National Grammar Day – 12 Do’s and Don’ts

grammarIt’s National Grammar Day and we’re here to help you stay on track with our Rules of Netiquette.

Here are Some Common Grammar and Spelling Issues

1. Oxford Comma

Also known as a serial comma, the Oxford comma is used to separate units in a list. Some people want to eliminate the Oxford comma altogether, while others don’t know when to use it.

The Oxford comma belongs just before “and” and the last unit in the list.

Incorrect Example:

I like to cook, my family and my dog.

Correct Example:

I like to cook, my family, and my dog.

The Oxford comma is needed because otherwise, the sentence is read as the things you like to cook are your family and your dog, instead of three separate things that you like – to cook, your family, and your dog.

2. Apostrophes

This tricky little punctuation mark is used to show possession, but is often used incorrectly. If the object in the sentence belongs to the subject, an apostrophe is needed to show possession. However, apostrophes aren’t used after possessive pronouns such as my, mine, our, ours, his, hers, its, their, or theirs. Another common apostrophe mistake is using them on items that are not possessive, but plural.

Incorrect Examples:

Are you doing anything special for your mothers birthday?

Monday’s are the worst day of the week.

Correct Examples:

Are you doing anything special for your mother’s birthday?

Mondays are the worst day of the week.

An apostrophe is needed on “mother’s” because it’s possessive, meaning that the birthday belongs to your mother. “Mondays” does not need one because, in this particular sentence, it’s plural, meaning more than one Monday.

A correct example of a possessive day of the week would be “Are you going to make it to Wednesday’s meeting?” because the object (meeting) “belongs” to the subject (Wednesday).

3. Quotation Marks

Punctuation within quotation marks can get confusing depending on where the quotation ends. If you end a sentence with a quote, the punctuation belongs at the end of the sentence inside the quotation marks. If you’re only quoting part of a sentence, you’ll add your own punctuation at the end of the sentence outside the quotation marks.

Incorrect Example:

She asked, “Are you coming over on Friday”?

Correct Example:

She asked, “Are you coming over on Friday?”

4. Common Word Misuses

Your and You’re

Your: The object of the sentence belongs to the subject, you.

Everyone please take your seat so we may begin.

You’re: Contraction of “you are.”

You’re going to be late.

5. There, Their, and They’re

There: A place, similar to “here.”

I’m on my way over there right now.

Their: Shows possession, just like my, his, her, and our.

Can you show our guests to their rooms?

They’re: Contraction of “they are.”

They’re arriving at two o’clock on Saturday.

6. Then and Than

Then: Used when discussing time.

Wash the clothes, then put them in the dryer.

Than: Used in comparisons.

Your lunch looks more appetizing than mine.

7. Fewer and Less

Fewer: Used to discuss countable objects, like people or items.

Fewer than 20 employees attended the meeting.

Less: Used for intangible concepts, like time.

I spent less than two hours writing my essay.

8. Lie and Lay

The word “lay” must have an object. Someone lays something somewhere. You lie. If you lay, it means you lie but in the past tense.

Keep in mind that the present of lie is still lie, while the past is lay. The present of lay is still lay, while the past is laid.

9. Farther and Further

Farther: Implies measurable distance.

The store is ten minutes farther from her house than mine.

Further: Reserved for abstract lengths you can’t always measure.

As time went on, our friendship grew further apart.

10. Bring and Take

The writer must know whether the object is being moved toward or away from the subject. If the object is moving toward, use bring. If the object is moving away, use take.

Bring an umbrella with you in case it rains. (Most likely said to you by someone who is going with you)

Take an umbrella with you in case it rains. (Most likely said to you by someone who is not going with you)

11. Affect and Effect

Affect: To influence or produce an impression, to cause an effect, almost always is a verb.

Weather conditions may affect the outdoor event happening today.

Effect: The thing produced by the affecting agent, describes the result or outcome, almost always a noun.

Today’s outdoor event was cancelled as an effect of the bad weather.

12. Peek, Peak, and Pique

Peek: To take a quick look at something.

They peeked around the corner to see if anyone was coming.

Peak: A sharp point.

We climbed to the peak of Mt. Everest.

I wrote that article at the peak of mt career.

Pique: To provoke or instigate.

Her mysterious background piqued my interest.

Julie Spira is a netiquette expert and author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Digital Manners. For a list of acronyms from ‘The Rules of Netiquette’ book that go beyond BFF, click here to download your free copy. Follow @JulieSpira and @netiquetterules on Twitter.

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