Thursday, July 19, 2012

8 Simple Proper Grammar

I regularly correct my husband's grammar and spelling, and it drives him nuts. Recently, he's started embracing it, asking me, " that correct?" Several times, I've had to tell him, "I have no idea." While I am a self-proclaimed Grammar Snob who probably needs an intervention, I don't claim to know all the grammar rules. For instance, when I go to write affect/effect, every stinkin' time, I have to run a Google search to see which one to use. I also still regularly misuse the words "lie" and "lay," so maybe I'm not as much of a grammar snob as I think. :)

I "get it," though: grammar is confusing. There are rules to follow and rules to break. I've been hearing more and more about how it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition are we supposed to keep up with these ever-evolving rules?!

On my "tips for superb writing" article (that I wrote for the Grammarly blogathon), I mentioned that I wrote a Facebook note on my personal profile page titled, "8 Simple Proper Grammar." I liked it so much that I re-posted it on my tutoring blog...and now I'm re-posting it here.

The post features 8 simple grammar rules that I feel everyone should know -- no exceptions! :) Here's the post I've shared with friends, family, and tutoring clients:

I can really understand why a lot of students dread English class: we have to spend some time on grammar. And there are so many rules to grammar...almost all of which are made to be broken. Confusing! I can certainly see why English is the hardest language to learn.

In high school, I was always considered a good writer. I always had my nose in a book -- this is where I attribute my "good ear" for English. (Kids don't believe me when I tell them that reading has so many benefits...but I digress.) So, even though most of my family and friends were engaging in some "good ol' Southern talk," my ear seems to recognize most good English because of all the reading I've done. (Oh, and thanks to Mrs. Brown, my high school English teacher who always spoke properly!) However, I'm definitely not perfect, and I certainly make my own language mistakes from time to time!

Of course, I taught English and its related subjects when I taught elementary school. But I really focused on it when I became a secondary English teacher in 2010. That's when I began to notice lots of common mistakes, and I decided to write this blog!

While I do not claim to be a grammar expert, there are a few hard and fast rules that I hope each and every one of my students can master before they leave my presence. In fact, I think EVERYone should know these things about grammar. These are so simple to integrate into your writing, so why not do it?

  1. Use punctuation. Read your sentence to yourself. Wherever you naturally pause is where most punctuation marks go. You don't have to use anything fancy; skip the semicolons if you want! But please at least use periods and commas!
  2. Use apostrophes appropriately. Insert an apostrophe when something is possessive, or when a letter is being left out. Also, When talking about a plural name, do not add an apostrophe to the end. Think about those mats you see in front of doors that say, "The Jones's" or "The Jone's Family." They are wrong. The Jones family does not own anything there -- it is simply a statement that says there is more than one person with the last name "Jones" who lives at that house. That mat or mailbox you see should read "The Joneses." Notice the lack of apostrophe.
  3. Know the difference between there, their, and they're. It's actually very easy. There: a place. As in, here or there. My book is over there. Their: shows possession to a group of people. Their house is on fire. They're: the contraction for "they are." They're going to the sandwich shop. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy!
  4. Know the difference between its and it's. It's: the contraction for "it is." It's snowing. Its: shows possession to a thing. The dog scratched its head
  5. Know the difference between your and you're. You're: the contraction for "you are." You're late. Your: shows possession. I have your Sonic drink in my car
  6. Know the difference between two, too, and to. Two: a number. Her daughter is two years old. Too: "also" or "in addition." I ate too much ice cream last night. To: action. I went to the grocery store
  7. Know how to spell "a lot." It is two separate words.
  8. "I seen" should never be spoken or written. The word "saw" is the past tense of "see," while "seen" needs a helping verb in front of it. ...Did that sentence make your head spin in circles like the girl from The Exorcist? Well, just know this:
  • Incorrect: I seen your parents at the store yesterday. Or I seen that movie before.
  • Correct: I saw your parents at the store yesterday. Or I have seen that movie before.
Obviously, there are many more English rules. But if my students could master these 8 simple rules it would eliminate 75% of the English mistakes I see!

P.S. If you're looking for more information on English/grammar, check out Woe is I, by Patricia T. O'Conner. This book contains 204 pages filled with grammar rules!


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  4. Funny thing, I do the same to my husband... :) Great Article... Jeff Anderson wrote two amazing books .. Mechanically Inclined and Inviting Students to develop skill and craft in Writer's Workshop... Awesome reads...

    1. Ooh! I'll have to read those. Thanks for the suggestions!


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