Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grammar snobbery: 2 tips

I read alot of blogs (j/k...a lot) as well as a lot of high school students' papers, and I've developed my fair share of grammar pet peeves. One that I bet you never mess up is the correct spelling of the word "grammar." Every September, when my freshmen English students are setting up their notebooks and I instruct them to make a divider in their binders for grammar, I write the correct spelling on the whiteboard. Every year I have at least two students per class who still label their section "Grammer."

Now, I realize we're all human, and I make plenty of grammar/spelling mistakes myself, but there are a few that I notice all the time that are fairly basic, and I thought I'd give out my first teacher tip, free of charge. Consider this at-home tutoring, round 1.

Grammar pet peeve #1: Its vs. it's

This is one I try desperately to teach all my students each year, and I may succeed in conveying this information to about 2/3 to 3/4 of them in reality.

Here are the basic rules:
  • Its = the possessive form of "it" (*I realize the problem here. This rule is counter intuitive, as it goes against the traditional possessive rule.)
  • It's = the abbreviated form of "it is"
  • A good rule of thumb: Ask yourself, "Am I trying to say 'it is'?" To find out, replace the "it's" in your sentence with "it is." If it still makes sense, it's right! (See what I did there?) If it does not make sense, no apostrophe.

CORRECT = The dog chased its tail. (The tail belongs to the dog.)
CORRECT = It's Thursday and we are going to watch Top Chef Masters on our DVR. (It is Thursday.)

Grammar pet peeve #2: Everyday vs. every day

This is the one I correct most often on signs when I'm out shopping. And by correct, I mean I shake my first and say a little prayer for that sign-maker's English teacher, who is no doubt rolling in her grave somewhere. I've never actually taken out a Sharpie to correct anything because 1) that's a little crazy and 2) even if I were driven to this extreme, I know someone who got a citation for this, and that alone is crazy.

Here are the basic rules:
  • Everyday = An adjective that means ordinary, normal, routine.
  • Every day = Each day.
  • A good rule of thumb: Ask yourself, "Am I trying to say 'each day'?" To find out, replace the "every day" with "each day." If it still makes sense, use "every day." If it does not make sense, say "everyday."

CORRECT = Juliet is so forgetful when she shops that she has to go to Walmart every day.
CORRECT = Juliet prefers Walmart to all other stores because it offers everyday low prices. When she shops there, she wears her everyday jean skirt.

So as not to overwhelm you, I'll end here, but get prepared for some lesser-known grammar rules down the road.

1 comment:

  1. I agree about these, but I also can't believe you don't have 'there, their, and they're' in this post. I find it astonishing how many adults misuse these on a daily basis. That's my biggest grammar pet peeve! I used to put it in my 4th graders' 'daily grammar' exercises at least once a week.