Confused? Let’s Choose to Show We Chose the Right Word.

I keep seeing the same mistakes over and over with misusing words that are similarly spelled or are forms of other words and cause confusion.  I’ll try to make it more clear to make it easier to choose the right word.

Accept and Except – accept is to take or receive; except is to exclude.

  • She was able to accept the package for Jim. (She was able to RECEIVE the package)
  • Everyone was invited except Joe. (Joe was EXCLUDED from the invitation.)

Affect and Effect – affect is to influence or to change; effect is the result or impression or to bring about.

  • The habit of coming in late had an affect on Sally’s raise this year. (Sally’s habit of coming in late INFLUENCED her raise.)
  • The effect of the rain was a beautiful rainbow and also several accidents on the rush hour drive home. (The beautiful rainbow and the accidents were the RESULT OF the rain.)

Choose and Chose – choose means to select; chose means you have already selected.

  • She will choose her car based on its color. (She will MAKE her selection of car based on color.)
  • She chose the red car. (She already MADE the selection of the red car.)

Ensure and Insure – ensure means to make certain; insure means to protect against loss.

  • He wanted to ensure the job was done correctly. (He wanted to MAKE CERTAIN the job was done correctly.)
  • She was able to insure her sports car. (She PROTECTED her sports car.)

Gibe and Jibe – gibe means a sarcastic remark or to scoff at; jibe means to agree.

  • The gibe about her hair color was hurtful. (The SARCASTIC REMARK about her hair color was hurtful.)
  • The figures didn’t jibe between the checking account and the accounting system. (The figures didn’t AGREE between the checking account and the accounting system.)

Its and It’s – its is the possessive form of it; it’s is the contraction for it is or it has. This is particularly confusing because most possessive forms use the apostrophe, but just remember if you cannot replace your word with “it is,” then you use “its.”

  • The dog chewed up its collar. (The collar BELONGED to the dog.)
  • It’s the third collar they had to buy the puppy. (IT IS the third collar.)

Know and No – know means to understand; no means not any.

  • I now know the correct usage of it’s. (I UNDERSTAND the correct usage of it’s.)
  • He has no money to go on vacation. (He does NOT HAVE ANY money to go on vacation.)

Loose and Lose – loose means not bound or to release; lose means to suffer the loss of.

  • The dog got loose from its leash and ran out of the yard. (The dog is NOT BOUND by its leash.)
  • She was afraid she would lose her dog once it got loose. (Now that the dog is loose, she may SUFFER THE LOSS OF the dog if he does not come home.)

Their and There – their means belonging to them; there means in that place.

  • Their house is the nicest on the block. (The house BELONGING TO THEM is the nicest on the block.)
  • The car is there in the driveway. (The car is IN THAT PLACE in the driveway.)

Your and You’re – your means that it belongs to you; you’re is the contraction for you are. This one is misused by most of the people I see on Facebook who are teens or preteens and even some young adults and makes me question how they are teaching this in school.

  • I thought you said my phone was in your purse? (The purse BELONGS to you.)
  • You’re going to the movies tonight, aren’t you? (YOU ARE going to the movies.)

I will have to print this list out for my grandchildren so I don’t get the urge to comment on their Facebook status to change it for them.

I hope the some of the confusion is cleared up. Are there words that are confusing to you? Comment below or email me at proofthatblog@gmail.com.

Possessives with Personal Titles

A friend recently forwarded me a question about the first sentence in a brief for a state Court of Appeals that they wanted to make sure was correct.  The sentence was (which I have changed to protect her client):

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones’, Esq. opinion letter which established the sale of the business was XXX.

There is nothing specifically on point in the Gregg Reference Manual, but I did find a couple of places on the Internet where the question was answered with the example of “M.D.” In that case, for singular possession, you add “s” after the apostrophe, i.e., Jim Jones, M.D.’s diagnosis. The most prevalent use of what would be “Jim Jones, Esq.’s” is on LinkedIn–certainly not an expert in the grammar area–but makes the most sense and follows the example for M.D. I think the proper sentence would be:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones, Esq.’s opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.

