Friday, August 21, 2009

Common Grammatical Mistakes

One of the things that really cheeses me off in writing is when a professional (or aspiring) writer doesn't seem to know the rules of grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Aside from annoying me, it is also one of the quickest ways to ensure your manuscript makes a fast leap from slushpile-hell into the recycle bin. So, being the helpful little sod that I am, here are a few of the most common mistakes that I see on a daily basis. And I work for a college, so that's a particularly bad and worrisome statement.
  • "It's" vs. "Its" - This rule has stumped people for a long time, and it's really quite simple. Unlike most of the rest of this silly convoluted language we call English, the apostrophe doesn't show possession. It only shows the contraction of "it is." For any other use, "its" is the appropriate word. Example: It's going to take a lot of work to bring its purpose to light."
  • "There" vs. "Their" vs. "They're" - Sure, they sound alike, but the three words have distinctly different meanings. "There" indicates a place. Example: It's neither here nor there. "Their" indicates ownership. Example: He took them back to their car, where he killed them. "They're" is the contraction of "they are." Example: They're not going to like it when they find out. So to put it all together: They're going over there to find their car.
  • "Here" vs. "Hear" - "Here" is a place. "Hear" is one of your senses. You "hear" someone breathing under the bed. You call your mother and ask her to "come here and see what's breathing under the bed."
  • "Damn" vs. "Damned" - If you see something written that reads "take your damn hands off her," it's wrong. Just plain wrong. "Damn" is a verb, plain and simple. To "damn" something is to condemn it to Hell. "Damned" is an adjective, or modifier if you will. Whatever you put that word in front of, you're telling the world that it can go to Hell for all you care. "Damn" can also be used as an expletive, by the way. So you can say "Damn, nature, you're scary!" or you can say "Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"
  • "I could/couldn't care less" - Too many times, people say "I could care less" about any particular subject. But read that sentence carefully. By saying you could care less, you imply that you do, in fact, care. The proper phrase is "I couldn't care less," because if you don't care, there's no lower level of caring for you to go to. Therefore, you really couldn't care less.
Hope this helps at least someone.

1 comment:

  1. The "its" versus "it's" always used to get me. There are times when it still does, as many rough drafts will attest. :)