The Grammar Police

My degree in English literature may not have netted me big bucks, but it has paid off. These days, better known as the Age of Texting, grammar is suffering. Many folks now make their mistakes public on Facebook and Twitter, but—armed with my fancy diploma—I manage to avoid the following nine issues, all of which annoy me enough to blog about them.

Lay vs. Lie

You lay a book down, but you lie down in bed. It’s like the difference between set and sit. You set your keys down, but you sit at a table. I blame “Now I lay me down to sleep” for screwing up even professors on this one. By the way, once you’ve laid the book down, it’s then lying on the bed.

You’re vs. Your

This seems simple enough, and yet here I am trying to explain it. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” whereas “your” indicates something attributed to you. If you graduated from grade school, you’re smart enough to know your teachers should’ve gone over this rule a few more times with some kids.

Me vs. I

Lots of intelligent people mess this up. Bob gave the book to me. Clearly, it’s not, “Bob gave the book to I.” Somehow, when another person is added, folks forget this rule. Chris gave the book to Kim and me. No way would this be correct: “Chris gave the book to Kim and I.” If you simply remove the other person, you’ll soon re-discover that “I do something,” whereas “something is done to me.”

Who vs. Whom

This one is often hard to grasp. “Who” is a lot like “I,” while “whom” operates much like “me.” Take this sentence: Jim hurt Frank. Jim is the one who did the hurting. And whom did he hurt? That would be Frank. It’s not, “Who should I call?” but “Whom should I call?” because the person on the other line receives the act of your calling.

Commas and Periods Inside Quotation Marks

In Britain, all punctuation marks go outside the quotes. But early American printers were worried that commas and periods would be lost somehow if they ended up outside the closed quotes. So, in America, this sentence should read: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool.” Most people, though, write: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool”. To confuse things further, colons and semicolons always go outside quote marks, wherever you live.

Its vs. It’s

The crowd is on its feet is correct because “its” is attributed to the crowd. “It’s,” however, is the shortened version of “it is.” It’s a beautiful day, you’d write to a friend. This problem resembles the “you’re vs. your” issue discussed in part one. In both cases, the words sound alike, but the grammar rule demonstrates the difference between the two.

Than vs. Then

“Than” is used in comparisons, such as, Mike is taller than Joe. I’ve seen people mix this up with “then,” which is used to indicate a current condition or some point in the future. If you’re too short, then you can’t ride the rollercoaster. Mary will see Sally then. Again, because of their similar sound, these words tend to confuse some writers.

There/Their/They’re and To/Too/Two

This one aggravates me. Here’s another example of words that sound alike but mean something different. “There” is a location, “their” shows that a group (they) own something, and “they’re” is the contracted form of “they are.” Why folks don’t know that “to” is a preposition, “too” is an adverb, and “two” is a number, is beyond me.

Should’ve, Not “Should Of”

Oh my, this one’s amazing. “Should’ve” stands for “should have.” The rather unfortunate “should of” exists in error only. It’s another example of sound confusing sense. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve let these language issues go, but the English major in me couldn’t keep his good grammar snobbery to himself.

3 thoughts on “The Grammar Police

  1. Kathy May 10, 2011 / 5:25 am

    1.) I only know lay vs. lie because you and Chuck Sr. instilled that in me. Otherwise I would be misusing it.
    2.) I definately know that “you’re” is a contraction and I even know when and how to use it. I get lazy sometimes and “you are welcome” comes out as your welcome instead of you’re welcome.
    3.) Me vs. I is another one that has been beaten into me and I actually get it. Chuck and me went to the store. NOT! Chuck and I went to the store. I would not say Me went to the store.
    4.) Who vs. Whom. Forget about it. I wouldn’t know when to use whom if it hit me in the face!
    5.) Commas and periods with quotation marks I get. I often over use the poor little comma in general though. Sue’s philosophy is “when in doubt leave it out.”
    6.) Its vs It’s. I think spell/grammer check adds or removes the apostrophe on me. Not my fault!
    7.) Than vs. Then. I know that than is a comparison but sometimes I screw this one up.
    8.) There/Their/They’re and To/Too/Two. I get these. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure these out.
    9.) Should’ve, not Should of. Oopsies! I will admit that I screw this one up on occasion.

    There are two other words that tend to bite me. Affect and Effect.

    Thanks for the lesson.


  2. Sonji May 23, 2011 / 12:52 pm

    Thanks Chuck for the post. I know I can be a better speaker by your lessons.
    You are a great grammarian. Keep them coming.


  3. Tom Trebswether May 25, 2011 / 11:04 am

    I am not perfect in all of the uses of the above words but I try. I am going to sound old but I hate all of the abbreviations that people use when texting. This is causing people to forget how to use our language properly. English is a difficult enough language without all of the silly texting abbreviations.


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