Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grammar Lessons

I've been bandying about the idea of writing a grammar post and have decided to go with it, even at the risk of boring my few readers who are much too fabulous to ever make any of these mistakes. I just have to get it off my chest!

I'm doing this because the use of bad/incorrect grammar drives me up a tree. One of the admins at work sent out an e-mail last year that read "…taken for granite…" Needless to say, I almost lost my mind on that one. Whatever happened to admins being exceptional in their grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, so they can fix the boss' mistakes because they're much too busy? I can tell you for a fact that it's gone right out the hermetically closed windows at my work.

I'm going to start with the easy ones (and probably my biggest pet peeve):

Your = possession, i.e., your house, your car, your butt, your mother, etc.
You're = You are, as in "you're welcome."

Yup, it's not "your welcome." It's "you are welcome," hence, "you're welcome."

We used to get people at the ESPN racing chat back in 1995/96 who would come in and "Your stupid. Racing sucks." Yeah, they were obviously brain trusts. And we'd get them a lot. It reached the point that when they'd show up, everybody else would sit back and wait for my grammar lesson, it invariably got them to leave very quickly which flaming back at them never did.

A corollary to the first one:

Its vs. it's - Oy vey, people, this is NOT hard!

Its = possession, i.e., its methodology, its arms (be they robotic or monster), its proximity, etc.
It's = it is

There are no exceptions to this rule. Trust me on this one!!!

Another of my pet peeves (yes, I have many in this subject area) is the recent proliferation of the apostrophe to form a plural. IT IS NOT NECESSARY!!! In fact, it's downright WRONG!! I have no clue why this is happening, but it honestly has to stop before I have a heart attack. ;-) It's freaking everywhere. There's a bakery in Greektown that has one of those dry erase boards on which they write what fabulous items they're selling that day (it doesn't change much, actually) and one day they had listed "éclair's, napoleons, cake's, meringue's, etc. I went up to that board and before going in, rubbed out all extraneous apostrophes with my finger. I have no clue why "napoleons" was done correctly, but it was. I don't care if the word ends in a vowel, the apostrophe is used to show possession or in a contraction (i.e., can not = can't), not multiples of an item. It can also be used as a single quote, but you damn well better be using two, one at the beginning and one at the end of the quote.

Next on my list (and again I have no clue how this started) is using the word "good" when you mean fine or well. The correct response to the question "How are you?" is NOT "good." You are well or fine, perhaps, even unwell, but not GOOD!!! Unless, of course, you just donated $100 to your favorite charity, but in that case you are a good person. Good is an adjective (see previous usage of good with person). Well/fine are adverbs and you need an adverb to describe how you *ARE*. Adverbs describe verbs (which is a-whole-nother paragraph), adjectives describe nouns.

Another example of where "well" should be used instead of "good" is in basic sports talk – "We played well tonight." I heard Kris Draper of the Red Wings say that a few years ago and I almost wept with joy at the correct grammar. "We played good" just puts my teeth on edge.

This brings us to the next lesson in adverbial usage. I'm going to use another sports example, since they're so common. "We played defensive." ARGH!! NO!!! "We played defensively." Or if you must use defensive… "We played a defensive game." Again, defensively describes how "we" PLAYED. I don't know what the poor –ly did to people, but it has damn near disappeared from usage and it makes me sad.

Another example: I walked home quickly yesterday because the wind chill was going right through me. – Quickly describing how I WALKED, not me.

Which brings me to my last grammatical point, at least for today, the use of he vs. him, she vs. her, etc., particularly after a preposition.

The other day my niece said, "So-and-so gave it to Tom & I." The YS and I immediately gave her a grammar lesson.

You wouldn't say "So-and-so gave it to I" you would say "to me." Therefore, just because whoever so-and-so is gave it (whatever it is) to Tom and you, it does not change the grammar rule of using the objective (me) vs. subjective (I). "Grandma gave it to Tom and me." Or expanded: "Tom and I were at Grandma's today and she gave a plate of cookies to him and me." (or "to us.")

This is a very common mistake with the preposition "between." I think people think it sounds more classy or something, because this one really makes people argue.

Incorrect - "The problem is between Tom & I and we'll solve it ourselves."
Correct - "The problem is between Tom and me, and we'll solve it ourselves."

Or even more commonly, "Between you and I,…" should always be "Between you and me,…"

And don't try to argue with me that it sounds better, etc., the wrong way because it doesn't. You just think it does, because it's so prevalent that it sounds right. When you get used to the correct way, you, too, will cringe the next time an athlete says, "Me and Tom played good tonight." I trust I don't have to discuss the "me" as subject usage nor its placement. ;-)



At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Ben O. said...


I take acception to you're ussumption that every 1 of us has a problem with this problem.


Ben O.

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Jason said...

