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20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes
LitReactor.com ^ | January 31, 2012 | Jon Gingerich

Posted on 02/01/2012 12:47:25 PM PST by Daffynition

I’ve edited a monthly magazine for more than six years, and it’s a job that’s come with more frustration than reward. If there’s one thing I am grateful for — and it sure isn’t the pay — it’s that my work has allowed endless time to hone my craft to Louis Skolnick levels of grammar geekery. [snip]

Who and Whom

This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with "he," "she," "it," "we," and "they." It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with "him," "her," "it", "us," and "them." It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.

Which and That

This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring.  e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.

Lay and Lie

This is the crown jewel of all grammatical errors. “Lay” is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. Its present tense is “lay” (e.g., I lay the pencil on the table) and its past tense is “laid” (e.g., Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie" (e.g., I lay on the bed).

Moot

Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion. e.g., The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.

Continual and Continuous

They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that's always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between. e.g., The continual music made it the worst night of studying ever. e.g., Her continuous talking drove him crazy.

Envy and Jealousy

The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry, or a suspicion that someone might want what’s yours. Jealousy is also used more often in sexual situations. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when your significant other swoons in the presence of your good-looking friend.

Nor

“Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means "and not." You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. “Neither the men nor the women were drunk” is a correct sentence because “nor” expresses that the women held the same negative condition as the men. The old rule is that “nor” typically follows “neither,” and “or” follows “either.” However, if neither “either” nor “neither” is used in a sentence, you should use “nor” to express a second negative, as long as the second negative is a verb. If the second negative is a noun, adjective, or adverb, you would use “or,” because the initial negative transfers to all conditions. e.g., He won’t eat broccoli or asparagus. The negative condition expressing the first noun (broccoli) is also used for the second (asparagus).

May and Might

“May” implies a possibility. “Might” implies far more uncertainty. “You may get drunk if you have two shots in ten minutes” implies a real possibility of drunkenness. “You might get a ticket if you operate a tug boat while drunk” implies a possibility that is far more remote. Someone who says “I may have more wine” could mean he/she doesn't want more wine right now, or that he/she “might” not want any at all. Given the speaker’s indecision on the matter, “might” would be correct.

Whether and If 

Many writers seem to assume that “whether” is interchangeable with “if." It isn’t. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives. “If” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives. e.g., I don’t know whether I’ll get drunk tonight. e.g., I can get drunk tonight if I have money for booze.

Fewer and Less

“Less” is reserved for hypothetical quantities. “Few” and “fewer” are for things you can quantify. e.g., The firm has fewer than ten employees. e.g., The firm is less successful now that we have only ten employees.

Farther and Further

The word “farther” implies a measurable distance. “Further” should be reserved for abstract or hypothetical lengths. e.g., I threw the ball ten feet farther than Bill. e.g., The executive climbed further up the ladder of success.

Since and Because

“Since” refers to time. “Because” refers to causation. e.g., Since I quit drinking I’ve married and had two children. e.g., Because I quit drinking I no longer wake up in my own vomit.

Disinterested and Uninterested

Contrary to popular usage, these words aren’t synonymous. A “disinterested” person is someone who’s impartial. For example, a hedge fund manager might take interest in a headline regarding stock performance with which he has no money invested. He’s “disinterested,” i.e., he doesn’t seek to gain financially from the transaction he’s witnessed. Judges and referees are supposed to be "disinterested." If the sentence you’re using implies someone who couldn't care less, chances are you’ll want to use “uninterested.”

Anxious

Unless you’re frightened of them, you shouldn’t say you’re “anxious to see your friends.” You’re actually “eager,” or "excited." To be “anxious” implies a looming fear, dread or anxiety. It doesn’t mean you’re looking forward to something.

Different Than and Different From

This is a tough one. Words like “rather” and “faster” are comparative adjectives, and are used to show comparison with the preposition “than,” (e.g., greater than, less than, faster than, rather than). The word “different” is not a comparative adjective; it's used to draw distinction. When “different” is followed by a prepositional phrase, the preposition should be “from,” similar to “separate from,” “distinct from,” or “away from.” e.g., My living situation in New York was different from home. There are rare cases where “different than” is appropriate, if “than” operates as a conjunction. e.g., Development is different in New York than in Los Angeles. When in doubt, use “different from.”

