Hopefully you’ve noticed a problem in the title of this post.

If you noticed one mistake, you need to read the rest of this post to get yourself sorted out.

If you noticed two or three issues, congratulations!  You’ve got some grammar skills.

If you keep looking back to the title because that lowercase ‘G’ in ‘grammar’ annoys you, welcome to the “Grammar Snob Club.”

Here are six basic grammar issues that people get wrong:

Using Apostrophes.  Many people can’t figure out when to use them.  Do I use one to make a word plural (example: three car’s)?

Most of the time, you can reserve your apostrophe for the possessive.  So if Susie owns three televisions, you would say “Susie’s three televisions.”

Of course, you can also use an apostrophe for contractions.  So “Fred is crazy” can become “Fred’s crazy” and “the dog has burped” can become “the dog’s burped.”

It’s or Its?  This one even messes me up, and I founded the “Grammar Snobs Club”!

I remember the rule this way:  His and Her do not have apostrophes, so neither does Its, if it’s being used to show possession.

Another way to remember:  Dropping letters (making a contraction) requires that you replace the letter with something.  Do Not becomes Don’t, Will Not becomes Won’t, Going becomes Goin’ (if you’re writing slang) and It Is becomes It’s.

I Could Care Less.  Really?  Because if so, you should start now.  Go ahead.  Care less.  I’d like to see that.  (Hint:  If you don’t care about something, say “I couldn’t care less.”)

Will That Affect My Effects?  This one’s just memorization.  Affect is a verb.  You do it.  As in, “How did that affect you?”

Effect is a noun.  As in, “What was the effect?”

I remember it by telling myself that verbs are more powerful than nouns (in my head, at least) and A comes before E in the alphabet.  Feel free to find your own psychotic way to remember this one.

Let’s Try and Change the World!  This one’s hard for me, because even trusted news sources seem to think that “try and” can substitute for “try to.”

Example:  “He will try and sail around the world on a raft made entirely of bamboo!  Film at Eleven!”

This sentence says two things.  First, he will try to sail around the world.  Second, he WILL sail around the world.  The And connects two verbs, each of which lives on it’s own with the subject and all the other bits of the sentence.

So they could just leave the Try out of it and say that he will sail around the world.

What the Heck is a Semicolon?  A semicolon (;) is hard to use properly.  Most often, if you do use it, it’ll be wrong.  I’d suggest you probably just want to forget using it unless you absolutely have to. 

But a colon (:) , on the other hand, is very useful.  You use it to list things or to define something with a long explanation.  One rule:  always make sure you leave two (2) spaces between the colon and the list or definition.

MORE LESSONS TO COME…

I’ve prepared a few more lessons for the coming weeks.  The next few will focus on topics that will improve your writing and your grammar, such as:

– Avoiding Confusing Phrases
– Jargon Usage
– Capitalization
– Common Spelling Errors
– Commonly Misused Words
– Overused Letter-Speak
– Correct Tense Usage
– Etcetera

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