It’s National Grammar Day – no, really.

The right word. One common problem seems to be using the wrong (but very similar) word, especially when we use them as metaphors. For example:

  • Lose means you misplace something; loose means it’s not tight.
  • Lightening means becoming lighter; lightning is what goes with thunder.
  • Hone means sharpen; home means where you live. You hone in on the main question.
  • Reign is the period of a monarch’s rule; rein is what keeps horses from going off course. You rein in a quarrelsome committee member.
  • Bait is what you catch fish with; bate means lessen. In a stressful situation, you might speak with bated breath.

That pesky apostrophe. It’s responsible for all kinds of goofs. Memorize this rule:. An apostrophe stands for a missing letter or letters. “It’s” is a casual rendering of “it is,” and  “you’re” means “you are.”  I’m astonished at how often I see this wrong in published books.

  • Its means belong to it; it’s means it is.
  • Your means belongs to you; you’re means you are.
  • They’re means they are; their means belongs to them; there means not here.

Come on, guys; it’s not that hard. You’re too smart to mess this one up. There are much trickier things to worry about.

My pet peeve. There’s much more to this grammar thing, of course, but I think that’s enough for now. I’ll just close with my particular pet peeve—using the word “of” when the intention is the contraction ‘ve (in place of the word have).  As in “I would’ve come sooner if I had known.”

I see this all the time in fiction, particularly in dialog. Even our very best fiction writers make this mistake (perhaps because they write by talking about loud as they type), and it absolutely drives me up a wall. Okay, I got that off my chest.

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