Monday, May 10, 2010

10 on the 10th: grammar notes

I've been thinking about writing a post on grammar for awhile, and got a big kick out of the fact that Mer (the 10 on the 10th hostess herself!) posted about her grammar pet peeves a couple of weeks ago! As a former English major and teacher, I've always had an eye for proofreading. This does not, however, mean I never make mistakes! I don't claim to be an expert on this subject, and one of my "fears" in writing this post is that now my blunders will be even more noticeable. (And heaven forbid, there may even be errors in this post!) Regardless of all that, I thought it would be fun--and hopefully somewhat educational--to post 10 "grammar notes" today:

1. When addressing an envelope, please do not use an apostrophe between the person's last name and an "s." Instead of "the Baker's," it should read "the Bakers." I see this mistake all the time on mail I receive, and it always bothers me!

2. People seem to think it is most proper to say "I" instead of "me" when paired with another person. The way I remember correct usage is this: take out the other person's name and determine which personal pronoun is most appropriate. "Alex and I" went to the store; the chocolates were given to "Marcy and me."

3. When referring to multiple extended family members, you should always make the most important part of the phrase plural. Instead of saying "my sister-in-laws," you should say "my sisters-in-law."

4. This is a helpful explanation regarding split infinitives. I can't explain them very well myself, probably because this is an area where I often show blatant disregard for traditional grammar rules. (italics=case in point!)

5. After working in a public relations office that used AP style, I quickly adopted a new approach to capital letters. Traditionally, most job titles and college majors/school subjects are capitalized. However, in AP style, you would write, "Eric majored in math and now works as a financial advisor." I know it's hard for some people to make that switch, but it seems much more streamlined to me.

I should note that some of you have probably noticed I take certain "creative liberties" in my writing. For example, I often write my name with a lowercase "c," and I also make up words like "misc.-y" and "snuggly." Call me fickle, I guess, though of course I use these only in non-professional settings.

6. Don't even get me started on they're/there/their or then/than!

7. I remember reading a version of this list in school--it's an astute and humorous way to remember certain grammar rules.

8. One area of grammar in which I feel less confident than others: quotation marks. I'm often unsure of using them properly next to other punctuation, as in #5 above. On a lighthearted note, this hilarious blog is devoted to their constant misuse.

9. I often read paragraphs that are totally peppered with exclamation points!!!!! I find it very distracting. The point, if you will, of said punctuation is to set a statement apart. It's a matter of personal preference, I suppose, but I rarely compose two exclamatory sentences back-to-back.

10. Ive racked my brain and I can't not come up with any other grammer things that bug me, if you want to read more fun lists; click hear.


Kelly said...

I always enjoy your 10th on the 10th posts. Thanks for your info on #1. I think I usually address envelopes according to the mood I'm in, since I never knew what was correct. How would you address an envelope to a family who's name already ends in "s"? For example, if I were to mail something to my friend C Sumners and address it to her family, would I write Sumners'?

Kendra said...

Guilty as charged on #9. I try, but can't seems to get rid of them often enough. I need to keep working on this!!!!!! ;)

kelseylynae said...

Thank you. :-)

Number 6 is a big one. The website was perfect and I printed a copy that I will be sure to use in the future.

Often when I write on my blog I don't adhere to all the "rules," and often I don't have time to proofread. Months later I may read a post and I am mortified that I wrote "your" instead of "you're" or something of the like! [And yes, that called for an exclamation point]

I have a sign in my classroom I think fits in well with your post: "Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."

erin said...

The quotation blog completely cracked me up, thanks for posting the link! Maybe you can answer a question for me - it stems from your #1, how do you pluralize Cox? Coxs - not correct, Cox's - not correct, Coxes (correct according to spelling rules, but it's a last name, so you shouldn't need to change the spelling, right?), so I usually end up writing 'The Cox Family'. Maybe that's why I don't send Christmas cards! Hee-Hee!

Katie said...

Very fun, Carrie! (Love your hidden mistakes!)

I am guilty on #8 very much on my blog. I use quotes to emphasize things that probably have no justification for having quotes around them. I also probably misuse italics quite a bit. Hmmmm....better go check my post this morning...hee hee

I'm always receptive to re-learning proper grammar and also have a few pet peeves...but can't say I don't participate in several myself! (Like...should I just have said "myself" at the end of that sentence...or put quotes around it?? I have no clue!) :-)

I just wanted to add one thing that truly bothers me to no end on this subject of grammar....texting!! Ug! I cannot get a text with all those misspelled words without cringing a few dozen times! I know it is the new language of this generation, but it drives me bonkers!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

LOVE it, Carrie!

I make mistakes too, but there are some basic things that I don't tolerate well.

Two quick things:
1. I saw a commercial last night (for a local community college that was just a MESS. It said something like "my mother and me went and checked it out." I can't remember the second sentence that had me dumbfounded, but suffice it to say it was BAD!

2. John was proofing something for my friend the other day and he (mr. editor) told me that the punctuation goes INSIDE the quotation marks. I think it looks weird that way, but he said it was correct.

Thanks for joining in on this month's 10 on the 10th!

O Mom said...

I am totally printing this out and using it for future references. And please feel free to leave any 'fixes' for me on any of my posts, I would not be offended at all.
Like is it ok to start a sentence with And?

Melissa said...

Great post!

The they're/their/there, then/than and you're/your drive me absolutely CRAIZY!!!!! ;-)

Lisa said...

#1 drives me CRAZY when I get letters written in that manner!!!!

Molly said...

I had to laugh at this post. I am a teacher and have my grammar pet peeves, too. At the same time, I am known for taking "creative liberties," as well. :) Don't forget "real" and "really." We saw those blunders a lot as we looked for Mother's Day e-cards and it was even driving my 4th grader crazy. :)

Mrs. Claus said...

Sometimes it feels like we are sinking in quicksand on this subject. There just don't seem to be 'nuff intrest in gramma no more.


*carrie* said...

Kelly and Erin,

If a last name ends in s, you do add "es" to the name, as in Coxes and Sumnerses. I agree--it doesn't look or sound that great, but it is the rule. I generally avoid this the way Erin mentioned: by saying "the Cox family."

If the case is possessive, you add both "es" and an apostrophe. "We are going to the Coxes' house for dinner."

Kelly, I also feel compelled to point out that it should be "whose" name in that usage, as "who's" is a contraction for "who is." Love ya!

lemonadegal said...

Haha - so funny that you corrected the grammer in a comment. :)

Thank you for #2. My hubby and I just had a long conversation about this rule. It is my absolute pet peeve. People just don't know how to use pronouns correctly. A girl at the school always says, "Turn that paper into Mrs. Smith or myself." AUGH!!

Oh, and I learned that the punctuation always goes to the left of the quotation marks. Don't know if that applies any longer, but that's how I learned it.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I have major issues with the improper usage of quotation marks. To emphasize a word or meaning, italicize! To put something in quotations typically means you don't really mean that. For example, I often see things such as: We made a "special" dinner last night. Although the writer is typically trying to convey that the dinner was fabulous, what it's really saying with those quotation marks is that it actually was not special. Kind of an ironic thing, I guess. The word special in that sentence stands on its own meaning without needing to be emphasized in any way.

I guess I'm saying that I really don't understand why people feel as if they need to put things in quotes.

Oh, and your list of peeves is pretty much mine, too, although split infinitives don't typically bother me much. ;-) I'll admit that I don't always proof my own blog as well as I should. It's easy to overlook things in one's own writing.

Oh, and we have a last name that ends in s. Drives me nuts when people refer to us in writing as the Xxxxs's or the Xxxxs'. Worst thing is a Christmas ornament someone gave us with our last name in singular possessive form. I really hate hanging that thing on the tree.

Tracy said...

Aaah! Number 1! Now I know what to do...I hesitate every time and usually write Mr. and Mrs. instead! And if you saw me talking you would see that these exclamation points really need to be 3 in a row. ; ) I'm talking with my hands in a loud voice very expressively.

Jamie said...

I had to share the quotation blog with my husband - he is a grammar snob as I like to lovingly call him. :-)

Kendra said...

Did I miss the great "you're/your" diatribe? Because don't get me started on that one. UGH!!!!!!! ;-)

whimzie said...

I know that I make more than my fair share of grammatical errors and I take liberties in blog posts that I wouldn't in formal writing, but I LOVE this post and all my fellow grammar nerd commenters!

What a fun post! (I probably used the exclamation point too many times in this comment, but I truly am excited!)

thehomespunheart said...

I'm probably guilty of all of them - but most of all, the exclamation point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love you,

Melissa said...

What is the rule for then/than? I think that one cofuses me the most.

Mary Ann said...

Loved it!

Facebook and texting shortcuts make me cringe, as do sentences that begin with lowercase letters.

Our last name ends with 'as' so I'm always confused with how to go about it. I've seen it all and nothing looks right. However, I'm good as long as someone doesn't add an extra 's' on the end. :-)I prefer The XXXXX Family or Mr. and Mrs. XXXXX so I use those the most when addressing mail to others in the same boat.

*carrie* said...


"Than" is used for comparisons; "then" is used for expressions of time. Here are a couple examples of each word:

My dog is bigger than your dog. I would rather order pizza than pasta.

Take off your shoes, and then please put them by the door. I don't know if the play is going to start then.

Hope that helps!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Since someone brought up the word than, that reminds me of another peeve. Things are different from other things, not different than. What really gets me is that I'm starting to see that in my newspaper, which means the editors either aren't catching it or no longer know. And if they don't now, that scares me!

erin said...

I just found an adorable children's book today called 'Dear Deer' about homophones that you would love (I found it at a Scholastic book sale). It was hilarious!

Mom said...

Dear Carrie,

Ah, grammar! Something I deal with daily and so often find lacking in so many places. I share your peeves.

Have you ever heard of the book "Woe is I?" (I can't italicize in these comments!) Barbara has it in her desk drawer, and we often check it when coming across a grammar question we are unsure about.

Great post! Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

# 10 Grammar is spelled ar not er...just saying! Thanks for the info.