Category Archives: Grammar

Butchering grammar 7: Funniest grammar links

After I pick on a few common grammar errors, I thought I would share a couple of funny links I have come across. That reminds me: the other day I heard someone say “acrosst,” and my brain nearly exploded. I hope my face did not betray my treacherous feelings.

I’m actually looking forward to school starting soon, because I’m guaranteed to have more fodder for grammar discussion as soon as the assignments start pouring in. (For you students or former students of mine, know that you are indeed my blog material. Thanks for the great typos!) All I can say to my students, and to you readers, is “You should’ve PROOFREAD!”

Speaking of which, one popular error is the mistaken identity that “should’ve” takes, as well as “could’ve” and “would’ve.” What do those words actually mean? They are short for “should have,” “could have,” and “would have.” The common error is to mistake the “have” for “of” and then say “could of,” as in “I could of said that right, but instead I chose wrong. I should of kept my mouth shut.”

Rookie grammar mistakes include bad signage, which I have talked about several times before. Again, proofreading would be really nice. Especially when you pay good money for a sign, as a business owner, and no one has carefully proofed the sign before it goes up. (Sign companies: hire me!)

One such mistake is the mixing up of the words then and than. Oh, they sound so similar, yet they have such different applications! The word “than” is used for comparative purposes. “I have fewer grammatical errors than he does.” “Then” is an adverb, an adjective, or a noun, depending on its use. It gets mistakenly misused in place of that comparative “than.” Often “then” is part of a sequence (“after this, then that”) and can be misused at that time. Just remember “than” is comparative.

One more beef: The word until, which often gets shortened. The word to which it gets shortened is ’til. You know, when some letters get removed and replaced by an apostrophe? In this case, those letters are “un.” Many writers will replace it with till, a word with a completely different meaning.

One of my critics likes to argue usage to defend misusage. This person will probably say this mistaken use of ’til has been so often used, that it has become acceptable. Indeed, I have a book on my bedside table by CS Lewis, Till We Have Faces, which might prove this critic correct. It still makes me cringe, Lewis or not. I would argue that several wrongs do not make a right in this case. Till is a totally different word!

Now for some very funny grammar mistakes, and the fun we can have with them.

This comic shows how someone can have a physical reaction to bad grammar. I often feel like this.

And here is a test I would like the internet to administer before allowing people to use it.

Keep those grammar peeves coming! I could of used more this week then the week before… (twitch).



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Butchering grammar 6: I don’t like grammar anyways

Some grammar errors make me cringe in a big way, like when I am in line at a store and hear someone say “I didn’t like them shoes.” I get furious at the teacher who let that one slide in her class, way back in third grade. But then again, maybe the teacher herself said it. That makes me think of the impact of a teacher.

Back in the 1930s, when families were leaving the hills of Arkansas and other states in droves, heading west to greener lands, my dad was a boy. Fresh from Arkansas with his parents and loads of siblings, he was a fourth-grade back-woods farmer boy in New Mexico. His teacher didn’t sound like his family at home, nor did she sound like the drawling New Mexico kids from all sorts of backgrounds.

“You talk different,” he drawled. She agreed. They struck up a friendship when he asked her to teach him how to speak better. She worked with him as much as she could, this boy who needed to be back on the farm pretty quickly.

And my dad became the first boy in his family to graduate from college–he even earned his Masters–and he never spoke like his Arkansas family again (not that he was ashamed; he just consciously spoke differently from then on). He left the farm, moved to Colorado, and eventually became a school administrator. That teacher had a lasting impact.

I am certain teachers are out there battling the poor grammar of their students, but I sure do get discouraged when I see signs with poor grammar or hear conversations in public with language not fit for public consumption. Where are the other grammar nazis out there? Am I alone in my obsession? Is the fight for good grammar over?

Anyway, this gets me to my next peeve: the word “anyways.” I hear it all the time in conversation, and I work hard to keep my right eyebrow from twitching. This week I found it in a nonfiction book, in an author’s narration. Really? It passed the editor and proofer! Let’s get it straight: “Anyways” is not a word. Never.

Here is a word around which other words are wrong: myriad. The word is not myriads. It’s singular. Nor does it get the preposition “of” alongside. Never say “Myriads of people” or “A myriad of people.” (Twitch.) Here’s the fact: Myriad means many. You will not hear people say “Many of people” or “Manies (eek!) of people.” The word does not get pluralized, nor does it get that preposition “of.” You would just say “Many people,” just as you would say “Myriad people.”

