Grammar Nazi Rampage

Friend: Stop being such a grammar Nazi!
Me: Well, stop raping the English language!

Those of you who know me will be aware that I am extremely pedantic when it comes to correct spelling/grammar/word usage and so on. I’m not saying I’m perfect myself – I’m sure I make mistakes here and there – but I get so frustrated by people who don’t even try to speak/write with proper grammar.

I must admit that, if someone can barely string together a coherent sentence, I quickly lose the desire to converse with them. Is this judgemental? Most likely. Unfair? Perhaps. I can’t help it, it’s just how I am. However, I know that I’m not alone in this attitude. Many employers look for good written and verbal communication skills, so not being able to express yourself eloquently can put you at a serious disadvantage in the workforce (depending on what industry you are in, of course).

Disclaimer: I understand that things like Facebook are not formal means of communication, so I’m not expecting everyone on there to have the vocabulary of a university lecturer. People who correct every little typo on status updates or in online conversations etc. are almost as annoying as the people molesting the English language in the first place. But the problem is, most people who use poor grammar/spelling on Facebook do exactly the same thing in other places – including formal communication channels – and this is where it becomes a problem. (I’ve had this discussion with friends recently so I thought I’d include this point)

People who TyP lYk Di$ need to be hunted down and killed. Slowly. But I digress.

Anyway, in the hopes of reducing the amount of horrendously written prose I am faced with (and, in turn, the amount of head-desking I do out of sheer despair at said prose), I decided to throw together a post on commonly misused/mis-spelled words and punctuation. It is by no means a complete guide to grammar, but it does contain the issues I find to be most common (and annoying). As I stumble across more instances of our language being abused, I will add to this post, so if you have any other suggestions that you’d like to see included, feel free to comment πŸ™‚

Affect/Effect
‘Affect’ means ‘to influence.’ Eg. “The hot weather will affect the garden.”
‘Effect’ means ‘the result of’ or ‘to bring about.’ Eg. “Adding vinegar to the bi-carb soda had an explosive effect.”

A lot/Allot
‘A lot’ (note that it is two words) refers to a great quantity. Eg. “There are a lot of weeds in my garden.”
‘Allot’ is a verb meaning ‘to distribute between or among.’ Eg. “The General will allot a ration of supplies to each soldier.”
‘Alot’ is not a word.

Angel/angle
‘Angel’ refers to spiritual beings. Eg. “The angel fell from heaven.”
‘Angle’ refers to a cognitive standpoint or a geometric space within two lines diverging from a common point. Eg. “The hill slopes at a sharp angle.”

Bare/Bear
‘Bare’ means naked or exposed. Eg. “The wind was cold on his bare skin.”
‘Bear’ is a large furry mammal that typically lives in forests and mountainous regions. Eg. “The bear chased the hiker because it wanted to eat him.”

Been/Being
‘Been’ is the past tense of ‘be.’ Eg. “I have been ill.”
‘Being’ is the present tense of ‘be.’ Eg. “I am being silly.”

Bought/Brought
‘Bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy.’ Eg. “I bought a sonic screwdriver from eBay.”
‘Brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring.’ Eg. “I brought a book to uni so I could read it on the train.”

Brake/Break
‘Brake’ refers to stopping or at least slowing down. Eg. “When approaching traffic lights, you should brake your car.”
‘Break’ refers to ruining or destroying something. Eg. “If you drop a glass vase on the ground, it will probably break.”

Buy/By/Bye
‘Buy’ refers to the act of purchasing something. Eg. “I am going to buy a new toaster.”
‘By’ is most commonly a preposition and can identify an agent performing an action, or indicate how something may be achieved (among other meanings). Eg. “We can avoid gaining weight by consuming fewer fatty foods.”
‘Bye’ is generally a short form of “goodbye,” a phrase said when we or the person we are talking to is leaving. Eg. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.”

Coarse/course
‘Coarse’ refers to a rough texture. Eg. “The sandpaper had a coarse surface.”
‘Course’ refers to a systematised or prescribed series, or the path along which something moves. Eg. “I took a course on creative writing before going into IT.”

Current/currant
‘Current’ means ‘now’ or ‘at this time’, or refers to the flow of water. Eg. “The current temperature is 24 degrees.”
‘Currant’ is a raisin-y sort of dried fruit, made from grapes. Eg. “I ate a currant.”

