Monday Classroom: grammar tidbits

Just Do It

Grammar really isn’t difficult. Yes, I laughed a little when I wrote that. I can remember the days when certain “grammar rules” made little sense to me. I struggled and stumbled and cursed the comma. But then, for whatever reason in the universe, my pea-headed brain had some kind of Oh! AHA! moment and the grammar rules began to make (im)perfect sense to me (though I break them many times, but I do it with purpose). I’m sure it was an insidious inky thing spreading out and snapping through the mysterious regions of my brain–helped by my work as an editor (and then Publishing Editor with Angie Ledbetter) at the Rose & Thorn Journal (a fine fine literary journal that we both grieved shutting down–the archives are still there, should you wish to peruse and enjoy!). I had to find ways to help my brain make sense of it all by using my own little “memory tics;” or, just accept what is, is, and forever more may be.

So, my fine beautiful lovelies: some tidbits for your grammar angstesess:

Less/Fewer

An apple a day may be a cliche, but it is solid advice--it just may keep the doc away, uh huh

Simply put: think of fewer as “counting things” and less as “time and space and things you don’t count.”

I ate fewer apples (three) today because I had less time (about an hour) to chew.

There are fewer dogs (twelve) in the dog park so there’s way less barking (who knows how many dogs are barking; I just hear noise).

Take fewer cookies (three) so you’ll spend less time on the treadmill (get on that treadmill anyway – no matter how many cookies you’ve eaten, or not eaten!).

Fewer coins (ten) means less money (you are probably broke if you are a writer) to spend.

Most Important/Most Importantly

It’s important. Period. Most important, it’s important not importantly. Because I said so. Because I consulted the Most High Poombahs of Grammar and they said so. Most important, I said so.

But wait! There’s more! There is quite a controversy on the “important/importantly” debate. I will stick to my “most important” and continue to correct people in my head – hahahaha!

Your/You’re

Do we really need to discuss this? Yes. Because even people I dearly love still use “your” as “you’re.” Your is possessive: Your (possessive – you own the pants) pants are falling down so you’re (you are) going to trip on them. You’re is the contraction of “You are.”

You’re (you are) so cute when your (possessive) pants fall down. You can only use “you’re” as You Are and nothing else–if you write “you’re” you are saying “you are” and if you write “your” you are saying that person owns the thing that it is attached to it.

Your (the person the lips are attached to) lips are kissable; you’re (you are) sexy.

It’s/Its

010-001Often, writers write the it’s/its incorrectly by accident. I scour my manuscript with a fine-toothed eye to catch any it’s/its -ses I may have missed just by a slip of the finger — or! Word sometimes plays tricks that I must watch out for.

It’s: contraction of it is.  Note that “it’s” can be a contraction for “it has” as well: It’s been nice but I gotta go –it has been nice but I gotta go. That’s it. That’s the use of it’s: it is or it has. Nothing else.

Its: a possessor that is neutral. Consider that his and her is a “possessor” – his legs are strong but her thighs can crack a walnut.  Think of its replacing his or her as in the case of the example below: the dog and the dog’s house.

It’s (it is) chilly outside and the dog shivers in its (possessor) dog house. (So I let the dog in my house–okay, I had to add this because I kept feeling sorry for this imaginary dog. Haw!)

The swan knows it’s beautiful in its watery kingdom at the lake.

Starbucks is a huge corporation and its coffees are over-priced. See that Starbucks “owns” the coffees but we don’t call Starbucks a “his or her” – still, it “possesses” the coffees it sells, so: It’s (it is) my opinion that Starbucks and its (neutral possessor) coffees are sometimes delicious and sometimes burnt-tasting.

Now, I hope I didn’t create any typos or make an embarrassing grammatical mistake while typing this out. If so, call me on it and I’ll fix ‘er up.

That’s it for today. Take those in your mouth until you’re sure you can swallow them down in your tummy. Most important, it’s widely known that grammar is its own worst enemy but dang if it’s not beautiful in its complexity. You’re going to muddle over this until your head explodes. You’ll have fewer brain cells and less synaptic activity once you have considered all of the above. Teehee.

DSC_0174Later, y’all (spelled “Y’all and not Ya’ll” – you all – y’all, y’all!) Go Write!

1461250_496657083765127_1387255473_nThe Lightning Charmer coverTouty plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer – wish my publishers (and I suppose me to some extent) luck, for TLC’s cover is a finalist in the EPIC Ariana Awards for book cover art. Winners announced in March.

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2 thoughts on “Monday Classroom: grammar tidbits

  1. “According to Barratt’s study, use of the two different versions appears to be distributed by age. Whereas on accident is common in people under 35, almost no one over 40 says on accident. Most older people say by accident. It’s really amazing: the study says that “on is more prevalent under age 10, both on and by are common between the ages of 10 and 35, and by is overwhelmingly preferred by those over 35.” I definitely prefer by accident.

    An interesting conclusion from the paper is that although there are some hypotheses, nobody really knows why younger people all over the U.S. started saying on accident instead of by accident. For example, there’s the idea that on accident is parallel to on purpose, but nobody has proven that children all across the country started speaking differently from their parents because they were seeking parallelism. Although I have no proof, I suspect that it must have something to do with nationwide media since it is such a widespread age-related phenomenon. Barney & Friends started airing about 30 years ago, so maybe it’s Barney’s fault! But really, all we can say is that it’s just one of those language things that happens sometimes.

    Finally, although there is at least one source stating that on accident is an error (2), and Shelly from Texas asked me to do what I can to ban on accident, Barratt found that there is no widespread stigma associated with saying on accident. In addition, it seems to me that as those kids who say on accident grow up (some of whom are even unaware that by accident is an option, let alone the preferred phrase of grown-ups) on accident will become the main, accepted phrase. By that time, there won’t be enough of us who say by accident left to correct them! – See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/on-accident-versus-by-accident?page=1#sthash.hZfHc11m.dpuf

    I’m in my 50s so where did I arrive by accident to say on accident? *laugh* But! I like “by acccident” better – so let it be written; so let it be done!

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