Sarah Sheard's Thoughts and Theories

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pet peeve: Grammatical mistakes

1) It’s does not mean belonging to it. You have to spell that apostrophe. It’s is always only a contraction. If you don’t mean “it is” or “it has” (It’s been a bad day, for example), then leave out the apostrophe. (note, you do use the apostrophe for belonging to anyone except “it”. Susie’s, the house’s, Nebraska’s. Only It gets dissed by not getting an apostrophe.)

2) S. In English, plurals take an s, not an apostrophe and s. Do not write Corn Dog’s 99 cents. The plural is Corn Dogs. Do not write apostrophe’s. The word is apostrophes.

Some grammarians think abbreviations and numbers should have an apostrophe like the 1990’s but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the 1990s, and it gives people no excuse for the Corn Dog’s fiasco. (Single letters such as don't forget your p's and q's do take an apostrophe most of the time.)

3) Effect and affect. Both are both a noun and a verb, and mean different things. But the ones that mean basically the same thing are the noun effect and the verb affect:

The policy affected many people. Its effects are still being studied.

(the other use of effect, as a verb, means to make happen. The other use of affect, as a noun, means facial expressions. The last is the rarest use, mostly in psychology. Antidepressant drugs effected the desired change in her affect. But if these confuse you, don’t use them. Better to say, Antidepressant drugs caused the desired changes in her appearance and mood if it will keep you clear on the policy affecting people and causing effects to ripple outward.)

4) Your and you’re. You are being lazy if you use your when you mean you are. Your means belonging to you. You’re is the contraction of you are. And don’t you ever write “ur” for either of them when you’re doing anything other than text messaging!

5) Loose and lose. Trust me, you don't want "loose". Loose is what the dog gets. It's not what you do to your keys. You lose your keys. (Technically you can loose the evil demons, but please, we have enough evil demons loose without adding more. Stick to the one "o" in a verb. Use two o's only for the adjective.)

A most excellent book is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. This is the only grammar book that ever has made, or probably ever will make, the bestseller list.


  • How did I miss this post? I dunno! I'll vote for the "lose" vs "loose" pet peeve. ARGGGHHHHH.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 PM  

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