Bring and Take

In order to employ proper usage of “bring” or “take,” the writer must know whether the object is being moved toward or away from the subject. If it is toward, use “bring.” If it is away, use “take.” Your spouse may tell you to “take your clothes to the cleaners.” The owner of the dry cleaners would say “bring your clothes to the cleaners.”

Impactful

It isn't a word. "Impact" can be used as a noun (e.g., The impact of the crash was severe) or a transitive verb (e.g., The crash impacted my ability to walk or hold a job). In no way should this word be assembled into a modifier. "Impactful" is a made-up buzzword, colligated by the modern marketing industry in their endless attempts to decode the innumerable nuances of human behavior into a string of mindless metrics. Seriously, stop saying this.

Affect and Effect

Here’s a trick to help you remember: “Affect” is almost always a verb, and “effect” is almost always a noun. e.g., Facebook affects people’s attention spans, and the effect is usually negative. “Affect” means to influence or produce an impression — to cause hence, an effect. “Effect” is the thing produced by the affecting agent; it describes the result or outcome. There are some exceptions. “Effect” may be used as a transitive verb, which means to bring about or make happen. e.g., My new computer effected a much-needed transition from magazines to Web porn. There are similarly rare examples where “affect” can be a noun. e.g., His lack of affect made him seem like a shallow person.

Irony and Coincidence

Too many people claim something is the former when they actually mean the latter. For example, it’s not “ironic” that “Barbara moved from California to New York, where she ended up meeting and falling in love with a fellow Californian.” The fact that they’re both from California is a "coincidence." "Irony" is the incongruity in a series of events between the expected results and the actual results. "Coincidence" is a series of events that appear planned when they’re actually accidental. So, it would be "ironic" if “Barbara moved from California to New York to escape California men, but the first man she ended up meeting and falling in love with was a fellow Californian.”

Nauseous

Undoubtedly the most common mistake I encounter. Contrary to almost ubiquitous misuse, to be “nauseous” doesn’t mean you’ve been sickened: it actually means you possess the ability to produce nausea in others. e.g., That week-old hot dog is nauseous. When you find yourself disgusted or made ill by a nauseating agent, you are actually “nauseated.” e.g., I was nauseated after falling into that dumpster behind the Planned Parenthood. Stop embarrassing yourself.


If you’re looking for a practical, quick guide to proper grammar, I suggest the tried-and-true classic The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. A few of these examples are listed in the book, and there are plenty more. Good luck!



TOPICS: Books/Literature; Computers/Internet; Education; Reference
KEYWORDS: edwinnewman; grammar
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To: Daffynition

“Was” and “Were”; it’s complicated but you can figure it out. I’ll give you a hint. When I was a boy I wished I were king.


101 posted on 02/01/2012 1:46:59 PM PST by muir_redwoods (No wonder this administration favors abortion; everything they have done is an abortion)
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To: Fresh Wind

“Near miss” always confuses me...as does parking in a driveway and driving on a parkway...or things sent by sea being CARgo, but things sent by truck being a SHIPment...


102 posted on 02/01/2012 1:48:49 PM PST by IrishPennant (Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons? I'm jes' askin'...)
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To: Fresh Wind

It’s down to me
The difference in the clothes she wears
Down to me, the change has come,
She’s under my thumb
(The Rolling Stones)

Why “down to me” not “up to me”?


103 posted on 02/01/2012 1:48:53 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: brothers4thID

I am 38. I was learned in private school that there is always two spaces after a sentence ending period.

When did it change and what are they teaching now?


104 posted on 02/01/2012 1:49:16 PM PST by Tenacious 1
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To: Daffynition

That is a cute cartoon. In case (hehe) you didn’t know, small letters are called lowercase because in the early days of printing the type setting blocks were kept in cases. The large letters in the upper cases and the small letters in the lower cases.


105 posted on 02/01/2012 1:49:29 PM PST by christianhomeschoolmommaof3
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To: Revolting cat!

Great song!


106 posted on 02/01/2012 1:50:19 PM PST by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: Daffynition
Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion. e.g., The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.

I have to wonder about that.

In the sample sentence, "doubtful" and "debatable" can have very different meanings.

Is the council going to join in doubting or divide in debating the matter?

