Grammar Confessional

OK. I’ve just looked up the difference betweeen “complimentary” and “complementary” for the millionth time. I cannot, ever, remember which is which.

I get stopped in my tracks contemplating “it’s” and “its” way too often, even though I had a sign on the inside of my locker as a kid that read “No apostrophe for the possessive” in a vain attempt to get the rule to sink in.

Nine times of 10, I type it “reasearch” (although to my credit, I usually catch it).

And, abandoning a personal, two-decade windmill tilt, I’ve largely stopped fighting for adherence to the AP rule about not capitalizing professional titles when they follow names.

There. I feel better now. Word people, the Grammar Confessional is open.

— Hornseth

11 thoughts on “Grammar Confessional

  1. Lay, lie, laid. My writing coach in college beat the tense rules of this verb into me for weeks and it never stuck. Now I just lie/lay (??)around staring at the page until I go blind. Then I change the sentence entirely to avoid using that word.

  2. jloveland says:

    Bless me Hornseth for I have sinned…

    In addition/edition to all of the errors/airs you cited/sighted/sited/sided, I could OF been a better writer/righter then/than I am if I had been more affected/effected by my principal’s/principle’s counsel/council about the wait/weight people put on grammar/grammer .

    I’m trying to imagine how this is going to morph into a conservative v. liberal discussion, but I’m sure it will. To head it off, let me just confess that “potatoe” stumps me too.

  3. Becky says:

    Heaven knows I don’t have perfect grammar in writing or speaking. But since someone touched on one (bad grammar and punctuation) of my pet peeves and cracked open the door for comments, here goes…

    I am over-the-top sick of the abuse of apostrophes. Possession, contraction. Possession, contraction. Never ever ever ever ever a plural, even for an acronym, i.e., CDs. (Someone really needs to fill in the NYTimes, btw, for it is among the worst offenders.)

    I’ve taken to sending emails to companies whose Web sites or advertising is rife with errors. (Cub is among the worst of the worst.) On Wednesday night, I sent one to the general manager of the car dealership from which I’m contemplating buying a new car.

    This is basic fifth-grade grammar. This is not hard. Really. I promise. It won’t hurt at all to follow the apostrophe rules. Possession. Contraction. Possession. Contraction.

    There. I feel much better now.

  4. jloveland says:

    Becky, given the choice between a writer who is compelling but technically flawed and one who is technically flawless but not particularly compelling, who would you choose? And in this little hypothetical, its not possible to have both.

  5. Becky says:

    Good question. I’d take the former. You can always get an editor to fix the problems before anyone sees it. It seems, however, there are a number of editors on permanent holiday. Or who failed fifth-grade grammar. And yet, still, there they are, in charge of the printed word and perpetuating what one commentator called the moronization of the masses.

    There are teachable moments that stick in my mind to help with spelling and grammar. One is Nimmer yelling across the college newspaper office “People are ‘whos’ and ‘whoms,’ not ‘thats’ and ‘whiches.'” The other is the first day of Bruce’s critical writing class, spring semester 1994. He wrote on the board our thoughts on what to include in a good critique. After one comment, he said “Great. Judgment. And for fun, let’s leave the ‘e’ out of it.”

  6. jloveland says:

    I agree with prioritizing persuasivness over persnicketyness. Judging from the amount of technically flawless pablum out there, it seems to be a minority opinion.

  7. I dont screw with those pesky little fuckers anymore( apostrophes)
    I had a debate with a journalist I’ve known for about six months. This debate was about the Larry Craig thing. I was upset at the way he worded his headline in a post he had written about Craig.
    We went back and forth for a couple days on the subject and when he couldnt take it anymore he came out, changed the subject, and started bashing my clumsy use of apostrophes.
    I mean WTF ? It had nothing to do with the price of tea in China.
    So from now on I think they should be outlawed instead me having to have this complex everytime I type something.
    Because for the life of me I will never learn the correct application.

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