National Grammar Day Has Arrived!
As a court reporter, National Grammar Day presents the perfect opportunity to discuss one of my favorite subjects: Grammar! The love of grammar can be a blessing and a curse – a blessing because it is such an important part of our routine duties; a curse because it is difficult to “let it go” when I hear or see blatant grammar errors in everyday life.
In my opinion, proper grammar is important and relevant because the spoken and written words we use leave an impression on our listeners and readers. Poor grammar can cast a shadow on our integrity and background. In honor of National Grammar Day, here are a few tips to help you overcome some common grammar mistakes.
Common Grammar Errors to Avoid:
- The ending preposition. When a sentence ends in a preposition, and the meaning of the sentence is exactly the same without the ending preposition, leave it off! For example, Where are you going to? The correct sentence is Where are you going? Other examples: (Incorrect) Where do you want to meet at? (Correct) Where do you want to meet? However, it is not always incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition. Example: What did you step on? Here, the preposition is needed for the sentence to make sense. While some grammar experts might argue that you can never end a sentence in a preposition, so that the proper sentence would be “On what did you step?” the reality is that people just don’t speak that way. Put simply, if the sentence means the exact same thing without the ending preposition, leave it off. If the ending preposition is needed for the clear meaning of the sentence, then it is fine to use it.
- Incorrect pronoun in a compound subjective or objective phrase. Most people know that when referring to two or more people, including yourself, you should be last on the list. A common mistake, however, is using the incorrect subjective or objective pronoun when listing multiple people. EXAMPLE: (Incorrect) Please report back to Mary and I. In this sentence, I is objective and should in fact be me. A very easy way to know which is correct is to remove the other name(s) from the sentence and then decide which is correct. You would never say Please report back to I. You instinctively know that it should be Please report back to me. The addition of Mary and does not change the objective me to the subjective I. Another example: (Incorrect) Please allow Susan and I to assist you. You know it would be incorrect to say Please allow I to assist you. You would say Please allow me to assist you. So that tells you that it should be Please allow Susan and me to assist you. Just use that simple test, and you should get it right every time.
- Who and That. These two pronouns are often used interchangeably, but they are not interchangable! Who refers to people, and that refers to things. EXAMPLE: (Incorrect) All the people that were here this morning should return this afternoon. Because the pronoun that refers back to people, the sentence should be All the people who were here this morning should return this afternoon.
- Further and Farther. The word farther refers to a measurable distance. Further should be used only when referring to abstract quantities. EXAMPLES: (Correct) The restaurant is farther down the road than the hotel. We should discuss this further. When referring to a specific distance, always use farther.
- Care less. The phrase I could care less means the exact opposite of what most people intend when they say it. If you could care less, that means you do care. The correct expression is I couldn’t care less, meaning you care so little that you could not care any less.
- Irregardless and Unthaw. These are not words. Regardless and thaw are the correct versions of these words.
- Fewer vs. less. Fewer refers to a specific number while less is the opposite of more and does not refer to a specific number. EXAMPLES: (Correct) The company has fewer than 100 employees. I got less sleep last night than I’d like.
Yours for clear articulation,
Lori T. Donovan, RMR, CRR
Certified Court Reporter © 3-2015