much.

Megan said...

You are now officially banned from reading anything I write. :)

Amber said...

It's always bugged me that people don't know the difference between you're and your. How did you get through elementary, middle, and high school and never learn that?

emily said...

i like your comment, megs.

and, erin, i love what you wrote and echo it! i, too, love grammar and love correcting it when people use it incorrectly (however, unless it's family, i don't correct them -- in person).

why don't you clear up one more grammer faux paus - the whole lay/ lie thing. i think i'm pretty good at most of the other grammer issues, but this one just doesn't stick with me. help!

p.s. if you lived in montrose i would be at the store right now buying you hot tamales. too bad. . .

Camie said...

Thanks for the reminders.

lys said...


Deanna said...

Oh man, I'm am so in agreement with you on this one! Those are some of my biggest pet peeves and it never ceases to amaze me how many very basic grammatical errors I find on advertisements and published documents! Hire an editor people. The your vs. you're drives me absolutely insane.

erin said...

i wish i could educate you on the lay/lie thing, but i can't. ask mom! and you know, you can always buy me the hot tamales and then send them to me. there is this thing called mail. i guess there's also this thing called, "go get them yourself, you lazy butt." which is probably closer to how you're feeling.

holly said...

yes! my biggest grammar weakness/laziness is ending sentences with prepositions. I KNOW you're not supposed to but it just sounds weird. Glad that wasn't on your list.... ; )

OH! And one of my old BYU roommies bought a huge watermelon from the local grocer in Provo for 12 cents or something ridiculous because they advertised it as ".06 cents a pound". The next day the sign was corrected. :)

erin said...

(My mom is still learning this whole internet thing...Until she gets it, I'll have to post for her. And yes, she's trying to be funny with the last paragraph.)

Halleluiah! Am I my daughters' mother or what! I'm so glad we all have this trait in common now as adults; it gives us something we can enjoy together!

As for lie/lay, "lay" takes an object; i.e., "lay the book down." Lie is to recline; i.e., "I am going to lie down now." Trouble enters the picture with the past tense: "laid" is the past tense of "lay," and "lay" is the past tense of "lie"!!

Confused? So, you would say "Yesterday I laid a book down before I lay out in the sun." Frankly, I hate it and seldom bother to use it correctly!

No one mentioned who/whom. That's my favo! Just substitute "he" for "who" and "him" for "whom" when you're plagued with a choice. That always works! "Give the prize to whom?" "Whoever wins will get the prize." "I don’t care; just give it to whomever!"

I'm so glad your all on the same page hear; its so frustrating when you're friends use there grammar wrongly when their spoken to!

emily said...

thanks for the help, mom. i think, though, i too will stay clear of lie and lay.

and nice last paragraph, mom!

and, yes, erin i do feel that way. :)