Thank's Kathleen! Thats' a well post. Lets' keep this between you and I, but their are a lot of hacks out they're. I hope that you are doing good.

Yours' truly,

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Kathleen said...

Ben O - I actually meant to include a caveat that I know that most of my readers would never make these mistakes. ;-)

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger fermicat said...

Kat - I predict a strong comment response to this one. A lot of us have grammar-related pet peeves. You mentioned a lot of mine in your post. I would add to the list "inappropriate" use of quotation marks (inappropriate use of QM in this sentence was done on purpose for comic effect, just so you know). Grammar errors are such a common irritant that they have spawned numerous blogs and websites devoted to each particular type. Incorrect usage is so common that people sometimes correct you when you have actually said something in the proper form.

It bothers me even more to see poor grammar in book or article that was supposedly proofread by an editor. If an error jumps out at me, it definitely should have been caught by a professional.

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I am ok on the Your and You're, BUT I know that I do too many of these: "..." and these: "ALL CAPS"


sooooooory. <--- another thing I'm bad for, hehehehe

ben and jason are nice and cheeky aren't they?

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Kathleen said...

Jason - You related to Ben??? ;-P

Fermi - I didn't even go near punctuation issues. But I'm sure I'll get a lot of people giving me crap that's for certain.

Claudia - Yes, my friends (even Internet ones) are a bunch of smart asses. Things like that don't bother me as it's a blogging style. I don't even mind completely made up words as I think those are fun. It's basic grammar that we all learned in freaking GRADE SCHOOl that bother me.

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Kathleen said...

Fermi - I've caught a number of mistakes in published works, as well. I've even gotten out the red pen to fix them.

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Anonymous younameit said...

A local auction house has a weekly advertisement in the local newspaper. The items up for auction are always listed. Used vehicles are occasionally listed too. Behind each vehicle's description is the phrase, "Runs good." My first impulse is to scream at the ceiling because it appears that no one at the newspaper, or none of their regular customers, have ever bothered to correct them after all these years. It could be that no one has the courage to correct them because they are a somewhat hostile and supposedly semi-criminal family.

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

It's as possessive drives me nuts. I'll often stop reading something someone wrote when they have that. That's my #1 grammatical/spelling pet peeve.

You know what it is? I'll tell you what it is. It's that damn self-esteem crap that they have in schools. You're not allowed to call anyone "stupid." I'll tell you what. When I was called stupid, I proved the person wrong. I loved doing it too.

The other thing is that in school, kids no longer compete for grades. I remember when I was a kid, we used to post the grades and the top kid not only got rewarded, but had bragging rights. It gave the rest of us incentive to try harder.

I remember in 2nd grade, Mark, a German kid, was #1 in math. No one was going to catch him. So the rest of us fought for the #2 position.

Competition is a good thing. It encourages people to try harder. Take competition out of school, and you have a bunch of people with high school degrees that write crap like "that dog wags it's tail."

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Oh, one more thing. Sportscasters are often guilty of saying crap like "he's throwing really good today." I wish I could jump through the television and smack him across the head, then correct his bad English.

So now, people are always telling me that "I throw good." Guess where they got that from?

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Dave said...

Though you are right about well and good, and maybe it's because I've lived in the South for a time now, but I don't like the answer to my question to be "I'm well, thank you." Much better is "I'm good, you?"

At Friday, 30 November, 2007, Blogger Sal said...

I realize that most of my errors are the result of pure laziness. I just hate proofing my own work. BTW, I agree with Claudia; I loves me my ellipses.

At Sunday, 02 December, 2007, Blogger dr sardonicus said...

Watch it with that ruler, teacher!

The internets and IM are creating a revolution in communication, which extends to written language. Language continues to change and grow. 500 years from now, our written language to the people living then will look the way Elizabethan English does to us. The main thing is that the people communicating understand each other.

Written language seems to be a dying art, but I think people are becoming more sophisticated in other forms of communication to make up for it.

At Sunday, 02 December, 2007, Blogger LL said...

I sometimes have to read something that someone writes three times because something just doesn't look right. Then it hits me that a phrase like "your just to smart" is whats giving me the hangup. So then I have to go back and reread the thing trying to get what the person is trying to say rather than what they actually typed.

That's the problem I have with the communication aspect. In the spoken word, it actually depends upon the circumstances of the conversation. In a formal conversation, I use proper English, when slummin' it's a little more wide open.

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Anonymous yelayna said...

I love you.

I once broke up with someone because I felt they just weren't trying with your and you're, to and too, they're, their and there. I explained repeatedly, in the hope it was just a poor education, but as it turned out to be plain laziness about something I care terribly about it was the beginning of the end as far as I was concerned. My typing may be all over the show, but at least I know how to use an apostrophe.

And a semi colon. Why are they going out of fashion?!!

