Today's post is about grammar and usage. Now I'll admit I'm not totally perfect in my usage - I've been known to utter an OMG or two (thousand), which I'm pretty sure isn't actually grammatically correct (especially since I'm 25). And I couldn't tell you the differences between a past participle and an infinitive verb. I know, so you're thinking...how are you even qualified to give any kind of guidance on grammar?
I'm a journalist and magazine editor. A large part of my job is to turn the crap that gets turned into me by amateur writers and non-writers and make it readable. But when I was in college, my copyediting teacher didn't bother explaining to us the different terms for the parts of speech (granted, we probably should have remembered these things from high school). What he did do was give us little tips and tricks to help us remember the biggest, most irritating, and most confusing mistakes that people often have a hard time with. And today, I'm going to share some of those tips with you. Some of them are pretty basic, but I hope you'll get at least a little something out of it (or, at the very least, enjoy the hilarious clip from The Office that I'm going to include).
Me vs. I: This is a big one, and something that your parents and teachers probably corrected you on all the time. You might have said to your mom, "Hannah and me are going to the mall to scope out hot boys." And your dad said, "Hannah and I" and you rolled your eyes and left anyway. The me vs. I issue comes up all the time, but fortunately there's a very simple way to figure out if you should be using me or I: simply take out the other person from the sentence. In my earlier example, you wouldn't say "Me is going to the mall to scope out hot boys." That doesn't make sense. So you know that it should be I. But, if you were going to say, "The cute boys at the mall bought sodas for Hannah and me," that's correct, because you wouldn't say, "The cute boys at the mall bought a soda for I." Got it?
Who vs. whom: I love this one, mostly because of this video (which contains the correct usage explanation, but mostly it's just hilarious):
OK, so...it's who when's the subject of the sentence and whom when it's the object. But what does that really mean? And if you're not sure, do you really want to spend the time to think about it that hard? No? So here's the little trick I use: if you want to know whether who or whom is correct, simply replace the whom/who with him/he or them/they. (I like to use him or he since him, like whom, ends in "m," but you can also use she/her.) Sometimes this requires altering the word order a little, but the trick still works. Check it out:
Who is that totally hot girl? (Is she that totally hot girl?)
The dancers, four of whom have pink hair, look just like Cyndi Lauper. (Four of them have pink hair.)
Everyone differed as to who they thought had the best bow-fighting skills. (They thought he had the best bow-fighting skills.)
Sarah is dating a boy whom she met at a dive bar. (Sarah met him at a dive bar.)Affect vs. effect: I still struggle with this one and have to take the time to really think about it. Affect is a verb, and effect is a noun, but both can technically and occasionally be either. In general, though, effect is just a noun, and affect is just a verb (unless you're talking about affect, the emotion...so just remember that as the exception). And what's the easiest way to tell if you're dealing with a noun or a verb? Stick an article in front of it. If the sentence needs (or can have) an article, use effect. Otherwise, use affect.
The effect of the alcohol was slow. ("Effect of the alcohol was slow." doesn't make sense.)
His ability to dance well will affect his role in the school play. (His ability to dance well will THE affect...what? That makes no sense.)
His ability to dance well will have an effect on his role. ("An" is also an article, so in this case, use effect.)
She wanted to effect change on the world. (Annoying exception No. 1: effect meaning "to change")
He displayed a happy affect. (Annoying exception No. 1: generally only used in psychology, and best left alone.)Peak vs. Pique vs. Peek: I'm going to go ahead and assume you all are smart enough to figure out to/too/two and their/there/they're, but this is one that I see used incorrectly all the time, especially at work, so I thought I would give a little refresher. I also see agents complaining about it a lot, so I know it's a problem in the noveling world. Peak means top, like a mountain peak. Peek means a glimpse, or to see. Pique is a French word meaning to stimulate or tempt. I use those words specifically to help you remember the difference between peek, peak, and pique:
Peak -> mountain -> both have an "a" in them "Heather's MS is so fabulous, she will rise to the peak of YA writers in no time!"
Peek -> see -> both have an "ee" in them "I can't wait to get a peek at Heather's MS!"
Pique -> tempt -> both have five letters "Wow, Heather's query is so great, it's piqued my interest in a full MS!"Trust me, I could go on and on, but those are some of the main ones I see. I hope you learned something!
Are there any grammar or usage rules that you struggle with? Or are there any that you see misused often that really irritate you?