And if everyone uses "moot" to mean "of little or no practical value or meaning; purely academic," isn't that it's primary meaning?

107 posted on 02/01/2012 1:50:59 PM PST by x
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To: Colonel_Flagg

“borrow” can be used both ways :

“May I borrow your pencil?” or

“Will you borrow your pencil to me?”

One word many applications. Cut your necessary vocabulary in half!


108 posted on 02/01/2012 1:51:20 PM PST by TNoldman (AN AMERICAN FOR A MUSLIM/BHO FREE AMERICA.)
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To: Daffynition

My Pet Peeves:

“I could care less” the correct line is “I couldn’t care less”

irregardless - there is no such word “regardless” is enough to suffice

People who mispell the word “necessary”


109 posted on 02/01/2012 1:51:34 PM PST by thepatriot1 (...brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue)
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To: IrishPennant

How about “partial nudity”? If you’re nude, your nude. If you have any clothes on, your not.

That’s sort of like “half dead”.


110 posted on 02/01/2012 1:51:50 PM PST by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: goseminoles

Are we down to that already?


111 posted on 02/01/2012 1:52:21 PM PST by MHGinTN (Being deceived can be cured.)
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To: Daffynition

The one that drives me to reach for my gun, is the past perfect simple confusion:

“If I would have put on my Depends in the morning, I would not wet myself now.”


112 posted on 02/01/2012 1:52:51 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

I am in agreement with you. My Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary has the following for “moot” as transitive verb:
1.a. To bring up as a subject for debate or discussion.
b. To debate or discuss.
2. To plead or argue (a case) in a moot court.

As an adjective
1. Subject to debate : ARGUABLE (a moot point)
2.a. Law. Lacking legal significance, though having been previously decided or settled.
b. Of no practical importance : ACADEMIC.

The other consideration here is what a dictionary is supposed to do - is it supposed be desciptive or proscriptive? Is it supposed to us how words are used or is it supposed to tell us words should be used? An argument can be made for either approach. At one time the meaning of moot describe in this article may have been the proper use, but common usage has given it its present common meaning of “of no practical importance.” I think that whoever made the argument cited in this article needs to move on with his life.


113 posted on 02/01/2012 1:53:00 PM PST by bagman
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To: NoGrayZone
Are you a chicken?

Nope. I'm an egg.

Were you born?

Nope. I was laid.

Is everyone laid?

Nope. Some people are chicken.

114 posted on 02/01/2012 1:53:06 PM PST by N. Theknow (Kennedys=Can't drive, can't ski, can't fly, can't skipper a boat, but they know what's best for you.)
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To: Revolting cat!

That must be English English. It’s a different language.


115 posted on 02/01/2012 1:53:25 PM PST by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: Daffynition

I got lied last night!


116 posted on 02/01/2012 1:53:37 PM PST by TNoldman (AN AMERICAN FOR A MUSLIM/BHO FREE AMERICA.)
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To: Daffynition
Heck a few generations back most people could read or spell their own names, so cut us some slack.

Anyway, it's our GOD given right to screw up the already screwed up English language - we'll all be forced to speak espanol pretty soon if the current regime gets their way.

117 posted on 02/01/2012 1:54:01 PM PST by The Sons of Liberty (Psalm 109:8 Let his days be few and let another take his office. - Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin)
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To: society-by-contract

“One or two spaces after a period”

If it’s 1969 and you are taking a typing course on a manual typewriter, two spaces.

If you are using a modern word processor with proportional type, one space.

I think I got this from a book by Robert Parker, Looking Good in Print, but I haven’t read it for twenty years so I’m not sure I remember correctly.


118 posted on 02/01/2012 1:56:00 PM PST by Poser (Cogito ergo Spam - I think, therefore I ham)
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To: Daffynition

mark to snag that pic


119 posted on 02/01/2012 1:56:30 PM PST by don-o (He will not share His glory and He will NOT be mocked! Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.)
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To: Daffynition

lol. thanks for the post!


120 posted on 02/01/2012 1:56:53 PM PST by GOP Poet
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To: Daffynition

OMG this is hugh!


121 posted on 02/01/2012 1:57:14 PM PST by jonrick46 (Countdown to 11-06-2012)
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To: Fresh Wind

Ahh. The Telegraph articles. How often I have have been reading along and realise I am reading news from a European source.