Defiantly/Definately/Definatley
‘Defiantly’ means ‘with defiance.’ Eg. “He defiantly stared down his enemy.”
‘Definately/Definatley’ are not words. The word you are looking for is ‘Definitely,’ which refers to certainty. Eg. “It is definitely going to rain today.”
There is no ‘a’ in ‘definitely.’ The Oatmeal said it best: “If you put an A in ‘definitely,’ then you’re definitely an A-hole.”

Discussed/Disgust
‘Discussed’ is the past tense of ‘discuss’, meaning ‘spoke about.’ Eg. “The students discussed their assignment during their lunch break.”
‘Disgust’ refers to the feeling of horror or abhorrence towards something unpleasant. Eg. “She stared at the squashed spider in disgust.”

Drag/Drug
‘Drag’ is the verb referring to the act of pulling something along the ground, usually with some effort. Eg. “I will have to drag this old mattress over to the trailer.”
‘Drug’ refers to medications or narcotics. Eg. “There is a new drug on the market that will help reduce the risk of heart attack.” ‘Drug’ is not the past tense of ‘drag’; the word you are looking for is ‘dragged.’

DVDs/DVD’s
‘DVDs’ is the plural of ‘DVD.’ Eg. “There are three DVDs on the shelf.”
‘DVD’s’ is the possessive form of ‘DVD.’ Eg. “The DVD’s label is tattered.”

Have/of
‘Have’ means ‘to possess or own.’ Eg. “I have a dog.”
‘Of’ is a preposition indicating ‘distance, direction or separation from,’ ‘concerning’ or ‘the origin or source.’ Eg. “He is of the northern tribe.”
Saying “should of done something” is incorrect. It is “should have done something.”

Hear/Here
‘Hear’ refers to the sense we perform with our ears. Eg. “I can hear a jet flying over the house.”
‘Here’ refers to the present location or time. Eg. “The treasure should be buried here.”

He’s/His
‘He’s’ is a contraction of ‘he is.’ Eg. “He’s going to write a novel.”
‘His’ is a possessive form of ‘he/him.’ Eg. “The man dropped his wallet.”

Its/It’s
‘Its’ is the possessive form of ‘it.’ Eg. “The dog licked its paw.”
‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is.’ Eg. “It’s going to be a sunny day.”

Less/Fewer
‘Less’ refers to something that must be measured. Eg. “There is less water in the pond.”
‘Fewer’ refers to something that can be counted. Eg. “There are fewer people in the building.”

Lightening/Lightning
‘Lightening’ refers to something becoming or being made paler or lighter. Eg. “The sky was lightening as the sun slowly rose.”
‘Lightning’ is what happens during a thunderstorm. Eg. “Lightning flashed across the dark grey clouds.”

Loose/Lose
‘Loose’ is an adjective, describing a lack of tightness. Eg. “My shoelaces are loose.”
‘Lose’ is a verb, which can mean either to misplace something or to not win. Eg. “If I don’t train hard every day I will lose this race.”

Pacific/Specific‘Pacific’ refers to the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest ocean. Eg. “Trying to sail across the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of Coke cans is pure idiocy.”
‘Specific’ is used to refer to or define a particular thing or precise amount. Eg. “I must use a specific measurement of cocoa or my recipe will not turn out properly.”

Pail/Pale
‘Pail’ is another word for bucket. Eg. “I fetched a pail of water to pour on the garden.”
‘Pale’ refers to something that is light in shade or colour. Eg. “The girl’s face was pale because she was very sick.”

Passed/Past
‘Passed’ is the past tense of ‘to pass.’ Eg. “The car passed me as I walked along the road.”
‘Past’ refers to a time has already gone, or a place that has been passed. Eg. “Our town was small in the past, but now it has grown.”

Paw/Poor/Pore/Pour
‘Paw’ refers to the thing on the end of a dog’s leg. Eg. “The dog’s paw had a thorn in it.”
‘Poor’ refers to something that is not in good condition, or a person with no money. Eg. “The man was poor because he wasted all his money on gambling.”
‘Pore’ refers to either the small openings in the skin or to the act of studying something intently. Eg. “She decided to pore over her textbooks until her maths exam.”
‘Pour’ is a verb meaning to send fluid/fine particles etc flowing. Eg. “I will pour the water into the jar.”

