The Eighth Sin
Remember the seven cardinal sins? You’re given the serious task of adding a new one to the list — another trait or behavior you find particularly unacceptable, for whatever reason. What’s sin #8 for you? Why?
Since God has already done the job so well, I don’t think I’m going to be serious about today’s prompt.
Here’s a disclaimer, though, that I hope you will take seriously: I do not now, and will not in the future, make it a habit to correct the poor grammar that abounds all over cyberspace. I will, if anyone asks, offer the correct usage. I do not offer unsolicited editing. I do not make it a habit to correct people who are speaking with me (unless it is a grandchild, for whom I have a second-generation responsibility.) I try very hard not to annoy people, even though I am a fully licensed and credentialed Grammar Cop. I take my job seriously but I will never embarrass or provoke any of you, when I read your daily posts, by correcting your grammatical errors. My agonized wail of horror will be completely private. All I will ever do is to set the bar high with my own pristine writings. Even there, I do make the occassional typo. If I’ve ever made a grammatical error, it was not my fault.
What you may ask, are some examples of poor grammar?
The first one that comes to mind is someone’s incorrect word choice in the phrase “to bear arms.” The word bare is to unclothe or uncover. Bear is the correct choice. It means to carry in this use. If, for instance, you ask me to bare with you, I’m going to be highly offended and call the Morality Cops to come and take you away.
Some of the funniest grammar errors involve misplaced modifiers. What in the world does that mean? It means that the descriptive word or phrase is in the wrong place, or the writer hasn’t made clear what it describes.
Examples abound. They’re usually quite funny.
All Abraham Lincoln ever wore was a tall black hat. Really? Poor man must have been pretty chilly in the winter. Correct: The only type of hat Abe ever wore was a tall black stovepipe style.
The man rode in on a horse wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a thick moustache. No kidding. Was the horse nearsighted? Did his moustache ever get in the way of his oats? Correct: The man with wire-rimmed glasses and a thick moustache rode into the ring on his horse.
I heard the police are looking for a man with a broken arm on the radio. Well, that has to be kind of uncomfortable, and I’m guessing the suspect won’t get too far if he’s using a radio as transportation. Correct: I heard on the radio that the police. . . .
She’s been sitting on the phone for almost two hours! Aww. Poor lady. Why is she doing that? Doesn’t she have a chair? Correct: She’s been using the phone. . . .(this one isn’t truly a misplace modifier. It is a poor word choice.)
And here’s a favorite of mine, seen in the stall of a rest stop in Colorado. I’m not going to fix it. Have fun figuring out what’s wrong: This was a sign inside the door of the stall I was using:
Toilet flushes upon leaving stall.
Ok, let’s move on to apostrophes, and then I’ll stop. I’ve probably bored some of you to tears already.
Simple: Do not use an apostrophe to make a word plural. One girl. Two girls. A hundred girls. Just, in most cases, add an ess. You’re done.
Do use an apostrophe to show ownership. The hat belonged to the girl. It was the girl’s hat. The hats belonged to the girls. They were the girls’ hats.
Learn the difference between words that sound alike. Your and you’re are good examples. Your is a possessive pronoun. That is your car. You’re is a contraction for you are. So don’t write your welcome unless the welcome belongs to the other person. Don’t write you’re car unless you are telling a Buick “You are car, me Tarzan.”
I can’t tackle commas. Too much to say, so little time.
It’s endless. Oh, there’s a good one. Its and it’s. Watch carefully: It’s interesting to watch a cat lick its paws. The first it’s is a contraction for it is. The second its simply shows ownership. It doesn’t need an apostrophe.
One word on quotation marks and I’m done. Quotation marks are highly overused and abused. I simply don’t understand what people are thinking sometimes. Example: The congressmen and their “wives” all went to dinner together. I actually read that sentence in a newspaper years ago. So what was the reporter telling us? That the women were not actually the congressmen’s wives, that’s what!
I almost forgot. We also tend to use the ‘s construct with, for example, biblical names that end in s. We don’t need to. When you write, “It was Moses’ worst nightmare,” you can leave out an ess following the apostrophe. Best example, one with which we’re all familiar, is “At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.” The temptation to write and say Jesus’s is overwhelming, I know. Resist it.
PS: I’ve just proofed this piece for the FOURTH time and still found errors. I suspect I’m going to have a few more gleefully pointed out to me 🙂