10 September 2011

Some Grammar Hints

So I'm kind of neurotic. As in my test scores show I'm one of the more neurotic people you'll ever meet. It's tempered by Jesus, thank Him. But still.

This little quirk can benefit me (I've always done well with grammar, punctuation, and word usage. Spelling has been the bane of my life. For example, I just spelled bane as bain and then had to go look it up. *sigh*).

That being said, I have some helpful hints. :-)

Alot vs. A Lot:
-alot is not a word. It may help to change the pronunciation of this misspelling to alut in your mind. It's what I do automatically, and can get kind of irritating, but, if you struggle with this, it may very well help. Also maybe think of it in your mind as a noun, as some funny blogs have illustrated. [I will say that I type with one hand quite frequently while holding or nursing a baby and, therefore, don't feel bad about not capitalizing my comments on Facebook. I do still use apostrophes; they aren't optional. They just aren't.]
-a lot is a phrase that modifies a verb. As in, "I sing a lot." You cannot sing an alot. They don't like it.

Along vs. A Long:
-along is a preposition. A preposition modifies another part of speech in order to clarify. If I just lost you, know this: if you can roughly exchange the word along for beside, you're using it properly. Yay! Example: "Along the coast of Texas are a bunch of unimpressive yet lovable beach towns."
- a long is a phrase that modifies a noun. As in "a long way" or "a long beard." See the difference? You cannot say "Bob has along beard" any more than you can say "Bob has beside beard."

Y'all vs. Ya'll:
-ya'll does not exist. Please stop using it. You'll immediately lose five pounds and your hair will be instantly shiny and healthy and the skin on your elbows will never be dry and scaly again. Just say no to ya'll. If you'd like some explanation, let's review how contractions work (in English, at least): the apostrophe takes the place of the letter(s) you remove. As in don't, where the o is replaced by the apostrophe and the two words are contracted into one. If we are forced to make a contraction out of ya'll, I posit that it should stand for yam will. Example: "The ya'll grow in their season." or "The roasted ya'll be delicious tonight!"
-y'all is the proper contraction of you and all. If you say it isn't proper, then please try explaining to me why shan't is.

Anyway vs. Any Way:
-anyway is an adverb (it modifies verbs). If you want to make sure you're using it correctly, exchange anyway for regardless or nevertheless. Example: "I cannot win this game. I will win it anyway." You can also use it at the beginning of the sentence for that awkward segue we've all come to know and love.
-any way is a phrase that includes the noun way. If you want to make sure you're using it correctly, exchange way for means, manner, or direction. Example: "I will win this game any way possible. Unfortunately, any way you look at it, we cannot win. "

Clinch vs. Clench:
-clinch is a verb that means "to settle decisively." Example: "The savvy agent clinched the deal just in time for happy hour." It is also a construction-related verb and some nautical/boxing jargon. These are THE ONLY ways you can use this word.
-clench is a verb meaning tightly closed. Example: "My hands were clenched; now they're open."

If this has brought some color to your cheeks, I promise I don't like you less for your terrible, terrible grammar. I fully recognize I have a problem. However, it does make you a better communicator if you say what you really mean to say. I really like to mean exactly what I say, but it seems to be very, very difficult, even when my grammar is not interfering with my intended meaning.

Feel free also to look up the difference between its and it's (hint: just always say "it is" in your head any time you write it's); anytime and any time; your and you're (I believe you can do it right every time!); and the there/their/they're debacle. I know this stuff can be a lot of little rules, but it really will help you communicate with others. And pass your writing-intensive classes. And make your profs view your short answers and lab write-ups more favorably. Seriously.


  1. I want to shout from the roof tops that ya'll isn't a word! I can't understand how so many Texans can get that wrong, but I guess they can't be blamed because it is often misspelled in advertisements.

    I've noticed that even though I know all of these rules, my ability to get it right on the fly (like Facebook and in my journal) is directly proportional to the amount of sleep that I got the night before. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past 3 years. Please don't hate me.

  2. Elaine, it could be the same Texans who say "New Braunsfels" all of the time. :-)

  3. Samuel Stratton9/10/11, 9:26 PM

    It was explained to me in fifth grade, and I've looked it up a few times since, but I can never remember when to properly use lay, laid, or lain. For some reason my mind cannot grasp the proper usage of these three, especially when "lain" is supposed to be used.

  4. Oh, man! Sam, I used to know that one off the top of my head. I can even vaguely hear my ninth grade teacher telling us how to know the difference.
    Of course, I have no idea right now. Maybe I'll look it up and do a part 2. :)
    Elaine, I know exactly what you mean. I've had to do so much editing in the last sixth months. Embawwassing!

  5. Love this kinda stuff! Another one that I've heard quite a few people say or write incorrectly is "these ones" or "those ones." You don't need the "ones" added to it.

    On a side note...just for fun I always write "you all." People don't like that, but now I do it just for kicks.

  6. This is why we're friends. Also nice shout out to "Nothing I Hold On To" in the "clenched" section!

  7. My favorite is "apart" and "a part", especially since they have contradictory meanings. At least I can tell when someone meant to thank me for being a part of something, and not for being apart from it because "apart of" uses the wrong preposition. Otherwise I might be offended. :)

    Not that I have perfect grammar, either. And even worse when typing with one hand and holding a squirming baby in the other. I let a lot more go in that situation. :)