Monday, June 12, 2006

Confessions of a Nit-Picker

I'm sure most of us have certain things that drive us up the proverbial wall. One of mine is poor writing by those whose educational level should imply at least basic mastery of their native language in its written form.

Here is an incomplete list of common spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors that grate especially hard on my sensibilities:

1. "Someone and I" vs. "someone and me"
Using "I" or "me" depends on whether the phrase is the subject or the object of the verb. "She gave the cookies to Robert and I" is incorrect. "Robert and I" is the object. As such, the pronoun "I" is incorrect. The correct sentence is "She gave the cookies to Robert and me."

2. "There" vs. "Their"
A sentence illustrating the correct use of these identically-pronounced words is: "Their car is over there."

3. "It's" and "their's" vs. "its" and "theirs"
These possessive forms never take apostrophes. "Their's" is never correct. "It's" is correct only when making a contraction of "It is." A correct sentence might be, "The dog came when its master called, but the cats refused to obey theirs." (Cat owners recognize that this sentence is true as well as correct!)

4. Plurals formed with an apostrophe followed by an "s"
This is correct only in very limited cases, such as when making a plural of a number (such as "He gave me five 20's for my 100 dollar bill," or from an acronym (as in "He is one of the five ADA's in the District Attorney's office.") "He is one of my hero's" begs the question, "Your hero's what?" You avoid this error by learning and remembering the rules of plural spelling, such as adding an "es" to words ending in vowels other than "e."

5. "Where," "wear," "were," and "we're"
Proper use of these words is a matter of spelling them correctly and, in the case of "we're," understanding how to make a contraction of "we are." A sentence using all four words correctly is, "We're going to wear warmer clothes this year when we return to where we were skiing last year." (Yes, that is a poorly written sentence, but it is grammatically correct and all words are spelled correctly.)

6. Incomplete sentences
A complete sentence requires a subject and a verb (the subject is occasionally implied). "Stop!" is a complete sentence, since it implies "You" as the subject. Complete sentences also must not begin with a conjunction, such as "and" or "but." Thus, "Since he is out of school for the summer" is not a complete sentence; the word "since" points toward a previous phrase or a phrase to follow (such as "He has a lot more free time"). Such phrases together comprise the complete sentence and should be separated by a comma.
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If this is also one of your pet peeves, comment on!


Poor Mad Peter said...

As an adult literacy instructor, all I can say is, Amen!

SingingOwl said...

Amen and amen! AND WHAT IS WITH...oh, sorry for shouting ;-) what is with the current use of the word myself? What happened to the word "I" and the word "ME"???

Last week from a an educated preacher I heard, "Please just tell John or myself if you are attending." And yesterday, "Myself and John went to the church."

It is all I can do to refrain from shouting "The word is ME!" or whatever. This one, for some reason, really is unbearble. It seems to have begun a while back, ten years or so, but is getting worse by the day.

D. P. said...

LOL Singing Owl! When people misuse "myself" I always want to ask them something like, "Oh? And what did yourself thing about it?"

Psalmist said...

Oh yes, Singing Owl...that one gets misused a lot.

I can't help myself, D.P. I'm wondering when "thing" became a verb. heheheh But your response would be, as MasterCard says, "priceless."

Psalmist said...

Poor mad peter, I've enjoyed your comments and hope you'll continue to visit and comment here. Bless you for the work you do.

Sue said...

Amen and Amen!!

I have been seeing a lot of misuse of the word "then" in sentences where the user should say "than". An example: Being in the shade is cooler then being in the hot sun.