Where Your Dreams Become Reality
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Poster: picking nits
Subject: Some common departures from STANDARD ENGLISH
Let me say this first: I think a language belongs to those who speak (and write) it. Languages change; the “standard” form of a language also changes. And on a casual message board like this, anybody who criticizes a post’s *ideas* because of the post’s spelling and grammar needs to rethink his/her priorities.
Even so, it’s important for people, especially those who might be writing applications or interviewing for jobs, to know the *current* standard for English usage. I’m afraid that some readers of this board, especially the younger ones, might be misled and end up making a mistake in spelling or grammar or punctuation when it really matters.
All the corrections below were prompted by non-standard posts on this board:
BENEFIT (not benifit)
BY AND LARGE (not by in large and not buyin’/buying large)
COMPETITIVE (not competative)
DEFINITELY (not definately)
DISAPPOINTED (not dissapointed)
SEPARATE (not seperate)
(WEB)SITE (not sight)
I’m not even going to try to convince people that the correct spelling is “tendinitis”—though it is. So many spell it “tendonitis” that that’s becoming standard usage.
Past tense of “to lead” is LED (not lead)
The principal parts of the verb “to lie” (recline) are LIE, LAY, LAIN:
We LIE down after each meal.
Yesterday the twins LAY down for their afternoon nap.
I often HAVE LAIN awake the night before races.
The principal parts of “to run” are RUN, RAN, RUN:
We RUN every day.
We RAN yesterday.
We HAVE RUN (not have ran) every day this week.
IT’S is the contraction for “it is” or “it has”—for anything else, you use ITS.
The contraction of “you are” is YOU’RE. The second person possessive pronoun is YOUR.
The contraction of “you all” is Y’ALL (not ya’ll, which is the contraction, I guess, of “ya will”).
More generally, the rule is: in contractions or elisions, apostrophes go where the missing letters, sounds, or numerals were: rock ’n’ roll, Li’l Kim, class of ’08, won’t.
With rare exceptions, ENGLISH DOES NOT USE APOSTROPHES TO FORM PLURALS. (The exceptions—only in some style sheets: the plurals of numerals or letters, e.g. I got three A’s this semester.)
[And by the way, an apostrophe curves the same way a comma curves: from north to east to south. When an apostrophe belongs at the beginning of a word, “smart quotes” programs frequently will use an “open-single-quotation-mark,” which curves from north to west to south. You have to use a couple of keystrokes to correct it. I don’t think it matters on this board, which seems to have straight quotation marks.]
“Comprise” is a synonym of “include,” but is misused so frequently (including by the Supreme Court) that your best bet is not to use the word at all. Same thing with “sojourn” (which is a temporary stay somewhere, not a journey). Avoid using either of these (especially in interviews or in essays for school applications)—even if you use it “correctly,” about half your audience will think you’re ignorant of the word’s meaning.
The word “forte” (meaning a strong point) is fine to use in writing, but avoid using it in speech. Again, if you pronounce it “correctly” (as one syllable), too many people will think you’re ignorant.
The meaning of “i.e.” is “that is”; the meaning of “e.g.” is “for example.”
The possessive form of “who” is WHOSE; who’s is a contraction of “who is.”
“Coach was SUPPOSED to pick us up after 15 miles.” (not suppose to)
“Get USED to my back; you’ll be seeing it a lot.” (not get use to)
The following phrases are each two words long: “all right” and “a lot”
I’m sure there’s much more to add—I’ll probably think of a dozen things tomorrow. But this is it for now. And in case you’re wondering: I generally don’t correct misspellings that are obvious typos. Everybody makes typos. I make plenty. I may have made some in this post. But if I did, they’re wrong (= non-standard).
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