Carpe Weekend: Grammar snob confessions
By Jason Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org May 25, 2011 4:14PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
If you refer to compact discs as “CD’s” and not “CDs,” you owe me several bottles of aspirin.
Let me explain.
I spend only a small fraction of a typical 40-hour workweek writing this column.
The rest of the time, I’m sifting through hundreds of emails, faxes and phone messages as the one and only employee in the SouthtownStar’s community news department.
Here’s where those bottles of aspirin come into the picture.
There are only so many run-on sentences, dangling participles and split infinitives a former English undergrad can read before he’s driven irreversibly insane.
I can’t tell you how many times in my community news adventures I’ve come across press releases that were so horribly written I had to reconsider my position that hell is a mythical place.
I understand not everyone is going to possess William Faulkner’s mastery of the English language, and I certainly have nothing against readers who send me casual emails that may sometimes ignore a rule or two.
After all, I’m far from perfect myself. Even at my best, I’m much closer to a fledgling Dan Brown than an accomplished Ernest Hemingway.
But with minimal effort and a quick glance at an email before hitting the send button, you can help me avoid being fitted for a straightjacket or succumbing to migraine-induced hysteria.
Check out a few of my linguistic pet peeves, which I’ve presented here in order of irritation. Hopefully, you can help me in the future by avoiding these grammatical faux pas.
For those of you who insist on continuing to wave a middle finger at the English language, you can forget the aspirin.
Send me a case of Jack Daniels instead.
Plural vs. possessive
You listen to CDs, not CD’s.
When you add an apostrophe, you’re implying the object owns something.
“The CD’s surface was scratched” would be a correct sentence because the surface belongs to the CD.
Omit the apostrophe when you’re dealing with quantities. If you have multiple compact discs, you have many CDs.
The same goes for any object — you have fingers, not finger’s. I was born in the 1970s, not the 1970’s. And so on.
‘Your’ and ‘you’re’
It’s a common mistake to write “you’re” when you really mean “your,” and vice versa.
“Your” describes a noun by revealing to whom it belongs, whereas “you’re” is a contraction meaning “you are.”
The easiest way to tell the difference is to read your sentence aloud, substituting “you are” for the word in question. If it sounds right, it is. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.
The same goes for the oft-maligned words “it’s and its” and “they’re and their.”
A CAPITAL offense
As a general rule of thumb, only capitalize proper nouns such as Cadillac and Samantha. There’s no need to give an importance to “Coffee” that isn’t there. It’s just coffee.
And for the love of God, don’t write in all capital letters. IT’S AGGRESSIVE, AS IF YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THE PERSON. Chill out!
An assortment of atrocities
I could go on forever, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of room.
Until next time, write that you “couldn’t care less,” not that you “could care less.”
Don’t end your sentences with prepositions such as “to” or “at.”
And when you brag to your buddies about your annual salary, say you make “more than” $80,000 per year, not “over” $80,000.
Yeah, I know. I’m a grammar snob. And I’m proud of it.