Clarifications for the Use of the English Language

Sometimes I feel as though there is nothing left to do but put my head down and weep for humanity. And that’s only because of the incredible abuse of the English language that I see every day. Never mind the fact that, after being on this planet for so long, we still haven’t figured out how to get along with each other.

I’ve put a bit of thought into this, and realized something – maybe it IS the abuse of the English language that is causing much of the strife in the world today. Whether it is or not, it certainly can’t hurt to put a little effort in to get it right.

Yes, I’m a grammar nazi. Yes, it drives me crazy when people chronically spell things incorrectly. Yes, it bothers me when the wrong form of a homonym is used. Yes, I get hives when people abuse the rules of sentence structure and syntax.

I’m going to give you a few examples of what I’m talking about. Feel free to add your own in the comments. This is the information that needs to get out there, people.

The survival of our planet depends on it.

Most offenders head straight for this one:

There, their and they’re. There is usually used to indicate the existence of something or referring to a place. “I am going to be there.” Their refers to ownership, as in “That is their problem.” And they’re is a contraction of they and are and is used in place of those two words. Like “Where do they think they’re going?”

These are popular as well:

To, two, too.  Seriously, people. It’s not that difficult. To has 2 functions. It’s either a preposition, in which case it always precedes a noun – “He is going to the bathroom.” Or it’s an infinitive, in which case it precedes a verb. “I desperately need to urinate.” Two – if you don’t know this means “2”, please throw your computer, tablet or phone on the ground, and go live in a commune. Too also has a couple of uses. It’s a synonym of also – “He went to the bathroom too!” And it can mean excess, as in “I waited too long to go to the bathroom.”

Hear, hear vs. here here. One of the worst ones. It’s “hear hear”, OK? It comes from a time before the hills were dusty, when they used to say “Hear ye, hear ye”. Realistically, you should probably not even use the correct form of this one – unless you really want to be saying “Hear ye, hear ye” to people. So if you DO use it, please use “hear”, not here.

You’re, your. Anything with an apostrophe is a pretty good hint that there is a letter or two missing and that it might be two words joined together in matrimony. You’re is a conjunction of you and are. “Are you certain you’re using this word correctly?” Your just means it belongs to you. Like “This blog post will make your brain grow.”

It’s, its. See that apostrophe again? Mmm-hmmm, that’s right. It means it is. “It’s sure easy to speak English properly.” Its refers to possession, and not the exorcist kind. “Every dog has its day.”

We’re, were. Same deal. We’re represents we are. “We’re going to try to do better with the English language.” Where as were is simply the plural past-tense form of “are”. “We were just about to use this word incorrectly.”

There are more examples of these, obviously. But let’s look at some other infractions, shall we?

Peak, peek, pique.  This one seems to get a lot of people. Peak is the top of something, either in terms of a physical location (the peak of a mountain) or something that can be measured (the peak of demand for something). Peek means to have a quick or discreet look. By all means, use this one for “Peek-a-boo!” And finally, the tricky one – pique can be read as exciting interest in something, like “Boy, reading this sure piqued my interest in being awesome at English.” So, please, don’t write “I just wanted to get a sneak peak” or “That really peaked my interest”.

Affect, effect. Affect is a verb – “Learning all of these great things will affect my ability to communicate.” And effect is a noun – “Have you heard of the butterfly effect?”

Accept, except. Accept means to receive, approve of, you know – stuff like that. “I accept your apology for using the wrong word.” Except, on the other hand, can be used when you want to exclude something or you want to say “on the other hand”. “I care so much about proper use of the English language that I won’t even except children from these rules.”

Wear, where. Really? Do people not get the difference between these two? Wear means you’ve got it on or it can refer to the erosion of something. “You’re wearing a cloak of shame because you don’t know the difference between these two words.” Where refers to a place. “Where did you learn to write English?”

Bear, bare. I recently saw a tweet that read: “I could kill him with my bear hands” – really? That’s not possible, unless you’re this guy…

Other butchery of our language I’ve witnessed recently:

Spelling congratulations as “congradulations“. Come ON! How many times have you seen it spelled correctly?

People that mean “per se” but write “per say“. Ugh.

One of the worst Facebook transgressions, typically found under pictures of babies or kittens. People mean to write “awwww” (it’s up to you how many w’s you want to add), but write “awe“. Really? You have an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration or fear of that kitten?

I guess I’m just a stickler for details, but spelling, grammar, and related issues matter to me. As mentioned, please feel free to add your own pet peeves to the comments. I won’t charge for the therapeutic effect.

Remember, us grammar nazis have to stick together.

Support each other.

Hug a fellow grammar nazi today, pat them on the back, and whisper “There, their, they’re” reassuringly into their ear.

We can’t take each other for granite.

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