Principal/Principle
‘Principal’ refers to the most important thing in a group, or to a person in a position of authority. Eg. “The school principal ordered that no students were to leave before 3pm.”
‘Principle’ refers to a fundamental fact or belief. Eg. “Defining how much content should be placed on one page of an educational program was based on the principle of cognitive load.”

Plain/Plane
‘Plain’ means ‘uninteresting’ or ‘unadorned.’ Eg. “The walls of the house were plain white.”
‘Plane’ is short for aeroplane. Eg. “My plane to England was delayed.”

Quiet/Quite
‘Quiet’ refers to silent or not making much noise. Eg. “The kittens were quiet because they were sleeping.”
‘Quite’ is an intensifier, often emphasising the meaning of descriptive words. Eg. “The grizzly bear was quite large.”

Read/Red
‘Read’ refers to the act of reading text. Eg. “I am going to read my favourite fantasy novel again.”
‘Red’ is a colour, sometimes called crimson or scarlet. Eg. “My Mum bought a red car because she thinks it will go faster.”

Sea/See
‘Sea’ refers to a large expanse of water. Eg. “As we sailed across the sea, we encountered a pirate ship.”
‘See’ refers to the sense we perform with our eyes. Eg. “I can see dark clouds on the horizon.”

Saw/Sore
‘Saw’ refers to a tool used for cutting wood or other tough substances. Eg. My Dad bought a new saw to cut the wood for a cupboard he was building.”
‘Sore’ refers to a feeling of pain, usually in a localised area. Eg. “My toe is sore because I dropped a tub of ice cream on it.”

Stationary/Stationery
‘Stationary’ refers to still or unmoving. Eg. “The car was stationary in its parking space.”
‘Stationery’ refers to office supplies such as pencils and notepads. Eg. “The manager ordered more stationery for his staff.”

Taut/Taught
‘Taut’ means ‘tight.’ Eg. “The rope went taut when the acrobat put all her weight on it.”
‘Taught’ is the past tense of ‘teach.’ Eg. “The teacher taught the students how to solve algebra problems.”

Than/Then
‘Than’ is used in comparative statements. Eg. “Cadbury chocolate tastes better than Nestles chocolate.”
‘Then’ is used to mark time or show a sequence of events. Eg. “I will finish my assignment, and then I will work on my novel.”

That/Which
‘That’ should be used when referring to one of multiple instances. Eg. “Bring me the pen that is on the desk.” (there are many pens, we want the one that is on the desk)
‘Which’ should be used to add more information about an object being referred to. Eg. “Bring me the pen, which is on the desk.” (there is only one pen, and it is on the desk)

There/Their/They’re
‘There’ is an adverb meaning ‘in that place’ or ‘in that respect.’ Eg. “She will go there as soon as she can.”
‘Their’ is the possessive form of ‘they.’ Eg. “Their house was burned down.”
‘They’re’ is a contraction of ‘they are.’ Eg. “They’re going to be late for school.”

Tire/tyre
‘Tire’ means ‘to reduce the strength of’ or ‘to make weary.’ Eg. “Running around the block three times will tire me out.”
‘Tyre’ refers to the rubber band fitted around the metal rim on the wheel of a car. Eg. “I ran over a nail and got a flat tyre.”
(ETA: ‘Tyre’ is specifically an Australian/UK spelling. In the US, ‘tire’ can refer to fatigue or to the car wheel.)

To/too/two
‘To’ is a preposition, generally expressing motion or direction towards something. Eg. “I am going to the supermarket.”
‘Too’ can mean ‘in addition’ or ‘to an excessive extent or degree.’ Eg. “This lemonade is too sour.”
‘Two’ is the written form of the number 2. Eg. “There are two cans of V left in my fridge.”

Visualize/color
These are the American spellings. In Australia (and the UK), we use ‘visualise’ and ‘colour.’

Waist/Waste
‘Waist’ refers to anatomy, more specifically the area between a person’s hips and their torso. Eg. “The dress was tight around my waist.”
‘Waste’ refers to the act of using something carelessly. Eg. “He had a lot of money, but decided to waste it all on gambling.”

Weather/Whether/Wether
‘Weather’ refers to the climate. Eg. “The weather has been warm and humid lately.”
‘Whether’ refers to conditions being met. Eg. “I will buy a new car whether I win the lottery or not.”
‘Wether’ refers to a castrated lamb. “The wether has been shorn.”