Have you encountered a teacher who has slammed you for your poor grammar, who has taught you the correct way to say something? Thank her! Chime in here: tell me what she taught you.


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Butchering grammar 5: Do you trust bad grammar or spelling?

That fake FaceBook post that caught so much attention recently only captured me for a second. Remember? It was the one telling us that the date for Marty McFly to zoom into the future in Back to the Future 2 had arrived. Turns out the date was wrong; that won’t happen for another three years in 2015.

What caught my attention wasn’t the bad date but the bad spelling. The word “arrives” was spelled wrong; it had only one “r.” Note to self: if I am going to try to pull off a hoax or spread an internet rumor, I should check my spelling and grammar first so I look more legitimate. Then again, if you are “brilliant” enough to want to waste your time on such a stunt, good spelling and grammar will not occur to you.

Sorry–did that sound judgmental?

Did you know that graGrammar saves livesmmar saves lives? This gem circulated FaceBook recently, and it makes me laugh every time I look at it. What a difference a comma makes!

If you want more of that, take a look at the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. (Did you notice that I didn’t put a comma before the book title? More on that later.) The author tackles ridiculous grammar with humor. The title is even part of a bad grammar story.

This reminds me of a couple more comma errors made all too often. I see these in my students at times, but I also see them in blogs and news articles.

When you use a conjunction (and, but, or, so, etc.), you don’t always need to use a comma. Only use a comma when what follows the conjunction is an independent clause. In other words, what follows the conjunction could stand alone as its own sentence. For example, “I had the pork chops, but she enjoyed the spaghetti.” The comma goes BEFORE the conjunction, not after. What followed the conjunction was a complete sentence (or independent clause).

Try this one: “I loved the pork chops but hated the green beans.” What follows the conjunction (“hated the green beans”) is not an independent clause; it could not stand by itself as a sentence. There is no comma after the conjunction.

One more comma problem. See the book title above: Eats, Shoots and Leaves? I’m not going to give away the story that goes with that title; you should find the book and read about it. However, someone put a comma after “eats” in order to introduce what comes after. That’s wrong punctuation. Let me give you another example. “Samuel went to the store to buy, milk, eggs, and cheese.” Why is this poor comma having to be somewhere he shouldn’t? A comma does not introduce a list. A colon does, but not here. Why? The list is integrated into the sentence. Use the colon when it can introduce the list. “Here’s what Samuel got at the store: milk, eggs, and cheese.”

A few paragraphs above here I did not put a comma before the book title. That’s because the comma does not introduce the book title. There is no reason for it.

Almost all of my examples involve food today. Sorry about that. Happy writing; happy eating!

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Butchering grammar 4: conquering the verbing slackers

You know what else bugs me? Improper use of the singular/plural agreement, and repetitively redundant repetitions.

First, let’s look at the poor slobs who cannot count. (Don’t worry; I did not call you a slob. I wasn’t looking at you.)  If you use a singular noun or pronoun, you should pair it with a singular verb. Plural noun gets a plural verb. Take the following sentence. Please. “There isn’t many calories in there.” Really, this is pretty clear, don’t you think? The word “calories” is plural, so the verb should be plural as well. “There aren’t many calories in there.”

Here’s another singular/plural problem. “There’s less pesticides in there.” This actually has a couple of serious flaws. Did you find them? First, the plural: “There are … pesticides.” Great. Fixed. Now, look at the word “less.” That word refers to size, not numbers. The word “fewer” refers to number. So we would say “There are FEWER pesticides.”

Digression (are you surprised that I digress? It’s my middle name): A Mercedes car commercial says “Less doors.” Fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Really? Your doors are smaller? Lesser? That should have said “Fewer doors.” Some guy got paid a few million dollars for that genius statement.

Now for the third error: unnecessarily repetitive. “There are fewer pesticides in there” may be grammatically correct, but it is too repetitive. Find another way to say “in there,” or just get rid of it altogether. You do not need two “there” in one sentence.

Here’s another example of redundant repetitiveness, unnecessarily duplicating thought over and over. “The reason why is because…” Don’t tell me why three times! My students use this one a lot when defending their ideas in class. Each term, “reason, why, because,” tells me why. Choose one of those words and restructure your reasoning. Say “The reason is…” or “I’ll tell you why” or “That is because…” Vary your wording to make it more readable, more enjoyable for your reader. And often your reader is judging you. Especially if your reader is me.

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Butchering grammar 3 for me

Several of my readers suggested some poor grammar that needs to be put out of its misery. Thanks for the contributions–send me more! I’d even accept photos of bad signage. Those are the most offensive, because in my (oh-so-humble) opinion these signs perpetuate more bad grammar. Their owners should be flogged.

