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Writers Should Know Better - Grammar Mistakes Most People Make!

Posted by hlinfield on July 11, 2013 at 2:00 PM


I’m not a grammar snob. (Not really.)


I don’t go around town to all the different store signs with a sharpie, adding apostrophes where needed and removing the ones that aren’t.


I don’t rant on Facebook about ‘their’ and ‘there’ or ‘its’ and ‘it’s.’


I don’t care if you start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’ and I’m all for sentence fragments. I think they can evoke a lot of emotion if used well.


I think the use of commas is often subjective and I’m all for throwing the semi-colon to the curb.


I don’t much care about WHO versus WHOM.


I don’t always use correct grammar when I speak. I’ve said ‘the n’other one’ before and I smile when people I know say ‘supposebly’ or ‘brang.’ (Even Neil Diamond uses brang in his song, Play Me, if you can believe it.)

 (He brang us some really great music.)

There are four extremely common grammatical mistakes, however, that are enough to make me put down a book. (If the book is a real page-turner, I’ll forgive and let it slide, but I will remember that mistake when I write the review.)


In well-edited books, these mistakes should not exist, though one or two may slip by even the most thorough of editors, and that is because they are so rampant in the way we speak. It seems many people, no matter their employment or education level, are making these annoying mistakes. I seek to put an end to these mistakes right now by drawing your attention to them.


1. LAY LAY LAY LAY LAY?????


Stop with the LAY!!


Please LIE DOWN!


I fear the battle has been lost on this one.


It’s LIE DOWN, not LAY DOWN.


You do not “LAY on the beach.” You LIE on the beach. The only times I’ll let this slide is: 1) You are a chicken. 2) You are using LAY as a synonym for FORNICATE. (Come on, wink wink, let’s go lay on the beach. No one will see us. You know you want to. Wink wink.)


I understand how confusing this is because the past tense of LIE is LAY. (In other words, today I lie on the beach but yesterday I lay on the beach and by the end of the summer hopefully I’ll have lain on the beach many times.)


Even more confusing is this: Yes, Bon Jovi wants to lay me down on a bed of roses, (of course he does…;) but he is using the transitive verb to lay, which can work if you tell your dog or child to “Lay yourself down” or “Lay your body down” but does not work without an OBJECT. (And it works better, i.e. not so old-fashioned sounding, with an object that is removed from yourself.)


To LAY is a much more active verb than to LIE, in my opinion. Lie down implies the final position (being in a lying position), while being LAID down implies the act of doing, of LYING, of the process, which is nice to contemplate with Jon Bon, as he lays me down slowly and tenderly on those roses. Note the object ME.


Note also that the past tense of LAY is LAID. Yesterday Bon Jovi LAID me down on a bed of roses. (Insert obvious joke using other meaning of ‘LAID.’;) And by the end of the summer he will have LAID me down on those roses many, many times.


The misuse of ‘lay’ is out of control in our society. I’ve heard people on the radio misuse ‘lay.’ I’ve heard some of the most well-educated people I know telling their dogs to ‘lay down.’


Yes, in the grand scheme of things the world probably has greater things to worry about, but I’m just putting it out there.


LIE DOWN.


2. THEN vs. THAN


Seriously? There are people out there who don’t realize that these two words are nothing alike?


THEN: used to measure passage of time

THAN: used in comparisons


This is just laziness in the way people speak. Many people don’t seem to have a very strong short ‘a’ sound when they speak, which means saying, “He’s better looking THAN you,” sometimes comes out sounding like “He’s better looking then you,” which when written obviously makes no sense, unless it’s something like: He’s better looking (than you). Then you should slit your wrists because you surely feel badly about yourself.


And there are just too many things wrong with that.


3. NAUSEOUS!!!???


Ah, all this talk of people feeling NAUSEOUS makes me NAUSEATED.


I’ll admit there is a bit of grey area on this one and even the Oxford English dictionary has changed its definition of nauseous to fit the popular usage. But I ask you, where did NAUSEATED go??


The definition of NAUSEOUS according to my 1992 Webster’s dictionary (and my mother, the strict, retired English teacher) is “loathsome, disgusting, producing nausea.” That means that all these people around us who say they’re NAUSEOUS are actually saying that their physical beings are so disgusting that we shouldn’t get too close to them, lest we find ourselves feeling NAUSEATED (from the verb, NAUSEATE: to loathe, to fill with disgust, to affect with nausea.)


Here are some examples of the proper usage of NAUSEOUS:


My husband’s feet, when he wears sneakers with no socks, are nauseous.

The vomit my child hurled all over his bedroom floor is nauseous.

The dead muskrat my dog rolled in was nauseous and now she, too, is nauseous.


My husband’s stinky feet, my child’s vomit, and my disgusting dog all make me feel NAUSEATED.

As I said, I think the battle over NAUSEOUS has been lost (and I’m on the losing end), but I don’t have to like it.


4. CONDITIONALS


“If my alarm would’ve gone off, I wouldn’t have been late.” (I’m assuming we all know it’s would HAVE and not would OF.) The issue here is the WOULD. One ‘would’ per sentence please.


In a conditional sentence, the WOULD does not belong to the IF clause, but to the other clause.


Some examples:

If I MET Bon Jovi, he WOULD lay me down in a bed of roses.

If I HAD some rose petals, I WOULD scatter them all over my bed.

If my alarm HAD gone off, I WOULDN’T have been late.

If I HAD won the lottery, I WOULD be rich.

If everybody USED proper grammar, grammar snobs like me WOULD have nothing to think about.

If I HAD a life, I WOULDN’T be worrying about conditionals.


I don’t know why these mistakes bother me the way they do. I don’t mind if people misuse the word ‘dilemma’ (which they do all the time). I don’t mind if people pepper their speeches with “and another thing too is” or “at the end of the day” or “it is what it is.” I’m not bothered when Joe Blow and ME go to the store instead of Joe Blow and I, and I’m not bothered when Joe Blow buys presents for Doofus and I instead of Doofus and ME.


But if I were able to have people LIE DOWN so I could explain to them why their bad grammar NAUSEATES me more THAN a dog rolling in dead skunk, THEN that WOULD be a good thing, in my opinion.

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