Friday, September 9, 2011

The Grammar Sheriff

I should have been an editor.

I notice the errors in books, magazines, and newspapers.  On advertisements and on billboards.  And yes, on webpages.  It's risky to admit it, because now everyone who knows will be watching for ME to make errors in grammar and punctuation.  I probably will make mistakes too - everyone does.  There are some words that cause me to stop and think every time I use them because I'm not certain I've spelled them correctly.  Not hard words either, but words like weird. Which is a weird word because of that whole i before e rule being broken.  (I totally went and spell-checked to make sure I did it right!) Also, I can think of several times where I've had a discussion with someone about how to know whether to use lay or lie. I don't punctuate correctly all the time either, especially when it comes to dashes - <-- like that one there - just not sure what the rules are with those.  If you've ever visited with me on Facebook or a message board, you may have noticed that I overuse exclamation points too.

Casual conversation is different from the printed word.  I use a lot of colloquialisms and slang when I'm in a casual conversation, things I would never say if I was giving a speech (like I'd ever give a speech! Ha!) or write down.  Message boards and Facebook are casual conversation, in most cases, so we don't expect formal writing skills.  Honestly, if I understand what you're saying in your status, it won't bother me if it's not expressed with 100% perfect grammar or spelling.  I may not even notice.

I've found misspellings in books that cause me to cry aloud in frustration.  Really? No one on the editing team noticed that the text uses "roll" when it should clearly be "role", or completely misses quotation marks that make dialogue understandable?  This happens in novels frequently, and it's disappointing, to say the least.  When I find obvious errors in textbooks, I sometimes want to beat my head against a wall.

The errors I'm talking about, the ones that absolutely drive me crazy, are things that I think should be common knowledge, and should not be that difficult. I have two pet peeves.

  • Incorrect use of pronouns.  My kids all know that if they say "me and so-and-so are going outside" that I WILL correct them with a muttered "so-and-so and I".  I think that this is simple, and I don't understand why people have trouble with it.  No one (with the exception of Tarzan or Cookie Monster) would say "Me is going outside" so why do we get it wrong when we add that other person?  Saying "it's Jane and I's birthday" is the same mistake! Who would say "it's I's birthday" - probably no one!  I correct my own kids and just about sever my tongue sometimes to avoid correcting others, because it's just not cool to do that.  (Besides, I'm pretty sure my kids purposely use the wrong pronouns because they find the resulting twitch in my eyelid amusing)  Basic rule for personal pronouns: use the form that would sound right if the other person wasn't in the sentence.

  • Incorrect use of apostrophes.  There is so much I could say here.  I'm amazed, frankly, at how rampant this problem is.  This is obviously a print problem, not a spoken word problem.  Apostrophes are thrown in randomly, it seems.  Again, I believe this is such a basic rule that it shouldn't be such an epidemic.  There are two basic uses for apostrophes - to show possession (the cat's pajamas - the pajamas belong to the cat) or to take the place of a letter or letters in a contraction (doesn't - the apostrophe replaces the letter o in does not).   But to my surprise, people pluralize using apostrophes (or should I say apostrophe's).

Did you know that National Punctuation Day is coming up? It's on September 24, 2011.  Visit the National Punctuation Day website for some fun information on how to punctuate correctly, and the possible disasters that occur when we don't.

Let's eat Grandma!
Let's eat, Grandma!
Proper punctuation saves lives.

More light-hearted grammar and punctuation help can be found at  Just today I found this infographic to help me with using hyphens correctly:

[Infographic provided by] also offers free grammar lessons and quizzes, and it's FUN.

an apostrophe "oops" from

I think correct grammar would be more common if we used humour like this to teach.  I've decided that I will start using some of these fun websites to help my kids recognize what's correct and what's not in a light-hearted way.

Happy National Punctuation Day!


Giggly Girls said...

Bwaaa haa haa!!! I should send you all the books that Winter Promise published. You'd have a field day. I've been correcting them as I read and I think I'm going to send them back along with the instructor's guide. =o)

Loretta said...

Apparently, you and I think a lot alike. Well said.

Jennifer said...

I need to remember this post and use some of the fun ideas to teach, too. I also find it disappointing if I find simple grammatical errors in a novel. Feel free to e-mail me (privately to avoid further humiliation) if you see something that needs to be corrected on my blog. Really. :)

Laura Lane said...

I love this post! I could have written it.

I would add that I have problems with semi-colons.

The bear went to the grocery store; but, the clerk wouldn't allow him to enter.

No one uses the semi-colon anymore. I wonder why.

Laura Lane
Visiting from the Crew
I put this on facebook.

Catherine said...

I love this. Some days, reading facebook makes my eyes bleed. Some of my favorites - to and too, your and you're, their and they're, good instead of well, the apostrophes (soon it will be Christmas, and the greetings will be rolling in from the Smith's, the Allen's or the Greene's!)
I should note, I am constantly correcting myself, so I'm not a snob!

Mary said...

I love this. Thank you!

kympossible said...

Grammatical errors along with all the geography errors??? Sad, very sad. And amusing at the same time! ;-)

kympossible said...

Semi-colons can be very confusing. You don't see it used very often. Thanks for visiting!

kympossible said...

I don't think there's any excuse (other than typos) for getting some of those mixed up. To and too, your and you're, their and there and they're... people shouldn't be getting those wrong! Drives me crazy. LOL

I self-correct too. After this blog entry, I'm going to be mortified if I get something wrong in the next week or so!

Colleen said...

I loved the line and examples for: Proper punctuation saves lives.

Okay, so as an English major, I had to look and I did find one error:
"(Besides, I’m pretty sure my kids purposely use the wrong pronouns because they find the resulting twitch in my eyelid amusing)"
You forgot the period at the end of the sentence! LOL

Great article!

kympossible said...



Joelle said...

Nice post. So informative too. Thanks for sharing these resources. I love grammar, but I do make my share of mistakes (between typos and not being careful enough). No excuse, I agree!

Post a Comment

I love comments! It's like visiting over a virtual cup of coffee.