Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Grammar Goes Too Far

You may not know it, but grammar can affect the personal lives of many individuals. Some friends and I were recently talking about a creative writing call for submissions focused on obsession-aversion when I mentioned I wasn’t really obsessed with anything, and thus had nothing to write about.

Being two of my best friends, they quickly pointed out how wrong I was, for I am obsessed with grammar.

According to, obsession can be defined as:
1. Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.
2. A compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion.

However, the OED’s definitions are a bit more fun:
(Note: I’m only listing the applicable definitions)
2. The control, actuation, or tormenting of a person from without by an evil spirit; the fact of being so controlled or affected; an instance of this. Now rare.
3. a. An idea, image, or influence which continually fills or troubles the mind; a compulsive interest or preoccupation; the fact or state of being troubled or preoccupied in this way.

You might not believe it, but poor grammar really can make me anxious. To me, it truly is a tormenting, evil spirit. It would get along quite well with Peeves the Poltergeist.

While shopping at the Covered Bridge Festival in October, I came across a table of fun, decorative glass items made out of wine bottles. My parents recently redecorated the kitchen with a wine motif, and I thought something from the table would be a nice Christmas gift for them. However, I quickly noticed a grammatical error in their sign. I had to walk away from the table. The error in question? An apostrophe used when the word should have been plural, such as “bottle’s” rather than “bottles.”

It may seem minor…but that was just one example in my grammar-obsessed life.

Today, I was looking through tons of brochures, pamphlets, and price lists I received at a recent bridal expo. On one, I found myself circling every grammatical error (again, it was the use of an apostrophe to make a word plural). One I can maybe let slide. However, I prefer my strawberry cake made with “bits” of strawberries, rather than “bit’s” of them. This particular cake baker is now at the bottom of my list.

My friends sometimes have to tell me to stop agonizing over the errors and just “let it go.” Or sometimes they ask me not to correct them, like this sentence (with no errors) that came at the end of a rushed, not-grammatically-concise Facebook message from a friend:
“PS don't be mentally correcting my misplaced apostrophes...or spelling,” to which I humorously replied “Too late!”

But for some reason, this passion has been engrained in me since I was a young child. I once got in trouble for correcting the way my grandma pronounced her words. I was maybe six and informed her that she was not, in fact, “warshing” some laundry. Trust me; it did not go over well.

While I’m sure the world thinks it’s odd that I’m picking my wedding vendors based on the linguistic abilities, I pride myself in not contributing to poor use of the English language.

I can actually admit that I am obsessed with grammar. To some, grammar is no big deal, but to me, it is the most evil spirit of them all. But hey – they say admitting the problem is the first step to help.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You're not using "your" right; write it again

Katie asked if I’d gone to the mall lately. I told her I was there yesterday.


I gave them there coffee.


I gave them their coffee.


I’m meeting Katie and George at the show. Their coming from class.


I’m meeting Katie and George at the show. They’re coming from class.

Your and You’re

You’re is the contraction for you are.

Your is the possessive form for you.

Some examples:


Mark, you’re textspeak is starting to drive me bonkers!


Mark, your textspeak is starting to drive my bonkers!


Your really bad about sending unnecessary messages, like “K.”


You’re really bad about sending unnecessary messages, like “K.”

To, Two, and Too

To is a preposition. It shows the relationship between two things. It also signals the definitive, or unconjugated, form of a verb.

Two is the number 2 in word form.

Too is an adverb.


I had way to much to drink last night!


I had way too much to drink last night!


I have to tickets to paradise.


I have two tickets to paradise.


I, two, went to the Homecoming game.


I, too, went to the Homecoming game.

These three sets of homophones are the ones that bother me, and a lot of other people, the most. However, there are a lot of others that can really trip you up. To end, here are few more examples of homophones:

Allowed (something is permitted)/Aloud (audible)

Ant (picnic-oriented insect)/Aunt (mom or dad’s sister)

Aye (yes, sometimes associated with pirates!)/eye (the seeing organ)/I (first person singular pronoun)

Beat (what a drummer typically keeps)/Beet (the vegetable)

Board (a piece of wood, or a board game)/Bored (not excited)

Brake (what makes the car stop, or the verb to press the brakes)/Break (the verb, to break something)

Ducked (past tense of the verb)/Duct (like a heating duct, or duct tape)

Where (the location question)/Wear (the action, to wear something)