The easiest answer is to reword the sentence:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in attorney Jim Jones’ opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.

OR

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in the opinion letter of Jim Jones, Esq. which established the seller of the business was XXX.

It was a great question and something that at first blush seems simple, but when you really think about it, it wasn’t quite so easy.

Nonessential Phrases, and Subsequently, Commas Setting Them Off Are Often Misused.

4212122_sFor some reason, I’ve been seeing this issue a lot lately–the comma with the word “and.” A basic rule with commas is their use to set off nonessential phrases. Unfortunately, for some reason, people think that a comma always belongs before the word “and.” Note this example:

  • The information is collected and analyzed and will be used to develop resources to strengthen other departments, and ultimately, our ability to work as a cohesive team.

 

Do you see the problem? When you take out the nonessential phrase set off by commas “and ultimately,” the sentence doesn’t make sense:

  • The information is collected and analyzed and will be used to develop resources to strengthen other departments our ability to work as a cohesive team.

 

So in reality “and ultimately” is NOT a nonessential phrase, only “ultimately” is:

  • The information is collected and analyzed and will be used to develop resources to strengthen other departments and our ability to work as a cohesive team.

 

Thus, the commas should be around the word “ultimately” ONLY.

Here is another example:

  • . . . defend and indemnify XYZ Corporation in the Litigation and/or settle the Litigation on XYZ Corporation’s behalf, and if so, whether ABC Corporation breached that contract.

 

Again, if you take out what appears to be the nonessential phrase because it is set off by commas, it doesn’t make sense:

  • . . . defend and indemnify XYZ Corporation in the Litigation and/or settle the Litigation on XYZ Corporation’s behalf whether ABC Corporation breached that contract.

 

So the true intent was to set off “if so” as the nonessential phrase:

  • . . . defend and indemnify XYZ Corporation in the Litigation and/or settle the Litigation on XYZ Corporation’s behalf and whether ABC Corporation breached that contract.

 

The correct use of commas should be:

  • . . . defend and indemnify XYZ Corporation in the Litigation and/or settle the Litigation on XYZ Corporation’s behalf and, if so, whether ABC corporation breached that contract.

 

The best check while proofreading is to read the sentence without the “nonessential” phrase to see if it is truly nonessential. That should be your clue as to whether commas are needed and, if so, where they should be correctly placed.

Bubble Wrap, Champagne, and Solo Cups–Sounds Like a Party!

18394703_sIn listening to one of my favorite podcasts (Stop! … Grammar Time*) on the way to work recently, one of the topics was products that are a brand name and should be capitalized even though generic products are commonly called by the brand name. There are many of them. Here are a few:

Adobe – brand name of PDF program, even though some people say “Adobe” when they are referring to a PDF

Astroturf – brand of artificial grass

Band-Aid – brand of bandage

Boogie board – Boogie is a tradename for body board

BOOKS ON TAPE -brand name for audiobooks

Breathalyzer -brand name for breath alcohol testing equipment

Bubble Wrap – brand name for cushioning product for shipping

Champagne – sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France.  Sparkling wine from anywhere other than the Champagne region of France cannot be called “Champagne” but must be called “sparkling wine.”

