- Books, Literature, and Writing
Use the Right Word - Grammar Errors and Usage
Correct Word Usage Is Important
I do a lot of online writing. I’ve also come across many, many articles that are otherwise well-written, but drive me slightly crazy with those tiny little grammar errors.
Well, we’ll leave my own mental stability aside when I address the most common words below that people often choose incorrectly.
I won’t bother either with explaining parts of speech – would you like an adverb with that? Besides, when’s the last time you thought about personal pronouns and intransitive verbs?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a language geek. But I “get” that not everyone appreciates linguaphiles in the way that I do.
So, I’ll just share some linguistical humor…while showing the correct word to use.
Use the Elements of Style - The Ultimate Grammar Source
A lot vs. A lot
When you talk to our British friends, have you ever noticed that they use the word "lot" in various situations?
The whole lot of them had too much ale. It wasn’t the ginger variety, either.
I went to the store and bought the whole lot of purple wigs to prepare for Halloween.
Those sentences wouldn’t work if we substituted in the smashed-together word “a lot”:
The whole a lot of them had too much ale.
I went to the store and bought the whole a lot of purple wigs.
Now you know: lot is a word by itself. You buy a lot for a house, but you can’t buy “a lot” for a house because there is no such thing.
Affect vs. effect
Before I talk about these words, I must ask: Do you have an object of your affection?
When we shower loved ones with our affections, we’re trying to “influence” them with our love, are we not?
To “affect” something is to do the same thing: influence it.
I adversely affected the flavor of the soup by adding 7 cloves of garlic to it. Only later did I realize the recipe said to add 2 cloves. The object of my affection wouldn’t go near me for days.
When you use the word “effect” you’re talking about the result or consequence of something. Think of the phrase cause and effect.
The effects of the love potion were wearing off. The object of his affection realized she was in love with a frog.
The side-effects said nothing about frogs! Hopefully the potion didn’t affect her judgment too badly.
A little grammar humor...
How is your brain holding up on this grammar lesson?
Lose v. loose
When you "lose" something, you misplace it. In that moment, you don’t know where it is and it could be gone forever…or just temporarily. It’s pronounced “lewz.”
I regularly lose my mind. I often remember to look for it under the bed.
The word "loose" means that something isn’t tightly sealed or able to move freely. It also rhymes with goose.
When I’m looking for my mind, I often wonder how loose my screws are.
Be careful of losing your mind! You wouldn’t want to misplace it forever and ever.
Breath vs. breathe
The word ”breath” is pronounced “breth” and rhymes with get. It is the air that comes out of your mouth and nose. It’s also what smells so bad in the mornings.
I can hold my breath underwater for four minutes. I don’t think I've suffered too much brain damage doing that...but I have forgotten what I'm talking about.
The word “breathe” is pronounced “breeth” (the “th” is soft at the end, like in the word “the”)and rhymes with breeze. “Breathing” is the act of taking in or blowing out air.
When I breathe in and out really fast, I see stars. Sometimes I fall over after breathing rapidly for a few minutes.
Thus, when you’re talking about huffing and puffing, you’re breathing big, deep breaths. Now go blow the house in. (Yes, I did just end that sentence with a preposition.)
Fewer vs. less
You use the word “fewer” when comparing things that you can count.
I counted fewer sheep last night than the night before: 457 vs. 992.
The word “less” is used more for things that you’d have trouble counting:
I put less beans in the crock pot for the chili. The house will smell better if everyone eats fewer bowls of beans.
Remember, it’s entirely possible to have too many beans. Less is better in that regard – if you value pleasant aromas, that is.
Healthful vs. healthy
Do you say "healthy food" or "healthful food"?
Well, if we give way to the times, people say “healthy food” far more often than not.
Once upon a time, though, you might have implied that the food itself is somehow live and possessing health - that somehow it enjoyed its own wellness.
“Healthful” would be something that contributed to better health – once upon a time.
Give me the cake and nobody gets hurt. You’ll find it far more healthful to obey my commands; you’ll live long and healthy lives if you just feed me cake.
These days, people seem to want to have their “healthy cake” and eat it, too. I can understand that, as long as I can call carrot cake healthful. (Which, of course, it’s not, but let’s just pretend it is…healthful, you know, for my mental health.)
Stationary vs. stationery
If you’re "stationary", you’re in one spot. You can think of the military, too, when you get "stationed" somewhere.
I’ve been stationary in this chair for so long, I’ve become like a tree and grown roots, and the branches creak and crack when I try to stand up.
Growing roots, huh? You might want to get one of those little pedometer things and start counting steps. You’ll grow less roots that way.
If you are into "stationery," you probably spend a lot of time at the card shop.
Mark was such a card. He enjoyed the role so well, he founded his own stationery company. Down the halls he’d go and everyone would shout, “Hall Mark!”
What? Haven’t you been called a card before? You need to infuse a little more humor into your life!
Your vs. You’re
The word “your” refers to an object or something that belongs to someone you might be talking to or addressing.
“Your trousers are dragging. They're going to fall off."
If you smash the two words “you” and “are” together, you get “you’re.” It’s like an equation: you+are = you’re. Whenever you would use those two words in a sentence, feel free to do some letter-smashing.
"You're underestimating the possibility of your pants falling off if you continue to wear them so low. I'm just trying to be helpful, I promise."
“There” refers to location.
Look up there! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s…a flying squirrel!
“Their” refers to an object or thing that belongs to more than one person.
Oh yes. The people on the thirteenth floor always let their flying squirrels loose this time of day.
“They’re” refers to the two smashed-together words, they and are. They + are = they’re.
They’re quite strange. They also have flying bats, cats and mice. I think one is named Mighty Mouse. Someone said they had a cat named Skippyjon Jones, too.
Indeed, there are three different reasons to use these words, but they’re only going to confuse you if you don’t remember these wacky sentences.
Three spellings for one sound? Sure.
If you value beautiful things, then they’re a "sight" for the eyes to see. Sight and eyes sort of rhyme, and they go together because they’re related – a little bit like second cousins or something like that.
What a sight indeed when I saw a talking rabbit and a strange man start to sing about their very merry un-birthday.
When you “cite” someone or something, you quote them (think: “citation”) or you’ve just issued a summons.
The officer cited her for running amok and harassing a caterpillar.
A “site” is a location, most notably on the internet.
Alice in Wonderland’s site is tough to navigate. It’s like going through a maze and these mysterious cats keep popping up.
Who’s vs. Whose
These two words sound just alike, but they can make your writing less confusing by using the correct one.
“Whose” is used to show that a person owns an object or thing, or that it’s in their possession; it’s usually in the form of a question.
Whose smelly shoes are those? They’re so smelly there’s green smoke emanating from them!
Interestingly, no one claimed ownership of those shoes.
The English language has this funny way of smashing words together. The word “who’s” is no exception. Who + is = who’s.
Who’s the one who won the lottery? Surely it wasn’t me!
No, it wasn’t me. Or the 3,998, 124 other people who bought a ticket.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun