Monthly Archives: November 2008

Six Screwy Scenarios; sequel to Five Flubs

6.   Anyway or anyways?

Any way you look at it, the word to use is anyway. NO S.

5.   Toward or towards?

Same as above. NO S (at least in the U.S.) Brits say towards, Americans use toward. I wish knew why.

4.   Principal or principle

My fifth-grade teacher told me:

Use principal when referring to a person: remember the school principal is your pal. (A trick to help you remember something is known as a mnemonic device… pronounced nee-mon-ick.)

Also use  principal when referring to something that is primary or most important: The principal purpose of this blog is to vent about grammar.

Follow this principle and you can’t go wrong.

3.   Who versus that

Who is for people; that is for things.

I have a friend that ate my pizza.


I have a friend who ate my pizza.

My friend had a dog that ate my pizza.

2.   Who or whom; who’s or whose?

Basically, who relates to he (or she or they) and whom relates to him (or her/them). Think of the “m” in whom and him.

Who asked for pepperoni on the pizza? He asked for pepperoni. (Him asked for pepperoni? Ugh.)

Whom did you invite over for pizza? I invited him. (I invited he? No way!)

Who’s and whose may sound the same, but they are two very different words:

Who’s is really who is. Who’s eating my pizza? (Who is eating?)

Whose shows possession: Whose piece of pizza is this? (It is hers.)

To be sure, try this: Who’s pizza is this? (Who is pizza is this? Nah.)

(If you really want to challenge yourself, listen to the old Abbott and Costello routine: Who’s on First?)

1.   Is it alot or a lot?

Would you say, I would like alittle pepperoni on my pizza? No. So why say, I want alot of pepperoni on my pizza? A lot is NOT one word.

However… allot IS one word, but the meaning is quite different.

Should I allot a lot of time to this or not?


Filed under English language, grammar, punctuation

Fab Five Flubs

Though the following examples may not be the worst grammatical goofs, I see them frequently and they drive me crazy:

5.   Its or it’s?

If you don’t know which one to use, try this simple test: Say it is in place of it’s in your sentence and if it works, it’s (it is) it’s! If not, it is its.

Poor pooch; it’s tail got caught in the car door. (It is tail got caught?) Nope. Its tail got caught…

I think it’s time to give that poor dog a treat. (I think it is time…) Yes!

4.   Your or you’re?

You’re is the contraction of you are: You’re (you are) the love of my life.

Your shows possession: Your wish is my command. To be sure, try this test: You’re (you are) wish is my command? Nope.

Here’s my theory on why this one gets abused so often:

You and your friends know when you’re supposed to use the contraction, but you’re too lazy.

3.   Than I or than me?

The easiest way to figure this out is to finish the sentence in your head – and you will know which word is correct.

She runs faster than me. (She runs faster than me runs?) Nah!

She runs faster than I. (She runs faster than I run.) Yeah!

But sometimes both words work – depending upon what you want to say.

She likes cheesecake more than I. (She likes cheesecake more than I like cheesecake.)

She likes cheesecake more than me. (She likes cheesecake more than she likes me.)

2.   Insure or ensure?

Use insure only if you work for State Farm.

This policy will insure your safety.

Taking two aspirin before bed will ensure I don’t have a hangover tomorrow.

1.   Between you and I or between you and me?

I defer to the wonderful book, Woe is I, by Patricia O’Conner, for help with this one.

The magic lamp is between you and …?

If you are confused, take the “other” person out of the picture and try another preposition.

The magic lamp is behind I. No! The magic lamp is behind me.

Thus, The magic lamp is between you and me.


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Filed under English language

Double Whammy

Have you ever been faced with the dilemma of writing a sentence that was both a question and an exclamation, and you didn’t know what punctuation to use? And if you used both, you didn’t know whether the question mark or exclamation point should be first?

What the hell happened here?!

Well, according to my bible, the Chicago Manual, the question mark is before the exclamation point in an exclamatory question. Okay, that answers that question!

But then I started digging and discovered that there actually is a punctuation mark that combines the two. Isn’t that wonderful?!

It’s called an interrobang. It’s been around since 1962, and can be found in the Windings font, which explains why I’ve never seen it or heard of it before. Maybe you’ve seen it? Did you know it had a name?

Call me weird, but I can’t wait to see what other punctuation I can discover.

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Capital Offenses

Remember the elementary school rule to capitalize proper names of “persons, places, and things”? It all seemed so simple, but once you go beyond “see Spot run,” the rule becomes less clear.

Judy is the judge on television. Do you ever watch Judge Judy?

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land.

I’m going to visit our president in the White House, and then go back to my white house.

See the difference?

When you add an abbreviation, look out. Or in my case, look up … I am constantly referring back to The Chicago Manual of Style.

Clarence Thomas, JD (Juris Doctor aka Doctor of Law), is a Supreme Court judge.

So his academic title is in caps. Great. But instead of a law degree, what if he were a doctor of philosophy, a PhD?

Why isn’t the “h” capitalized like JD or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine)? I don’t know!

Here’s more “abbreviation-capitalization” crazy:

HIV – all caps; Dr. – not. NFR (National Finals Rodeo) all caps, Mr. – not. Supposedly, all caps for words that are abbreviations of proper names, lower case for others, like mpg. If that’s the case, isn’t “Dr.” an abbreviation of a proper title – Doctor? Shouldn’t Dr. Zhivago be DR Zhivago?


My last thought on caps (at least my current last thought) concerns words, even sentences, in all CAPS. I LOVE YOU. I MISS YOU. GONE TO HAWAII – WISH YOU WERE HERE.

I read this and immediately think the writer is shouting. I see BIG letters and think BIG voice. Obviously, the writer thinks the CAPITALIZED words are very very important, which makes me wonder. Are the rest of the words not important? Should I skip ’em?


Filed under English language