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Blogger Kathleen said...

younameit - You should stop reading the ads in your local newspaper.

ZS - I have to agree with you. My niece had written a paper for school a few years back (so either 8th or 9th grade) and the teacher had NOT corrected any of her grammatical mistakes because that wasn't the objective, or some such bullshit excuse.

Dave - It's still wrong. And it only sounds right because so many people have started saying it. I use "fine," generally, not well.

Sal - Laziness doesn't bug me nearly as much as I'm a tad lazy, myself. ;-)

Dr. - I've heard that before, the thing about as long as you're understood who cares, but I'm not a fan of that mindset. Proper grammar isn't hard and I use it even in text messaging. I abbreviate darn near nothing. I've gotten text messages where I didn't have a freaking clue what the person was trying to say.

LL - Exactly, time, place and audience!

Yelayna - ;-) I forgot to mention the to/too/two & their/there/they're issue, but yes, that too makes me crazy. A semi-colon?? Are you kidding, they have trouble using a comma!

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Blogger fermicat said...

Seen spraypainted in neon orange on the street in front of our stadium the morning before a football game against Clemson:


I laughed and laughed. Obviously the work of a grammar-impaired fan. So of course we (in the band) yelled that at each other during the entire game. "Y'all sux!". "No, Y'ALL sux!." ...

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Anonymous GoingLoopy said...

Oh dear God, I hate the "your" vs. "you're" mistake. I also hate "lose" vs. "loose," (for example, "your a looser"). Poor spelling also makes me cry, especially in the age of spell check. They even have AUTO spell check, for fuck's sake, where it underlines in red when you've spelled something wrong. (An aside - at my former job, many, many curse words were in the Outlook dictionary, whereas at my present job, they are not. I think it's because our IT person here gets very cranky about using business e-mail for personal things, whereas at the old job, the IT guys were too busy surfing the net for porn to care.)

PS - I am also rather fond of my ellipses and the occasional use of capital letters for emphasis. However, I don't like random capitalization (something of which lawyers tend to be fond.)

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Blogger Heather said...

I hate that people can't figure out the difference between your and you're. Drives me nuts! And leaving out the 2nd 'o' in too...I see that way too many times! Maybe it's a typo, maybe not.

Great post!! :)

At Monday, 03 December, 2007, Blogger fermicat said...

Just read a comment on a message board that said "... [so and so] has a pension for doing the unexpected..."

I hope some of these errors are simply typos. Lord knows I've made enough of those, especially when posting while drinking.

At Tuesday, 04 December, 2007, Blogger Beth said...

I'm scared to write anything and have it be wrong. I also love correct grammar, but if someone asks me, "How you doing?" (typical NY greeting) ... I say, "Good." I do give to charity, I do work for charity, so, damn it, I AM good!

Seriously, this was hilarious --

taken for granite

Sounds like Fred and Barney having a conversation in the quarry.

At Tuesday, 04 December, 2007, Anonymous Suzy said...

I totally agree w/you on these. Other pet peeves for me include "I could care less" instead of "I couldn't care less" and "I feel badly about that" instead of I feel bad about that". Not to mention "I need to loose weight"...I could go on forever!!!

At Tuesday, 04 December, 2007, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Kathleen - Maybe the teacher can't. I remember being that age and correcting the grammar and spelling in my teacher's assignments. Needless to say, I wasn't everyone's favorite student.

At Friday, 07 December, 2007, Blogger Kathleen said...

Loopy - I can't believe I forgot "lose" vs. "loose." That one makes me nuts, as well!!!

Fermi - LOL over "pension." That's stinking hilarious. I've had to stop reading comments at various newspaper because the grammar/spelling mistakes were making me nuts. ;-)

Beth - I don't remember ever seeing you making a mistake. I will allow regional colloquialisms, like "How ya doin'?" but never ever the "good" response. ;-)

Suzy - I understand your pet peeves, although in people's defense of "I feel badly about that..." at least someone is trying to use an adverb!!! Even if it's totally wrong, because in that sentence you're describing yourself.

ZombieSlayer - I would hope not!!! ;-)

At Tuesday, 11 December, 2007, Blogger Scott said...

Great post, Kat!

I really need to buckle down and learn all the rules of grammar. I have a natural sense of it, but I make some common mistakes, which I don't mind to have pointed out.

I guess Eddie Rabbit should be a little embarassed, huh?

At Friday, 28 December, 2007, Anonymous Paul said...

Sorry to tell you this. It's "I'm good" or "I'm doing well." See the Grammer Girl at

At Tuesday, 27 May, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment on "well" (below) is not correct. Do some more research.

Next on my list (and again I have no clue how this started) is using the word "good" when you mean fine or well. The correct response to the question "How are you?" is NOT "good." You are well or fine, perhaps, even unwell, but not GOOD!!!


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