At least they don’t use torch for flashlight in the news print.

They do seem to be Americanizing their English for us. :o)


122 posted on 02/01/2012 1:58:17 PM PST by Tenacious 1
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To: TNoldman

The correct usage is “Will you lend me your pencil.”


123 posted on 02/01/2012 1:59:16 PM PST by Colonel_Flagg (Why, yes. I AM in a bad mood.)
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To: Bikkuri

That is SUCH a funny site! And the writer is pretty easy on the eyes, too.


124 posted on 02/01/2012 2:02:25 PM PST by Constitution Day
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To: Daffynition

And then there are the philistines who confuse Brie with Camembert, and Burgundy with Beaujolais.


125 posted on 02/01/2012 2:02:49 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: Daffynition

Bfl, thanks for posting.


126 posted on 02/01/2012 2:03:32 PM PST by ziravan (Are you better off now than you were $9.4 Trillion dollars ago?)
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To: MrShoop
If you pay attention to the usage fewer & less, you’ll see people get it wrong most of the time. Usually using less when they should be using fewer.

This is a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately even 'pros' get it wrong all the time.

127 posted on 02/01/2012 2:03:54 PM PST by TangoLimaSierra (To the left the truth looks Right-Wing.)
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To: Fresh Wind

Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?

Why do shipments come in cars and cargo comes in ships?

Why does “cleave” mean split apart and stick together?

Is there another word for synonym?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

And my personal favorite...
If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?


128 posted on 02/01/2012 2:05:02 PM PST by christianhomeschoolmommaof3
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To: The_Media_never_lie

Me neither.

BookMark :)

Tatt


129 posted on 02/01/2012 2:05:23 PM PST by thesearethetimes... ("Courage, is fear that has said its prayers." Dorothy Bernard)
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To: Daffynition
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
130 posted on 02/01/2012 2:05:23 PM PST by cartan
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To: Poser
If it’s 1969 and you are taking a typing course on a manual typewriter, two spaces.

Sister Victoria, in 1987, had special powers. She was the typing teacher and we used "electric typewriters." Of all the typing that went on in the class, not only could she hear when someone used the "correction" key and who did it, she could actually hear when you started a new sentence without double popping the space bar.

I swear it amazed me. She would call the student by name from her desk as we did timed practice assignments for grades. "Johnny, two spaces after the sentence! Beth, no corrections! Accuracy is part of the assignment."

So she was wrong and I've been doing this wrongly for 15 years?

131 posted on 02/01/2012 2:06:04 PM PST by Tenacious 1
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To: Revolting cat!

I heard about a study where they served wine lovers the same wine in two glasses, but identified them by two different names. One name was easily pronounced, the other difficult. Almost all of them said the wine with the difficult name tasted better.


132 posted on 02/01/2012 2:06:45 PM PST by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: Tenacious 1

Beats me, darlin’. I use two spaces after a period like my mamma taught me. Of course, I also write colour and honour...


133 posted on 02/01/2012 2:07:53 PM PST by brothers4thID (Death had to take him sleeping, else he would have put up a fight.)
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To: Colonel_Flagg

I have chosen to be Politically Incorrect and use such word manipulations to draw attention to myself. Obviously it works.

I find many Journalists and Liberals misuse the word “appealing” when they mean “appalling” when referring to President Obama. I find that rather appealing.


134 posted on 02/01/2012 2:10:38 PM PST by TNoldman (AN AMERICAN FOR A MUSLIM/BHO FREE AMERICA.)
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To: Tenacious 1

I’ve always preferred two spaces. HTML forces a single space, no matter what you type. That is SO annoying.


135 posted on 02/01/2012 2:11:59 PM PST by Fresh Wind ('People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.' Richard M. Nixon)
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To: TNoldman

The hardest thing about these threads is that it’s very difficult to tell who is kidding and who isn’t.

(And I’m triple-checking my spelling!)


136 posted on 02/01/2012 2:12:30 PM PST by Colonel_Flagg (Why, yes. I AM in a bad mood.)
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To: Colonel_Flagg

You are so right or is that correct - I don’t know but I am glad you are here.


