It’s All in the Words!
By S Nicholas
I love words! I have always loved words. After a career working with words, I have decided that how people use language directly relates to how intelligent they are perceived! Note that I am talking about perception, and not necessarily reality. People with multiple college degrees who speak or write improperly convey to the world that they are, in fact, not smart. Likewise, people who may not have a college degree but talk and write correctly convey to the world that they are extremely intelligent. It’s all in the words.
Some of the most common mistakes which impact perceived intelligence include:
• “Between you and I” – This is NEVER correct! There is not a situation in which it would be ok to say or write “between you and I.”
WRONG: Between you and I, the food here is bad.
RIGHT: Just between us, the food here is bad.
• The misuse of I versus ME . The shortcut to knowing which is correct is to remove the other name in the phrase, and use either or I or me to see which works.
WRONG: Sam threw the ball to Jeff and I.
RIGHT: Sam threw the ball to Jeff and me.
If you remove the name “Jeff,” you will see that only the word “me” works correctly.
• Commas – this tiny punctuation mark is responsible for most of the mistakes I read!
1. A comma-splice occurs when two sentences are joined together by a comma.
WRONG: It is a hot day, I am going to eat ice cream to cool off.
RIGHT: It is a hot day, so I am going to eat ice cream to cool off.
Two sentences cannot be joined together with a comma unless a conjunction (and, so, but, etc…) follows the first complete thought.
2. A run-on sentence occurs when a sentence containing multiple phrases does not contain commas.
WRONG: It is a hot day so I am going to eat ice cream to cool off because I love ice cream and it always helps me feel cooler.
RIGHT: It is a hot day, so I am going to eat ice cream to cool off because I love it, and it always helps me feel cooler.
Commas used correctly help set off phrases in a distinct way in order to help the reader understand the message.
• Quotation Marks –It is important to remember that the comma and the period ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks!
WRONG: Jane said, “Go outside”.
RIGHT: Jane said, “Go outside.”
WRONG: The musical, “Hello Dolly”, was held last weekend.
RIGHT: The musical, “Hello Dolly,” was held last weekend.
Note that the comma and period need to be INSIDE the quotation marks. In some cases, the question mark might be outside of the quotation marks. For example: Did you hear him shout, “Fire”?
• You’re versus Your – The best way to determine which is correct is not to use the contraction, “you’re,” but spell out you are. If “you’re” trying to say “you are,” the contraction would work.
WRONG: Your trying to find your socks.
RIGHT: You’re trying to find your socks.
“You’re” is the contraction for “you are.” “Your” is simply showing possession…your socks, your house, your cat. Most frequently, people write “your,” but mean to say “you are.” When in doubt, don’t use the contraction.
Using proper grammar is an introduction of yourself to others. To put forth your best image, speak properly and write properly. A teacher’s hint for improving grammar: read good literature frequently!