Their are two types of people in the world: those who are irritated by the first word in this sentence and those who didn’t notice the mistake.
I’m the first type of person. In fact, purposefully typing the wrong word was the most difficult thing I’ve done today. However, if there’s one thing I love more than great grammar, it’s a perfect intro.
I realize that not everyone will have the same passion for grammar. It takes all kinds to run the world. If you’re the type of person who didn’t even notice the glaring error in the opening paragraph, you are probably really tired of people like me correcting your Facebook statuses.
On behalf of all grammar nerds, I sincerely apologize. We don’t mean to be so mean; we just love grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Furthermore, we know you don’t mean to use the wrong spelling all the time; you have other, more important things to worry about.
So I propose a compromise. If you and a friend fall on different sides of the grammar spectrum, show them this compromise. Perhaps we can make this world a happier place.
Grammar nerds of the world will stop correcting every little detail if everyone else agrees to obey these seven rules:
1. There/They’re/Their, Too/To/Two, Your/You’re, etc.
I am lumping these together because they’re all so similar. These are also some of the most common mistakes made on the Internet. I hesitate to even call this a grammar problem, because that’s not what it is. It’s a simple matter of using the right word.
The word “literally” is supposed to be used to describe things that actually, truly, really happened in the literal sense of the word. The very best times this word is used is to say that this story sounds like a metaphor, but it really happened.
If you were finishing up a story about how you ended up on a canoe in a sewer without any way to propel yourself forward, it would be awesome to say, “I was literally up crap creek without a paddle.”
Please, please don’t use “literally” before using a metaphor. Unless you had some physical force acting against you, “I literally could not even get out of bed this morning,” is not correct.
3. It’s vs. Its
This one didn’t get lumped in with the first rule because it’s much more confusing. I don’t blame anyone for getting this one wrong. After all, we are taught that ‘s is possessive and that it is used in contractions. ‘It’ just has to go and complicate the rules.
“It’s” stands for “it is.” Example: It’s hot outside!
“Its” is possessive. Example: The cat flicked its tail.
As usual, there’s a trick to remembering this grammar rule. “Its” is possessive because it wants the “s” to be close to “it.” I hope that helps.
4. Less vs. Fewer
Believe it or not, “less” and “fewer” are not interchangeable. Don’t worry; this common mistake is even made by my favorite store from time to time. So what’s the difference?
“Less” is used to talk about something you cannot count. “Fewer” is used to talk about things you can count. For example, you could say that a high efficiency washing machine uses less water. You could also say that it uses fewer gallons of water. This is because a gallon is a measurable unit, but water isn’t.
So, the sign pictured above should say, “10 items or fewer,” because an item is something you can count. However, you could say, “I can use the express line because I have less stuff.” Stuff isn’t a unit of measurement.
5. Make the Verb Match
Mismatched verbs have become rampant since social media’s rise. Verbs are complicated and there are whole books written about their usage. This is the most common problem:
Incorrect: I seen it!
Correct: I have seen it!
Correct: I saw it!
If everyone could just get that one right, Facebook would be a better place.
6. Me and I
When people use “I” where they should say “me,” or vice versa, it’s typically because someone else is involved in the sentence too. Most people know that “Suzie hit me,” is the correct way to say that sentence. However, a lot of people might say, “Suzie hit Sally and I.” This would be incorrect.
There are many tricks to remembering whether to use “I” or “me,” but the one in the picture above might be the simplest.
If you are taking action in the sentence, use “I.”
Correct: I washed the dishes.
Correct: Sally and I washed the dishes.
Incorrect: Me and Sally washed the dishes.
If something is being done to you in the sentence, use “me.”
Correct: The water spilled on me.
Correct: The water spilled on Sally and me.
Incorrect: The water spilled on Sally and I.
7. Just Try
Nobody is perfect. Heck, I make grammar mistakes sometimes and I write for a living. To make matters more complicated, grammar is sometimes subjective. (Don’t get me started on why Oxford commas are awesome.)
However, grammar-loving friends will greatly appreciate it if you just give good grammar a shot. It doesn’t have to be great all the time; just give it a chance.
After all, we are all trying to use this language to communicate ideas. Sometimes those ideas are mind-blowing. Sometimes, they are rather silly. No matter what idea you’re trying to convey, it’s better communicated with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
So, everyone, can we e-shake on this? I’m not asking for world peace, just a little agreement.