Wednesday, March 19, 2008

6 grammar mistakes I wish I saw less often

First let me say ...

Happy Birthday to Dad! I looove you!

I realize that I probably talk too much about sloppy grammar, punctuation and spelling. I can tell I'm coming on too strong when I get emails that include a warning not to edit the email or judge the sender.

But believe me when I say that I do not form opinions of people's intelligence based solely on their (mis)use of the English language. Matt is one of the smartest people yet one of the worst spellers I know. I do not believe there's necessarily a correlation.

I also recognize that even people who do know the rules don't necessarily obey them all the time. I don't assume that just because you used a comma where there should have been a semi-colon means you don't know the difference; I assume you're just writing in an informal style.

Finally, in my defense, if these things didn't drive me crazy, I wouldn't be a good editor.

1. "I" vs. "me"
Wrong: "Mom is forever giving coupons to Matt and I."
Right: "Mom is forever giving coupons to Matt and me."

Wrong: "Matt and me saw 'Sense and Sensibility' on our first date."
Right: "Matt and I saw 'Sense and Sensibility' on our first date."

Hint: Read the sentences without "Matt" and you can trust your ear as to whether "I" or "me" is right. ("Mom is forever giving coupons to me [or us]." "I [or We] saw 'Sense and Sensibility' on our first date.")

2. "Who" vs. "whom"
This is a tough one to criticize, because it often sounds stiff and pretentious to use "whom" correctly. My main beef is with using "whom" incorrectly just because you think it sounds more educated.

Wrong: "Matt, whom is a Duke fan, wants to see a Carolina/Duke rematch."
Right: "Matt, who is a Duke fan, wants to see a Carolina/Duke rematch."

Wrong: "Matt, who I am married to, was one hot soccer player in high school."
Right: "Matt, whom I am married to [or to whom I am married], was one hot soccer player in high school."

Hint: Loosely rephrase the sentence using he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them: "He is a Duke fan." "I am married to him." If you would replace "Matt" with he/she/we/they (as in the first example), you should use "who" in that sentence. If you would replace "Matt" with him/her/us/them (second example), use "whom."

3. "Less" vs. "fewer"
Wrong: "I wonder why there are always less people at Jersey Mike's than at Subway."
Right: "I wonder why there are always fewer people at Jersey Mike's than at Subway."

Wrong: "The amount of rain we've gotten this year is fewer than we got last year."
Right: "The amount of rain we've gotten this year is less than we got last year."

Hint: Generally, use "fewer" for individual items and "less" for quantity.

4. Nonessential clauses
Wrong: "Matt, fantasy teams commissioner extraordinaire organized our March Madness pool."
Right: "Matt, fantasy teams commissioner extraordinaire, organized our March Madness pool."

Hint: In this sentence, you could remove "fantasy teams commissioner extraordinaire" without substantially changing the meaning of the sentence: "Matt organized our March Madness pool." Think of the commas as enclosing the nonessential part. Read this sentence out loud and it will be obvious that you need both commas, not just the first one.

5. "To" vs. "too"
Yes, they sound the same, but they are two (ha!) different words. Don't use them interchangeably!

Wrong: "Carolina won the ACC championship, and I think they're going too win the NCAA tournament to."
Right: "Carolina won the ACC championship, and I think they're going to win the NCAA championship too."

Wrong: "I drink to much Coke."
Right: "I drink too much Coke."

Hint: "Too" means "also" or "overly" and "to" means "to."

6. Extraneous apostrophes
Sometimes it seems that people use apostrophes on a whim, without any logic. They aren't difficult to master.

Wrong: "This home was custom-built for the McKenzie's."
Right: "This home was custom-built for the McKenzies."

Wrong: "I'm not the only person who dislike's the Thursday morning Body Pump teacher."
Right: "I'm not the only person who dislikes the Thursday morning Body Pump teacher."

Wrong: "One good thing about daylight saving time is that now my cars clock is correct."
Right: "One good thing about daylight saving time is that now my car's clock is correct."

Wrong: "I'll say it again: Carolinas going to win the NCAA championship this year."
Right: "I'll say it again: Carolina's going to win the NCAA championship this year."

Hint: Use an apostrophe to combine two words ("Carolina is" = "Carolina's") or to show possessiveness ("my car's clock"). Otherwise, you don't need an apostrophe.

4 comments:

Kaitlin said...

I support this post 100%! Thanks for the who/whom advice; that one always gets me!

Dad said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes. The card and delicious meal were truly highlights of my day. I sympathize with you over your pet peeves of grammar. You did a good job of working Carolina into the examples. My compliments.
Love, Dad

Gail said...

Since I aint got no good english, your hints made it easy to understand. Thanks!

Amanda said...

I love post's like this. Thank's, because bad grammar drive's me crazy!