Despite having a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, grammar and spelling are not my strengths. But, I know that to make a good impression it’s important I follow the correct language rules when I speak and write. Therefore, it is something I work on.
I’m not perfect. In fact, readers have pointed out errors I’ve made, which, while embarrassing, has taught me the proper spelling or grammar.
I usually make mistakes because I’m in a hurry or I’m typing on my phone. For some reason I make more mistakes when I write on my phone. Perhaps because it’s harder to see what I wrote, or the darn auto correct used the wrong word.
One of my newsletter subscribers asked me to write a blog post on incorrect pronoun use. She wrote that it seems more and more people are using the wrong pronouns and “it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard” to her. She’s not alone, I know people who have rejected job candidates because there were these and other language errors in their resumes or cover letters.
My newsletter reader shared some examples of incorrect pronoun usage such as, “him and me went to the store”, “he gave it to she and I”, etc.
So for my newsletter follower and others who have asked about this topic, let’s review some grammar and spelling basics.
For pronoun use it helps if you say the sentence out loud, and if you break it down into parts. Let’s look at “him and me went to the store.” If you say that out loud you can tell right away it sounds strange. The next step is to take it apart. Would you say “him” went to the store? No. “He” went to the store.” Would you say “me went to the store”? Nope, you’d say “I went to the store.” Now put it together. “He and I went to the store.” Those are the correct pronouns.
How about “he gave it to she and I”? What’s wrong with that one? If you break it apart, you would realize you would never say “he gave it to she.” Instead you’d say, “he gave it to her.” And would you write “he gave it to I”? No, “he gave it to me.” So the sentence should read “he gave it to me and her.” I put “me” before “her” because it reads better.
Another common grammar minefield is contractions. People often get the following contractions wrong.
Starting with it’s, which is a contraction of “it is”. Here’s an example of correct usage: “It’s going to be a beautiful day today.” Which means “It is going to be a beautiful day today.” Wrong usage: “The dog and it’s owner look a lot like each other.” If you didn’t contract the words “it is” the sentence would read “The dog and it is owner look a lot like each other.” That’s not right is it? “Its” (no apostrophe) indicates possession; therefore you would say “the dog and its owner look a lot like each other.”
Another common one is “you’re” vs. “your.” “You’re” is a contraction of the words “you are.” You would never say “you’re dog is cute” because that would mean “you are dog is cute.” But, you would say “your dog is cute” and I’m sure your friend would be pleased to hear that.
Here are a few of my spelling pet peeves and/or common conundrums:
Alot. Nope, it’s “a lot” just like it’s “a little” or “a bunch” not “alittle” or “abunch.”
Anyways. Drop that s, it’s anyway.
Effect vs. affect. This is one I always struggle with. I found a great grammar cartoon by The Oatmeal on this and many of the words I’ve mentioned. You can even buy a grammar cartoon poster to help you remember these rules.
Effect is usually a noun, whereas affect is usually a verb. To quote The Oatmeal, “As a child he was affected by his parents.” If you can replace the word “affected” with another verb then the usage is correct – “As a child he was bothered by his parents.” If the sentence doesn’t make sense by substituting a different verb then you would use the word “effect.” The effect of which will make you a more polished writer which will affect your well-being.
Irregardless. You can disregard this word because it doesn’t exist. It’s “regardless.”
Stationary vs. stationery. I was duly chastised by a newsletter reader for using the wrong spelling. I will never forget it now. The first word with an “a” means to stand in one place; whereas the second word with the “e” is what you use to write a thank you note to your favorite etiquette consultant for helping you to have good manners.
Nordstroms. No, no, no. There is no “s”. The store is named after the Nordstrom family, not the Nordstroms family.
We’ll stop there. I hope this was helpful. What are your grammar and spelling pet peeves or challenges?