A couple weeks ago, I texted my mom with an insanely complicated question about appropriate use of commas. She wasn’t totally sure of the answer (it’s one of those weird grammar “rules” that I really think comes down to stylistic choice than a straight right/wrong ruling). That part of the text conversation ended when I said “I wish I was still in college because then I could go find a professor or a group of English majors and we’d have an awesome little debate for an hour over this.” Then I told her about little Prince George looking for William in the china cabinet.
It’s sad but true: a part of me lives for not just knowing basic grammar rules, but for delving deeper into the more arcane and esoteric bits of grammar and debating with other people just as crazy. I loved the part of my linguistics class where we talked about how grammar and punctuation develops in language. No joke. And then in my big-girl internship I got into a heated argument with a co-worker about using proper grammar and punctuation in emails. His argument: “As long as people get what I’m saying, who cares?” Me: “Because without grammar and punctuation people might not understand what you’re saying.” THAT’S WHAT THOSE RULES ARE FOR.
And I’ll get this out of the way–I know my posts here aren’t always perfect. I have a good number of typos and I don’t always take the extra step to proofread before publishing. Sorry. It’s on my list of “Things I Need to Get Better At” (obviously I have no compunction against ending sentences with a preposition).
Side note: I love the word “compunction” because once, in said linguistics class, my friends and I were talking during a break about what we’d do after class or something, and one girl said “I have no compunction.” Another girl immediately leaned forward, eyes wide, and said “Compunction? Is that a word? What does it mean?” And we all proceeded to die laughing. Anyway.
So yes, I am one of those insufferable “Grammar Nazis” who gets irritated at typos on menus and websites and sighs/rolls her eyes at common grammatical errors. And after reading one too many “80’s,” “my interest was peaked,” and “my friend and I’s,” I had to say something.
Please consider this an official Ponytail Diaries Grammar Intervention.
Misuse of Apostrophes
Remember learning grammar and spelling and stuff in school and your teacher used to say, “There’s an exception to every rule”?
Well, I am 99.999% sure this is one rule with NO exceptions:
Apostrophes are NEVER EVER EVER used to make anything plural. NEVER EVER.
“I have too many book’s!” “Both cars’ are in the shop.” “Who still owns CD’s?”
Look, in a nutshell, apostrophes are used with contractions (can’t, won’t) or possessives (my dog’s leash). There are other random uses for them, but making something plural is absolutely never one of them.
Also, you don’t need to use them when saying decades: 80s, 90s, 00s, not 80’s, 90’s, 00’s. Really. I JUST SAVED YOU A KEYSTROKE. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Fewer vs. Less
This is a random one. It’s one of those weird word pairs that gets used interchangeably and, admittedly, using the wrong one really doesn’t keep anyone from understand what you mean. But because I geek out of this, you will now know that:
Fewer refers to a countable quantity; less refers to something that can’t be counted.
I remember it by thinking “I have less water, but fewer cups of water.” (You can’t really count “water,” but you can count “cups of water.”)
This from the girl who still mixes up lie and lay…
Piqued, Peeked, Peaked
This is like the opposite of reading something and going your whole adult life not really knowing how to pronounce it. When someone says something and your ears perk up and you’re like “Ooh! That sounds interesting! I want to know more!”…your interest is piqued. Not peeked, not peaked.
Double Spaces After Sentences
I don’t see this on blogs or online much, really. But we all know this, right? Double-spacing after sentences is archaic and goes back to when people used typewriters and the only font available was a monospaced or fixed width font (like Courier), and adding an extra space after a sentence made it easier to read the printed text. It’s no longer necessary. So just stop.
He and I and Me
“He cooked dinner for my friend and I.” “I wanted to give you an update on my husband and I’s travel plans.”
Oh God. This one might be the worst. It actually grates on me, like the cliche nails on a chalkboard. I’m fairly certain it comes from little kids saying stuff like “My brother and me went to store,” and getting corrected to “My brother and I went to the store,” and then those kids think whenever they talk about themselves and another person they should always say I, not me.
But remember when your parents and teachers explained that rule to you by saying “You’d never say ‘me went to the store,'”? Well, you’d never say “He cooked dinner for I,” either. At least I hope not. So apply the same rule: remove “my friend” or “my husband” or “my dog” or whatever from the sentence. Would you say me or I?
And if you want to say “I’s,” say “my.” Or just say “our” and make everything simpler.
I hope this didn’t come off too pedantic. I feel really strongly about language. Sorry.