137 posted on 02/01/2012 2:17:24 PM PST by TNoldman (AN AMERICAN FOR A MUSLIM/BHO FREE AMERICA.)
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To: brothers4thID

Yes, you are correct, two spaces after a period. Let’s reiterate this again for everybody.


138 posted on 02/01/2012 2:18:30 PM PST by SgtHooper (The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.)
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To: Fresh Wind

Yeh, same with hemorroids and asteroids.


139 posted on 02/01/2012 2:20:52 PM PST by SgtHooper (The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.)
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To: Daffynition
Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous.

One definition of "moot" in Websters is: "deprived of practical significance : made abstract or purely academic"

I'm not sure I get the difference.

140 posted on 02/01/2012 2:21:43 PM PST by TankerKC (Welcome to the age of "I Meant to Do That" Diplomacy)
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To: IrishPennant

yeah and what about the “W” ?

ONE has a “W” sound but no “W”
TWO has a “W” but no “W” sound.

and how about “I before E except after C”
It’s not rocket science, and don’t be deceived, but it’s an ancient axiom and what’s weird is Einstein has it wrong twice in his name. Either this axiom works or neither work. I’ll raise a stein to that.

I believe I’ve achieved my purpose.

i’m outta here.


141 posted on 02/01/2012 2:22:31 PM PST by stylin19a (time to Obamanos)
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To: Daffynition

Not only do most people misuse “moot”, but many of them misspell/pronounce/misunderstand it as “mute”.


142 posted on 02/01/2012 2:26:19 PM PST by Paradox (I want Obama defeated. Period.)
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To: Revolting cat!

Now, now, Major Winchester, don’t be too hard on such cretins.


143 posted on 02/01/2012 2:28:27 PM PST by SgtHooper (The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.)
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To: Irenic
Does the book help teach punctuation at all? I really need help there, too. If not, do you know a good one for punctuation?

Try this: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Brown-Handbook-Ninth/dp/0321103505

It covers grammar, punctuation, and just about everything else you'd need to write well.

It was a life-saver for many courses (this is the latest version, mine was pre-internet).

144 posted on 02/01/2012 2:28:33 PM PST by IYAS9YAS (Rose, there's a Messerschmitt in the kitchen. Clean it up, will ya?)
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To: Daffynition
Obviously written by a non-Southerner. The "Bring and Take" entry shows that. What about "carry"?

As in, "I got to carry my father to the doctor this afternoon."

145 posted on 02/01/2012 2:31:24 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: nodumbblonde

penultimate


146 posted on 02/01/2012 2:32:04 PM PST by numberonepal (First they came for Sarah, then they came for Herman.....)
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To: IYAS9YAS; Irenic

I goofed. There is a newer version than in my link. Version 12 is out. Scroll down a bit on my linked page, and you’ll see the link to the latest version.


147 posted on 02/01/2012 2:34:05 PM PST by IYAS9YAS (Rose, there's a Messerschmitt in the kitchen. Clean it up, will ya?)
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To: Daffynition

GR8 POST!

But will those who need it, read it?


148 posted on 02/01/2012 2:41:21 PM PST by b9 (NEWT all the way)
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To: Daffynition

Very good. Perhaps we could send some FReepers to grammar boot camp.

Actually, I can excuse people who are typing a quick response in a post, but I want to tear my hair out at what passes for journalistic writing in more than I few of the articles I see in a day. And what comes out of the mouths of the idiot pundits makes me scream at my TV quite frequently.

How about “nother” as in “That’s a whole nother thing”? Aack!


149 posted on 02/01/2012 2:44:08 PM PST by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: Tenacious 1
When did it change and what are they teaching now?

Blame it on the inter-web. Basically when writing HTML code in order to add 2 spaces after a period requires an extra character (  - non-breaking space). You can put as many spaces as you want, but HTML will show only one. I always thought the double space after the period was similar to double spacing your papers. It was so the teacher had room for notes while grading.

The same can be said about indenting a paragraph. You rarely see that any longer. It's the same scenario there as with period spacing. In code you have to put 5   characters for indention. Back in the modem and ISDN days a document full of those extraneous spaces might mean a loss of valuable download performance.

150 posted on 02/01/2012 2:47:02 PM PST by numberonepal (First they came for Sarah, then they came for Herman.....)
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