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Don’t be an idiot.

I hate idiots who can’t spell or use grammar correctly. If you’ve graduated from 8th grade or higher, learn to sound like a normal person. I don’t have a problem with someone who is just typing too fast and misspells a word or two – that’s inadvertent. But it’s the person who perpetually sounds like a buffoon because they just never bothered to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re” or “they’re” and “their”. (While I’m on this rant, I automatically hate anyone who types “ur” instead of “you’re” on a regular basis in their emails or blogs. FOAD, k?)

This article sums up some of my issues well:

10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid

These days, we tend to communicate via the keyboard as much as we do verbally. Often, we’re in a hurry, quickly dashing off emails with typos, grammatical shortcuts (I’m being kind here), and that breezy, e.e. cummings, no-caps look. It’s expected. It’s no big deal. But other times, we try to invest a little care, avoiding mistakes so that there’s no confusion about what we’re saying and so that we look professional and reasonably bright.

In general, we can slip up in a verbal conversation and get away with it. A colleague may be thinking, “Did she just say ‘irregardless’?”, but the words flow on, and our worst transgressions are carried away and with luck, forgotten.

That’s not the case with written communications. When we commit a grammatical crime in emails, discussion posts, reports, memos, and other professional documents, there’s no going back. We’ve just officially gone on record as being careless or clueless. And here’s the worst thing. It’s not necessary to be an editor or a language whiz or a spelling bee triathlete to spot such mistakes. They have a way of doing a little wiggle dance on the screen and then reaching out to grab the reader by the throat.

So here we are in the era of Word’s red-underline “wrong spelling, dumb ass” feature and Outlook’s Always Check Spelling Before Sending option, and still the mistakes proliferate. Catching typos is easy (although not everyone does it). It’s the other stuff — correctly spelled but incorrectly wielded — that sneaks through and makes us look stupid. Here’s a quick review of some of the big ones.

#1: Loose for lose
No: I always loose the product key.
Yes: I always lose the product key.

#2: It’s for its (or god forbid, its’)
No: Download the HTA, along with it’s readme file.
Yes: Download the HTA, along with its readme file.

No: The laptop is overheating and its making that funny noise again.
Yes: The laptop is overheating and it’s making that funny noise again.

#3: They’re for their for there
No: The managers are in they’re weekly planning meeting.
Yes: The managers are in their weekly planning meeting.

No: The techs have to check there cell phones at the door, and their not happy about it.
Yes: The techs have to check their cell phones at the door, and they’re not happy about it.

#4: i.e. for e.g.
No: Use an anti-spyware program (i.e., Ad-Aware).
Yes: Use an anti-spyware program (e.g., Ad-Aware).

Note: The term i.e. means “that is”; e.g. means “for example”. And a comma follows both of them.

#5: Effect for affect
No: The outage shouldn’t effect any users during work hours.
Yes: The outage shouldn’t affect any users during work hours.
Yes: The outage shouldn’t have any effect on users.
Yes: We will effect several changes during the downtime.

Note: Impact is not a verb. Purists, at least, beg you to use affect instead:

No: The outage shouldn’t impact any users during work hours.
Yes: The outage shouldn’t affect any users during work hours.
Yes: The outage should have no impact on users during work hours.

#6: You’re for your
No: Remember to defrag you’re machine on a regular basis.
Yes: Remember to defrag your machine on a regular basis.

No: Your right about the changes.
Yes: You’re right about the changes.

#7: Different than for different from
No: This setup is different than the one at the main office.
Yes: This setup is different from the one at the main office.
Yes: This setup is better than the one at the main office.

#8 Lay for lie
No: I got dizzy and had to lay down.
Yes: I got dizzy and had to lie down.
Yes: Just lay those books over there.

#9: Then for than
No: The accounting department had more problems then we did.
Yes: The accounting department had more problems than we did.

Note: Here’s a sub-peeve. When a sentence construction begins with If, you don’t need a then. Then is implicit, so it’s superfluous and wordy:

No: If you can’t get Windows to boot, then you’ll need to call Ted.
Yes: If you can’t get Windows to boot, you’ll need to call Ted.

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
No: I could of installed that app by mistake.
Yes: I could have installed that app by mistake.

No: I would of sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.
Yes: I would have sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.

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6 Replies to “Don’t be an idiot.”

  1. Kal

    I always screw up the its and it’s… It’s like some weird mental block, I mean I even say “I couldn’t care less” instead of “I could care less”, so I’m not a total idiot…

  2. Avitable

    Kal: Quick rule of thumb. If you can replace it with “it is” then use it’s. Just think of that each time.

    That one isn’t as bad as the “your/there” ones, in my mind. That and misplaced possessives after a plural word.

  3. stephanie

    I’m a total grammar nazi, so I so relate to this. Your/You’re bothers me the most, with There/Their a close second.

    And don’t even get me started on the people who believe irregardless is a word.

  4. m

    Once a word, like irregardless, makes it into the dictionary (especially the OED)…it is a word. No matter how wrong its origins.

    Language is fluid and subject to constant change. Just think how many of the words you use everyday and think nothing of simply didn’t exist 500 years ago. They come from somewhere.

    A peeve (at least written). People who start a sentence with a conjunction,…Adam.

    A different kind of peeve. Those that like to jump on ending a sentence with a preposition because we were all taught that in grade school.

    There is actually nothing wrong with it. It is, in fact, not a rule of English usage (though it is in Latin).

    Otherwise, yeah…language, boy, I don’t know…

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