Monday, March 21, 2011
Completely off topic: Some common grammatical mistakes that make my head hurt...
So I'm offering a few suggestions for those things that generally trip us up when it comes to spelling and grammar...
Its vs. it's - If you can break the word down into it is, it has, it was then it's the contraction and you want to write it's. If you want the possessive, as in "the dog enjoyed its bone" then you don't put the apostrophe in place. I know it's a bit confusing because the possessive generally has the apostrophe in place - Susan's purse, Raymond's gorgeous hair, 7 Sushi's awesome Las Vegas roll - but in this case, the apostrophe indicates the contraction (as we find in don't, won't, shouldn't, and so on). It takes a second to ask yourself if it's the contraction (it is, it has, it was) or the possessive (its bone) and you will make those of us who are grammar obsessed so grateful. If you're in doubt, then just write it is, it has, it was instead of the wrong its/it's!
You're vs. your - Again, think of the contraction. You're means you are or you were, whereas your is the possessive. If you are talking about someone's possession - your telephone, your great conditioner, your kettle has just boiled and is perfect for a cup of tea right about now - then we use your. If you're talking about someone being something like "you're so vain", "you're so pretty" or "you're so picky about language, Susan", then you want to use the contraction. So again, break it down and figure out if you want the contraction (you're) or the possessive (your).
Irregardless - This is not a word. Regardless means without regard. "Ir" is a suffix we use to indicate without. So irregardless means without without regard. I think this mistake comes from words like irrelevant (not relevant), so we add to to the front because it actually does sound like a proper word. But it isn't. Please stop using it!
Myself - This is used more in speech, but the word you're looking for is me or I. I used to think people who used this in conversation were pretentious, but I'm starting to think we see it because people aren't sure where to use me or I. ("George sold a dog to Raymond and myself." See how silly it looks!)
You use me if you aren't the subject of the sentence, if you aren't combined with a verb. "I don't know what he sees in me." (The verb - sees - goes with he, not me). Use I when you are the subject of the sentence, and when you are combined with the verb. "I went to the store the other day." (The verb - went - goes with I.) "Raymond and I drove to Granville Island yesterday and bought some awesome sausages." (The verb - drove - goes with Raymond and I.) "You and I have a lot in common." (The verb - have - goes with you and I.)
When people see these kind of typos on products or in write-ups on web sites, it might make them think twice about buying from you. I get so annoyed by poorly made signs and banners around my town ("Its the best deal in town!" - argh, I get frustrated even writing that sentence knowing it's wrong!) and I actually make a point of avoiding them as punishment. I know that might seem a little ridiculous, but when you're selling a product, you need to think about the image you're presenting, and poor spelling and grammar can undo a lot of what you are trying to accomplish.
Please note, I'm not holding myself up as the paragon of grammar and spelling, and I know I make mistakes all the time so please don't write to me to quote places where I might have made a typo so you can feel all superior to me, because this isn't written from a place of superiority. I'm not standing here saying I'm awesome and you're not. I'm trying to offer some genuine help for those of us who write blogs, tweets, or posts about our products, recipes, or businesses. I'm trying to offer a handy guide for remembering those things that we often mess up when writing. Although, if you see some typos, let me know!