Mar 042009

The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar has had today – March 4th (march forth!) – declared National Grammar Day in the United States. SPOGG, as they are affectionately and more briefly called, looks at promoting good grammar and preventing bad grammar in a cheerful and humorous way. I encourage everyone to visit their site. You can buy cool T-shirts and mugs there. Oh, and membership in SPOGG is free.

In honour of National Grammar Day, I want to mention a few grammar peeves of mine. I won’t make it a ‘Top Anything’ list or even a list of ‘my worst nightmares’, because I know that, as soon as I do, I’ll think of something worse.

So, here goes:

1. Then/than

Then is related to time:

  • Then he went to the store.
  • That was then, this is now.

Than is comparative:

  • This house is better than that one.
  • I’d rather go home than sit in a meeting.

2. Inappropriate apostrophes

Apostrophes denote ownership. If the word doesn’t own something, then don’t use an apostrophe:

  • McNally’s Bar
  • Kristen’s house
  • Houses for sale

Apostrophes are also used to replace letters in contractions:

  • That’s hot. (means That is hot.)
  • Let’s go. (means Let us go.)
  • Don’t use bad grammar. (means Do not use bad grammar.)

Just as bad as putting apostrophes where they don’t belong is NOT using them where they do belong. Birmingham, England, has generated great scorn with their view that ‘apostrophes are too difficult to understand, so we’ll just do away with them’.

3. Bad grammar from people who should know better or who should employ proofreaders who know better (public relations folks, communications professionals, newspaper writers – heck, writers of any sort.) But that’s a rant for another day.

4. People who use words they don’t understand in ways they are not meant to be used. If you look up a synonym in a thesaurus, use a dictionary to make sure your usage is correct.

5. The flashlight SHONE, not SHINED!

These are past tense forms of two different words that are homonyms:

To shine: to bring light

  • The sun shines.
  • She shines a flashlight on something.
  • Past tense: The sun shone. She shone a flashlight on something.

To shine: to brighten, to clean something

  • He shines his shoes.
  • Past tense: He shined his shoes.

I may even add to this list or add links to examples or explanations.

And, here are a couple links to some great grammar-related sites:

I’m open to other sites to include today, but I probably won’t be updating this page after the close of National Grammar Day.

  One Response to “It’s National Grammar Day!”

  1. I have one to add to your list: “its” versus “it’s”.

    I understand why this one is confusing. It breaks the possession rule. “Its” is possessive, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”. The other one that really bothers me is when people misuse “whose” and “who’s”.

    “Whose”, possessive. “Who’s” contraction.

    I won’t even start on the they’re/their/there problem. If you graduated from high school you should know the difference.

    Punctuation is my problem. I have an ongoing love affair with the comma splice.

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