Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ranting about Errors

I often worry that my writing about grammar comes across as a rant, but sometimes, only a rant seems appropriate. Thus, today's topic will cover errors I've commented on in the past.

Lose vs. Loose
In a recent publication produced by professional writers, I came across a subhead that read "Use It or Loose It." Please, people! How hard is it to remember that "loose" rhymes with "goose"? So let's lose this habit of confusing "lose" and "loose" please.

Possessives vs. Plurals
In a recent communication from a major university, the word "people's" was used when the writer obviously was talking about multiple individuals as opposed to people who were in possession of something. Misuse of apostrophes is so common these days that I've almost stopped cringing when I come across this type of error. Almost.

On the Predominance of "I"
I've written and ranted before about this burgeoning tendency of people to inappropriately use the word "I", but perhaps the most egregious example of this error was mentioned in a recent Q&A column from The Chicago Manual of Style. A reader had reported receiving a note in which the correspondent had written "Thank you for coming to John and I's wedding." For me, this usage trumps the old expression about fingernails on a chalkboard. If I were a violent person, I'd want to find the "I" who wrote that note and scream in "I's" face, "Does that usage actually sound correct to you? What would have been so bad about saying John's and my wedding?"

Okay, I'm calming down now. No need to run for cover. And I'm shutting up now. At least until the next time I'm inclined to rant. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I vs. Me: Don’t Overcorrect Yourself

I recently had the opportunity to present a program for a local writers’ group on “Grammar and Usage for the Modern Writer.” While my main point was that writers must be aware of the changes taking place in our language, I couldn’t resist discussing some of the changes that bother me the most. Many of the writers shared my feelings.

One of the misuses that grates on my nerves if the very common practice of speakers using the word “I” when they should say “me.” I hear television anchors and reporters, politicians, and many educated people making this mistake over and over.

For example, it is not uncommon to hear sentences such as “John invited Sharon and I to go to the movies with Marsha and he.” We’ve heard this type of usage so often, it’s almost beginning to sound better than the correct version: “John invited Sharon and me to go to the movies with Marsha and him.”

It’s easy enough to determine which sentence is correct if you stop and think about how you would word that sentence if you dropped the proper names. Would you say, “John invited I to go with he”? I suspect not.

Even some of my favorite best-selling authors have books in print with this type of error in them. Although I’ll continue to read those authors, I somehow have a bit less respect for them and for their editors.

After all, while it’s not always possible to stop and work out the correct wording before you speak, it certainly is possible to do so when you’ve written something down.

So if possible, think before you speak, and most certainly, proofread after you’ve written.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I hope "hopefully" isn't a problem for you.

Are you one of those purists who hates hearing someone use a sentence such as “Hopefully the rain has stopped.”


Good, because as changes in the English language go, this one appears here to stay.

Many of us have been corrected by someone at some point for saying “Hopefully he’ll be here soon” instead of “Let us hope he will be here soon."

The person doing the correcting probably pointed out that the word hopefully is an adverb and should only be used to mean in a hopeful manner, as in ”Are you leaving soon?“ she asked hopefully.

Fortunately, most grammarians now agree that hopefully has joined other introductory words such as fortunately, sadly, happily, frankly, words that we use to describe the statement that follows.

And frankly, my dear, I’m thrilled that we now accept hopefully to mean...well, hopefully.

Does that make sense?