Wear/Were/We’re/Where
‘Wear’ refers to the act of donning clothing or accessories. Eg. “I am going to wear a purple coat.”
‘Were’ is the past form of ‘to be.’ Eg. “We were at school this morning.”
‘We’re’ is a contraction of ‘we are.’ Eg. “We’re going to see a movie.”
‘Where’ refers to a place. Eg. “Yesterday I went to the beach, where I got sunburnt.”

Whose/Who’s
‘Whose’ is a possessive form of ‘who.’ Eg. “The person whose lottery ticket matches the numbers drawn will be very happy.”
‘Who’s’ is a contraction of ‘who is.’ Eg. “Who’s going to go to the beach tomorrow?”

Your/You’re
‘Your’ is a possessive form of ‘you.’ Eg. “Your fly is undone.”
‘You’re’ is a contraction of ‘you are.’ Eg. “You’re not invited to my party.”

Yous/you’s/youse
None of these are proper words. Stop using them. Just stop. They make you sound like a bogan. The word/phrase you are looking for is ‘you’, ‘you guys’, ‘you lot’, ‘you three’ etc.

Remember: Every time you use bad grammar, a fairy dies.

9 Responses to Grammar Nazi Rampage

  1. Poetjanstie says:

    I have sent link to this page to my children and those of my friends, whom I feel I won’t offend. Great work, Rebecca!

  2. Sarah Langeveld says:

    John, how could this possibly offend? I almost flew into a rage when I scanned through it and caught “definately” in one of the headings…I thought, “this woman needs to be hunted down and killed. Slowly.” Then I realised how rash I was being.
    I am also hugely anal with punctuation, spelling and grammar and I find myself blighted by Microsoft Word trying to tell me my grammar is poor. I’m by no means perfect and seek to learn from your good self and others, like Rebecca. I will keep a close eye on this link, to ensure I take every opportunity to learn from the Masters. Thankfully, for now, nothing here is a surprise to me.
    By the way, I can recommend “Usage and Abusage; a guide to Good English”, published by Penguin. I use it more often than my dictionary.

  3. Great work Rebecca! I also find myself subconsciously correcting grammar and spelling as I read, but there are some words on your list such as ‘that’ and ‘which’, I found really helpful. Keep making the world a more grammatically correct place, one word at a time πŸ™‚

  4. PoetJanstie says:

    Nearly a year on, and again I am drawn to this article and how it reminds me about how pleasant it is to read prose, which has been constructed with good grammar and properly spelled words, chosen correctly according to their true English definitions. Thanks, Rebecca.

    I have two concerns to add. Although it seems common usage makes them acceptable I cannot, nor will not accept that an infinitive verb form can be split (e.g. to just make my point)! There is NEVER any circumstance where this is necessary, not even in poetry, where scansion sometimes calls for alternative word placement. So ‘just to make my point’, never split infinitives.

    My other point is ‘different from’ the split infinitive, as opposed to ‘different to’ these grammatical horrors! πŸ˜‰

  5. CP says:

    Tires are on cars too, in America. Tyres are never used in America, that’s a UK/Australian spelling.

    • That’s a good point. As I’m in Australia, I more often see it written as ‘tyres’. I also see a lot of people write that they are ‘tyred’ though, hence its inclusion in the post πŸ™‚

  6. Zap says:

    I agree totally. But the whole point for me is that language can be used for different purposes. I use Facebook too and have come to accept that, in that particular arena, there is an acceptance of shortened expressions that serve the purpose of immediacy as well as nuances that relate to specific social communities. However, I am worried that there is no similar arena for exploring the ‘artistry’ of our beautiful language, the poetry and expression that gifted writers use. Where is the ‘Facebook’ for poets?

  7. This is great! More awareness needs to be generated in relation to correct spelling and grammar especially in an online environment!
    Check out my blog http://writeyourwordsright.wordpress.com
    and remember #WriteyourwordsRight

  8. Mark Wood says:

    Thank you for helping to defend the English language or, at least, to clean the mud off of it.
    The Rules are not arbitrary traps for the unwary; they convey the structure of one’s thoughts, helping the reader to maintain the flow state and thus read more quickly and correctly, with less effort and deeper understanding. When one is convinced that the writer could write well, or could easily have learned to, but chooses otherwise, I think it quite proper to feel insulted.

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