Clicker – brand name of garage door opener

Clorox – brand name of bleach

Coke – brand name for cola flavored soda – short for Coca Cola

Disposall – brand name for garbage disposer in the sink

Dixie cup – Dixie is brand name for disposable cup

Dumpster – trademarked brand name for type of trash bin

Frisbee – trade name for flying disc toy

Jacuzzi – brand name of hot tub

Jet Ski – brand name for personal watercraft

Karo – brand name of corn syrup

Kitty Litter – brand name of cat box filler

Kleenex – brand name of tissue

La-Z-Boy – brand name of recliner

Levi’s – brand name of denim pants

Mace – brand name of pepper spray

Magic Marker – brand name of permanent marker

Plexiglass – brand name of acrylic sheet

Popsicle – brand name of frozen ice pop

Post-it – brand name of sticky notes

Q-tips – brand name of cotton swab

Rolodex – brand name of contact card system

Scotch Tape – brand name of invisible tape

Seeing Eye dog – name of organization that trains dogs for use by blind people

SHEETROCK – brand name of gypsum panel

Solo cup – Solo is brand name of disposal cup

Styrofoam – brand name of plastic foam

Super Glue – brand name of permanent adhesive

Tabasco – brand name of hot pepper sauce

Taser – brand name of stun gun

Vaseline – brand name of petroleum jelly products

Velcro – brand name of hook and loop fastener

WD-40 – brand name of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers

Windbreaker – brand name of wind resistant sports jacket

Windex – brand name of window cleaner

Wite-Out – brand name of correction fluid

Xerox – brand name of copier equipment

Yellow Pages – brand name of telephone directory advertising section

Ziploc – brand name of reusable, re-sealable zipper storage bag

These brand names should be used only when talking about that specific brand and should then be properly capitalized.

 

*Note that “Stop . . . Grammar Time” contains language that might be offensive to some but is still a very informative podcast.

Grammar Giggles – Dorp Your Kids Off At School

This was on our local news station and is from a school district on the far west side of the Valley. I understand that this is a simple mistake with a stencil, but it’s a four letter word and shouldn’t be that difficult. Having that kind of mistake in front of a school only makes it worse. Spelling is important!

School parking lot

 

 

Where Do You Put Prepositions At?

i-love-prepositions

According to the Gregg Reference Manual, ending a sentence with a preposition is not always wrong–regardless of what your high school English teacher told you. It will depend on whether you are writing in informal or formal style. In a law firm, we are usually writing in a formal style, so sentences should not end in a preposition.

  • INFORMAL: We didn’t know which publication her artwork appeared in.
  • FORMAL: We didn’t know in which publication her artwork appeared.

 

Sometimes when you try not to end a sentence with a preposition, you can end up with an awkward sentence.

  • STILTED: It is hard to understand about what he was thinking.
  • NATURAL: It is hard to understand what he was thinking about.

 

Also be careful because sometimes the object of a preposition at the end of a sentence is not expressed.

  • Our vacations are typically relaxing, but this year’s vacation was anything but. (Anything but relaxing.)

 

You may be familiar with Sir Winston Churchill’s complaint to an editor who tried to discourage him from ending his sentences with prepositions, which has become one of the greatest examples of the hazards of NOT putting a preposition at the end of a sentence: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

The basic rule for ending sentences with a preposition is to use good sense. It is not completely taboo, but use your judgment for when it is appropriate.

 

 

Grammar Giggles – Formerly Extend?

From Twitter.  In honor of back to school time, here is another example of higher education proofreading problems. In my book, schools have a special standard with respect to English usage and grammar and THIS is not it. Perhaps they should focus more on academics and less on extracurricular activities. Oh well, off my soapbox. This picture shows how easy it is to confuse words that sound similar but don’t mean the same thing and proves that it never hurts to have someone else review important work.

Univ of Virginia2

First Annual?

I have a friend who has long argued that “first annual” is incorrect. I decided to research it and the consensus is that although the topic is conveniently left out of most grammar guides, the first time you have an event is the “inaugural” event, even if you intend to hold the event every year. The AP Stylebook does state: “An event cannot be described as annual until it had been held in at least two successive years.” Once you hold the event for the second year, then it can be called the “second annual” event. So Ed is half right. The first event is the “inaugural” event and the second yearly event is the “second annual” event. He would argue that the second yearly event is the first annual since it is the first anniversary of the event so it should be the first annual. The research (and I) tend to disagree because it is the second yearly event, making it the second annual. Each successive annual event would then be called the third annual, fourth annual, etc.