Grammar Guide

Posted by Always Write at 3:05 AM Tagged with: , ,
Feb 222011

In homage to the hilarious Dave Barry, I thought I would clear up some popular grammar misconceptions by answering grammar questions sent in by readers. Let’s get started!

What is the serial comma, and why should I care?

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma, since that’s where it went to college) is the last comma in a list or series such as “red, white, and blue.” Some people don’t use it, mainly because … I don’t know, pressing the comma key a second time in a single sentence is really hard? Sure, most times it’s not really critical, but sometimes it can make a big difference, so it’s best to use it, for clarity. Consider if your wife saw you post one of these two status updates on Facebook:

I had sex with an amazing woman, my wife and my best friend.

vs.

I had sex with an amazing woman, my wife, and my best friend.

The first one is clarifying that the amazing woman is your wife, who is also your best friend. The second one sounds fun but will have you looking for a good divorce lawyer.

What is the deal with people using quotation marks incorrectly?

I’m glad you asked. This is a pet peeve of mine. You see this all the time on signs at restaurants and stuff. When you put something in quotes, you should either be quoting another speaker or using the quotes to mean that something might not really be what it’s claimed to be — like if you say that O.J. Simpson is “innocent” or that Sarah Palin is an “author.” But when a restaurant touts their “Fresh” Fish, I eat elsewhere.

Is proper capitalization really a big deal?

Yes. Proper capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse, and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

y r u so srs abt this grammar stuff? its no big deal

Get the hell off my blog.

I always get confused with your and you’re and there, their, and they’re. Help!

First of all, that’s not in the form of a question, but I want to help you out, because there’s no quicker way to look silly than to use one of these words incorrectly. Words that sound the same are called “homophones,” which means that they have negative attitudes toward words of the same sex getting it on. If you don’t know the difference, spell out the words instead of using contractions. Doesn’t “I hate you are stupid blog and you are stupid grammar rules” sound dumb?

Why doesn’t anyone know how to use apostrophes anymore?

Thank you, dear reader, for bringing up this vitally important issue, which I think should be one of our nation’s top 3 priorities, along with curing prostate cancer (or at least finding a better way to check for it) and instituting a college football playoff.

What do all of these examples have in common?

Sale on SUV’s

2-for-1 drink’s

I told my parent’s that school is for loosers

If you answered “they are all abominations,” you get a gold star. Apostrophes are used to indicate a contraction, or possession. Not just because you pluralized something and felt like hitting the apostrophe key since you saved a keystroke by skipping a serial comma earlier.

Well, that’s all for this edition of David’s Grammar Guide. Leave your grammar questions in the comments below, and try not to think too much about how “fresh” that fish you had for lunch really was.

© 2010 David Derrico