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Grammar school

A phone conversation I had earlier:

*Phone rings*

Me: Hello?

Sister: Hey. I have a grammar question.

Me: Seriously?

Sister: Yes.

Me (thinking, oh good lord): Okay…

So, this wasn’t the first time my sister and I had this conversation. I guess since she’s all numbers (statistics major and math minor) and I’m all words (journalism major) it makes sense.

As a writer, grammar is pretty big for me. I’ve corrected many other people’s grammar, have gotten into discussions about it with old editors and debates over it with old managers.

So I figured it was time for a grammar lesson.

Lesson one: You and I vs. Me and you

I’ve had this conversation multiple times with an old manager from the Gap. The easiest way to think about it is if you take out the other person, will the sentence still make sense? For example:

Tavis and I work today.

Tavis and I work today.

The sentence still works. Here’s another example:

It’s just me and Tavis working today.

It’s just me and Tavis working today.

Here are some examples that don’t work:

Me and Tavis work today.

Me and Tavis work today.

It’s just Tavis and I working today.

It’ just Tavis and I working today.

See, it’s pretty easy.

Lesson two: Lay vs. Lie

This is something I have problems with so I decided to consult Grammar Girl. Here’s what some things she has to say:

If you exclude the meaning “to tell an untruth” and just focus on the setting/reclining meaning of lay and lie, then the important distinction is that lay requires a direct object and lie does not. So you lie down on the sofa (no direct object), but you lay the book down on the table (the book is the direct object).

This is in the present tense, where you are talking about doing something now: you lie down on the sofa, and you lay down a book.

…But then everything goes all haywire, because lay is the past tense of lie. It’s a total nightmare! I tried and tried to come up with a mnemonic for this, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I’ve made a table that you can print out from the website and tape up over your desk or in your notebook, because you just have to memorize this or look it up every time.

Here’s the table:

If only it were that easy to remember.

If only it were that easy to remember.

For the rest of the rule, click here.

Lesson three: Couldn’t care less vs. Could care less

I don’t know if this is necessarily grammar but it’s still a pet peeve of mine. The correct use of the phrase is the first one: Couldn’t care less. Just think about it this way, if it’s something you don’t care about and you say you could care less, then you care about it at least a little bit. But if you say you couldn’t care less, that means you’re at the end of care continuum.

Here’s a chart I found from this website:

So where does your caring fall?

Where does your caring fall?

Lesson four: It’s vs. Its

One means “it is” and the other is a possessive. It drives me crazy when people write and forget the apostrophe or add one in. Here’s the difference:

It’s: The dog came inside because it’s so cold outside.

Its: The dog chased its tail.

Well, those are all the lessons I’ve got for now but I’m sure there will be more.

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3 comments on “Grammar school

  1. Wahaha Janson tried to correct MY grammar the other day. I can’t remember what I said, but it was a “___ and me” statement, and he tried to correct me. But I knew I was right, so I corrected him instead. “No, you’re wrong. Take out the other person and it doesn’t make sense your way.”

    I love being a grammar nazi, even though I know I’m not *always* right. Just mostly. >:]

  2. I love the caring continuum. It makes prefect sense!! Reminds me off that episode of Friends. Supposedly vs. Supposbly. Hahaha!
    And also, thanks for the tutorial. I always get its and it’s mixed up.

  3. […] a writer, I’ve made it no secret that bad grammar is a major pet peeve of mine and have no qualms about correcting people on their […]

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