English is confusing

English is confusing. Writing mistakes can distract from the message you or your kids want to communicate.

Unless I’m typing in my sleep, I’ll probably never confuse its with it’s or your with you’re. I’m pretty handy with a hyphen, and I’m confident that I’m not prone to apostrophe catastrophes.

But I’m the first to admit that I don’t know all the rules—and I have to look up an awful lot of them.

English is confusing.

Sometimes I second-guess myself. Is it “all together” or “altogether”? Should that be “lie” or “lay”? And at such times, I’m thankful for grammar resources that answer my questions or quell my doubts.

Today, I thought it would be fun to look at some common usage errors. You may identify yourself or your children as guilty of one or more of these. If so, it’s time to learn a few new rules!

Between you and I

For some reason, many people use I by default. I suppose they think it sounds more educated. But between you and me, is incorrect in this case.

Center around

Center around is a bad hybrid of center on and revolve around. Center around is never correct.

Dr. Duckwillow’s presentation will center on the preservation of sand flies.

Chock it up

We chalk it up to experience. Chock it up is just, well . . . wrong!

Would of (could of, should of)

When spoken, the contractions would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve sound like would of, could of, and should of. But the correct word is have, not of.

I should have planned better. If I would have worn my blue suede shoes, I could have disco danced.

Dyeing vs. dying

Bertrille was dyeing her shirt chartreuse, and Mavis was dying to see how it would turn out.

Excape

Hermione can’t escape the truth: There is no such word as excape.

Expresso

Whether you’re expressing yourself verbally or in writing, espresso is the correct way to spell the name of this strong coffee.

Mute point

A moot point is an irrelevant argument—not a silent one. Therefore, mute is not correct.

Why should we care?

Does anyone, at the end of the day, say to himself, “Hey! My toe didn’t hurt today!” As a rule, no. I certainly don’t give my big toe a second thought. But a few years ago, I really whacked it, and for days afterward, that throbbing toe clamored for my attention every time I bumped it.

Poor grammar and spelling have that same effect. Who reaches the last chapter of a novel exclaiming, “Wow! Not a single misplaced modifier in the entire book!”

Nobody.

That’s because good grammar and punctuation run quietly in the background, so no one really notices (nor should they) proper usage. On the other hand, errors like the ones above really do stand out like a sore thumb, er . . . toe.

Bottom line: Glaring mistakes in your speech and writing will distract from the message you want to communicate, and may even discredit you altogether, so if you’re not sure, look it up!

Photo: Life Mental Health, courtesy of Creative Commons
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6 comments ↓

#1 JoJo Tabares on 11.18.10 at 8:33 am

Amen!

#2 LeeAnn on 11.18.10 at 9:34 am

Love it! THANKS! I try really hard to think through these things when I’m writing. When are you going to give a little lesson in commas? They always stump me…

#3 Kim on 11.18.10 at 9:52 am

Commas, eh? I’ll put that on my list for you. :)

#4 Briana on 11.18.10 at 12:12 pm

This was good and fun to read. I need to have my high school aged sons read this!

#5 Kim on 11.18.10 at 12:48 pm

@Briana: Humor often makes things easier to swallow! Glad you stopped by, and I hope your boys enjoy it too.

#6 Janet on 11.19.10 at 5:40 pm

Excellent points! I appreciate your closing comments about the possibility of bad grammar discrediting one altogether. I think it probably happens more often than we realize.

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