Some readers talked about the offensive use of “I” versus “me.” (And, by the way, did you notice that the period just went inside the quotation marks? Unless you are British or Australian, you should do it my way–the right way. Refer to the MLA Handbook for Research Writers for the proper use of punctuation, an essential resource for your desk. Anyway, I digress, again.)

I’m not going to bore you with the terminology, the names and rules. Let’s just look at what works well. “Me and Angie are going to the store” is wrong on two counts. First, never put yourself first when talking about yourself. Why, you ask? This is not all about you. Put yourself last; it is more polite. Don’t hog the attention.

Secondly, you would not say, “Me is going to the store.” Well, I hope you wouldn’t say that. You would instead say, “I am going to the store.” Right? So then fix the whole thing: “Angie and I are going to the store.” Put yourself last and say “I am” to remind yourself of whether it is “I” or “me.”

Let’s look at another example of this. One reader used the following example: “My mother gave cookies to Sally and I.” Okay, you say, you just lectured me on the right use of I, and now you’re telling me this is wrong. I don’t get it.

Here’s what you need to get: Simplify this sentence and take Sally out of it. “My mother gave cookies to I.” Does that sound right? of course not! You would properly say, “My mother gave cookies to me.” So why don’t you say it correctly? “My mother gave cookies to Sally and me.” She gave them to me, right? Not I. (And did you notice? We put ourselves last and Sally first. Good for us; we’re polite.)

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Butchering grammar 2: a lot of apostrophe abuse

While I wanted to spend some time telling you how “alot” is not a word and was never meant to be a word, I have encountered a lot (!) of a certain kind of error that particularly bugs me–a lot–and I will have to forego telling you why “alot” is a horror and its use should be punishable by flogging.

I also wanted to talk about the abused pronoun. You know, when someone means well but says something shocking like, “That child finds themself in a lot of trouble…” It hurt just now to write that well-intended but shockingly illiterate-sounding sentence. But I digress. We’ll address that one later. A lot.

What I am bugged about is that poor, abused apostrophe. Goodness, have you noticed how the apostrophe has been misplaced, misused, forgotten, or over-used lately? I give you a few examples to ponder.

  • A sign near my house advertised puppy’s for sale. Hold on. Maybe the owner genuinely meant to say “My puppy’s for sale,” meaning his ONE puppy has got to go. But somehow I doubt it.
  • Just like the hand-painted sign above, I am even more disappointed with professionally-made signs that refer to items in the plural but use an apostrophe to make them plural: “All sandal’s on sale” or “Open Sunday’s.” When did adding apostrophe-s make something plural? I deal with this in my own students’ writing every year, and it makes me slightly crazy. That poor apostrophe–I feel a bit protective of him. He does not need to be used in this way! Give him a break!
  • The next one happens quite frequently in a group of friends or small group Bible studies. The email gets passed around: “Our study is at the Smith’s house.” In other words, the house of the Smiths. Pay attention to this one: if it is the house of the Smiths (plural, right?), then it should be at the Smiths’ house. See the difference?
  • One more misuse, and this should probably be an entire blog subject itself. The word “its” can either be used correctly or can suffer from misplaced apostrophe. When is that word to be used? “Its” means “belonging to it,” as in “the dog had its puppy’s.” (Just kidding–you know that rule already. Puppies.) “It’s” means “it is.” That little apostrophe takes the place of the “i” in “is.” The only thing to remember is the difference between “belonging to it” and “it is.” You can do that, right?

A lot.


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Butchering grammar, one fragment at a time

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need Grammar Police? If everyone just played nicely and spoke well, wouldn’t the world be just a little bit better?

I plan to point out to you some areas where grammar is poor and English usage could improve. This is an invitation to all of you. Contribute to my list! As if I could possibly run out!

The following wins today’s prize. Stand in line at a store—or just about anywhere you need to be waited on. An employee is freed up, and he or she calls out, “I can help who’s ever next!”

Hold on. You can do what? To whom? Who is ever going to be next? Or am I ever, always, next? I never feel ever next, anywhere I go. I wonder what that means for me. More to the point, will you help me if I am ever next?

The speaker, I believe, if I can interpret her meaning, is trying to say, “I can help whoever is next.” But halfway through the invitation, she butchers the language, mixing up the pronoun and misplacing the verb for a brief moment. I would like to spend time correcting her grammar, but I have waited in line for too long, and I am ever next.

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