English can be a confusing language. Letters combine to make sounds that are sometimes indistinguishable from other combinations of letters. Of course, the tendency to not enunciate does not make matters any clearer. And let’s not forget to blame texting and the Internet, where grammar and spelling are barely even afterthoughts. One of the errors I am seeing lately is the use of the word “of” when what is meant is the contracted form of “have”. Example: “I could of eaten that whole pizza by myself.” As written, this sentence makes no sense, even though it sounds like the correct “I could’ve eaten that whole pizza by myself.” The “could’ve” means “could have”, as in, “I could have eaten that whole pizza by myself.” It bothers me when I make mistakes in my writing. Mistakes make us look unprofessional. And even though it probably should not affect me so profoundly, I … Keep reading!
In a previous post, we talked about homophones, words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. That discussion would be incomplete without talking about homographs (from the Greek homo-, meaning “same”, and graph, meaning “writing”), words that share the same spelling, have different meanings, and may or may not have different pronunciations. To add to the confusion, there is also the term homonym, which refers to words that are spelled or pronounced the same but have different meanings; homonym can be broadly applied and incorporate both homophones and homographs, as demonstrated by the diagram to the right. The diagram shows one example of a homograph pair. “Lead” (pronounced LEE-d) means “to show the way”, whereas “Lead” (pronounced Led) refers to a heavy metal. Here are some more examples: The PLAIN (ordinary looking) girl lived out on the PLAIN (flat country) in Kansas. The FAIR (attractive) woman offered a … Keep reading!
I’m sure you’ve seen the memes floating around the ol’ Interwebs that are pro-Oxford Comma. In case you have been living under a rock, here is one example: There has been much debate over the Ox, and it has become increasingly acceptable to simply drop it from writing, especially in informal settings. I personally prefer to include it as I feel it adds a degree of clarity. As the title of this post implies, there is another use of the OC that is highlighted online. Look at these two statements and see if you can determine the different meanings: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” “Let’s eat Grandma!” Did you catch it? In the first statement, by including the Oxford Comma, you are asking your grandma to join you for a meal. In the second, you are calling your family to feast upon Grandma herself. Without the little curvy thing, you’ve turned a … Keep reading!
Ah, the comma. A delightful piece of punctuation that gives us pause…literally. Of course, that is not its only function, yet you would not know it by the way it is abused or not even used at all. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when placing this delightful piece of punctuation in your writing. 1. Commas separate the elements in a series If I wrote, “I went to the store and bought bananas potatoes cream cheese milk and pasta,” it would not make a lot of sense. Instead, I should have written, “I went to the store and bought bananas, potatoes, cream cheese, milk, and pasta.” The commas distinguish between the individual items, which could have otherwise been marked by putting “and” between each item in the list. Note, I placed a comma after milk; this is an Oxford comma, something I will talk about next week. … Keep reading!
Nothing aggravates me more than reading something and finding improperly used words. It is especially frustrating when a word is close and at the same time so far off the mark. Here are a few examples and accompanying sentences to demonstrate proper usage. Loose vs. Lose “If your pants are too LOOSE, you might LOSE them.” Waste vs. Waist “He didn’t like to WASTE food, which is why his WAIST grew so big.” Than vs. Then “If you would rather have pizza THAN spaghetti, THEN you had better tell your mother before she starts making dinner.” Complement vs. Compliment “That shirt really COMPLEMENTs your eyes,” Jane told Bill. “Thanks for the COMPLIMENT,” Bill said. Knight vs. Night “The black KNIGHT is scared of the dark, so he stays home at NIGHT.” Desert vs. Dessert “He stumbled out of the DESERT to a restaurant and immediately ordered a chocolate DESSERT.” Peace … Keep reading!
You’ve probably seen the posts floating around Facebook courtesy of Grammarly.com. You know, the ones that demonstrate common spelling, grammar, and other usage errors? I have to say, seeing the English language so thoroughly abused in my feed is frustrating and a little depressing. I am particularly saddened to see fellow writers repeatedly committing these mistakes; I find it more difficult to take them seriously as authors. For the most part, I will take the time to write complete sentences with correct usages in my Facebook posts and even my text messages. Maybe it’s just me feeling like I am filling a small role in fighting the decline of language, maybe I’m just a little OCD. Whatever the case, I want to offer some quick guidelines to help you in your writing over the next several weeks. Topics to be covered in this new series: Apostrophes Commonly mispelled misspelled words … Keep reading!