It ain’t easy being a grammar snob, and I should know. I are one.
Correcting others’ grammar is a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. It’s not that I don’t want to be liked. It’s not that I never make grammatical mistakes myself. It’s not that it’s cool. Speaking of cool, I lie awake nights imagining hacking into my daughter-in-law’s blog and renaming it “Cooler Than I.” Which, of course, would not be a cool blog name at all. But it would be grammatically correct.
It’s a curse, I tell you.
National Grammar Day snuck by us last week, and even though you may have taken down your decorations by now, I thought I’d use the occasion to show you a few neat tricks for beating the most common grammatical errors. I see these daily on Facebook, in emails, and on signs along the road. Drives me nuts. Memorize these six and you’ll have done your part to keep the grammar snobs from cringing, howling, or beating their heads on their steering wheels, causing accidents and even death.
1. Loose for lose. How to remember which is which? Loose rhymes with noose and moose. If that doesn’t help you, remember: if you’ve lost something, lose one of the o’s.
Correct: I sure hope I don’t lose the button that is coming loose.
2. It’s for its. This is tricky because when we make a word possessive, we generally add an apostrophe, right? Not with its. Remember: the apostrophe replaces the letter i, so if you can’t replace its with it is, (or it was), don’t use the apostrophe.
Correct: It’s a holiday in Rome and its citizens are celebrating.
3. Your for you’re. This one is easy because the apostrophe simply takes the place of the letter a. In other words, you’re is a contraction for you are. If you can’t remember, just use you are when you mean you are and you’ll be right every time.
Correct: You’re bringing ice-cream to the party whether or not your cake turns out.
4. Would of for would have. This holds true for could have and should have. Simple. Of is never correct here. Don’t use it, unless you’re looking for a sure-fire way to set my teeth on edge. (This happens because we use the spoken contraction would’ve, and our ears think they hear would of.)
Correct: I should have known you would use that word incorrectly just for spite.
5. Adding an apostrophe to make a word plural. No, no, no. Please don’t do this, I’m begging you. Remember: For this rule, there are no handy tricks. No tricks, no apostrophe.
Correct: A word’s meaning is sometimes unclear, but words are all I have to make myself understood.
And, for extra credit…
6. Lay for lie. If you place or put something down, you lay it down. If you have a headache, you lie down. Picture two hens side by side. One is sitting upright and she is labeled laying. The other is flat on her back and she is labeled lying.
Correct: After I lay the books on the table, I will lie down. Simple, right?
I should stop there. But…
Lay is also the past-tense of lie.
Correct: Yesterday, I lay down in the afternoon. Today, I will lie down again.
And just to make it really interesting, the past tense of lay is laid.
Correct: I laid bricks yesterday. Today, I will lay more bricks.
Now that you are thoroughly confused, you may go lie down. Just learn the first five and you pass!
No need to thank me.