Monday, January 6, 2014

10 Grammar Reminders for the New Year

by J. Lea López

I can't speak for the rest of the FTWA crew, but I'm (mostly) rested and relaxed after our holiday break and I'm ready to jump back into business as usual with writing and blogging. With a new years comes a fresh start for all your writing goals. Here are ten grammar reminders to help you make this year's word count really shine.

1. Lay vs. Lie

There are still times when I have to Google this because I second-guess myself.

Lay is a transitive verb meaning to put something in a horizontal position.
Present tense: lay
Past tense:      laid
I lay the book on the coffee table. Yesterday I laid it on the kitchen counter.

Lie is an intransitive verb meaning to recline or be in a position of rest.
Present tense: lie
Past tense:      lay
I lay the book on the coffee table so I can lie on the couch. Yesterday I lay on the couch all day.

If you're like me, it will never not look strange even when you've written it correctly.

2. Peek/Peak/Pique

For a more in-depth explanation of this mistake, see here. Otherwise, hopefully this sentence will clear things up:

As a teen, I couldn't help but peek at my grandfather's old photo album; the images of him at the peak of his football career piqued my interest in the sport.

3. Should of/should have

If you're tempted to write that you should of, would of, or could of done something, what you really mean is you should have, would have, or could have done it. The contraction should've might sound like should of, but it's not.

4. Then vs. Than

Then is used in reference to time: Go through this light, then turn left at the court house. I worked there ten years ago. The building was brand new back then.

Or consequence: If you had looked up the directions this morning, then we wouldn't have wasted twenty minutes going in circles.

Than is used for comparison: The court house building is newer than the police station.

5. Lets vs. Let's

Lets is a present tense conjugation of the verb let, meaning to allow. My neighbor lets me keep my bicycle in her garage when it snows.

Let's is a contraction of let us, which is a command that basically is saying "we should" do something. Let's go hiking tomorrow. 

6. Past vs. Passed

Passed is the past tense conjugation of the verb pass. We passed a gas station a few miles back.

Past is not a verb. If you aren't sure which to use, ask yourself if the word you want to use is a verb. If so, use passed. But if the word is supposed to be a preposition, adjective, or noun, past is what you want. We already drove past the gas station. I don't remember the drive taking so long in the past

7. And me/I

I don't know about you, but "and I" was beaten into my head as a kid to the point where I didn't realize for a very long time that there are times when that's actually incorrect.

Incorrect: Will you come to dinner with Sally and I?
Correct:   Will you come to dinner with Sally and me?

If you aren't sure whether you should say and I or and me, try taking the other person out of the sentence. You wouldn't say Will you come to dinner with I, you'd say with me. Adding Sally to the mix doesn't change that.

Correct: Will you come to dinner with Sally and me? She and I would really love your company.

8. Elusive vs. Illusive

Elusive means evasive. Something difficult to catch or an idea that is difficult to grasp.
Illusive means deceptive or misleading. Causing or caused by an illusion.

9. Allude vs. Elude

To allude is to indirectly refer to something. He couldn't disclose his exact location but his letters alluded to the desert heat.

To elude is to evade or avoid, or to escape understanding. The dog's name eluded me so I couldn't call him to me. He eluded all the neighborhood kids trying to catch him by darting through a hole in the fence.

10. Defuse vs. Diffuse

Defuse literally means to remove a fuse, as in disarming a bomb. It is used more figuratively to mean to lessen a dangerous or tense situation.

Diffuse means to spread out widely, which is why we have scented oil diffusers to make our houses smell yummy.

What are some other grammar mistakes that you tend to make or that you've seen often?

J. Lea López is a shy, introverted writer with a secret world of snark and naughtiness inside her head. She writes character-driven erotica and contemporary new adult stories. Her first novel, Sorry's Not Enough, and her free short story collection, Consenting Adults, are available now. She'd love to tweet with you.


JeffO said...

Great summary! It drives me crazy when I see people writing 'peak' when they mean 'peek'. As for me, anything involving 'affect' or 'effect' sends me to the dictionary--I still get messed up on that one.

SC Author said...

I get callouse and callus mistaken!!

Suzanne Payne said...

I need to book mark this page.. Lie and Lay always get me. My computer corrects for me, but I need to know if the computer is right. Sometimes, it's not--shocker. You're explanations make sense to me. :D
Great post JLo!

Theresa Milstein said...

I always look the first one up because sometimes I don't trust myself!

I appreciate this list. I have to say affect and effect get me sometimes too!

J. Lea Lopez said...

I almost put affect/effect on there. :-) Lay and lie still get me sometimes too.

Kelly Louise said...

Weather, whether, wether. Yep, I had a manuscript full of castrated rams.

Yvonne Osborne said...

You've covered all the trouble spots. #1 is the most difficult for me. To this day, I have to really think about it. Thanks for my weekly grammar lesson!

Debra McKellan said...

Perfect sentence for peek/peak/pique!

I HAAAATE (lol) when people put should of/would of/could of. I think I wrote a Facebook note about it once. It makes no sense! lol

J. Lea Lopez said...

Kelly - ha! That's too funny. Unfortunate, but funny.

Debra, I think the would of/could of/should of thing highlights a disconnect between what we learn aurally versus visually. Should've can sound just like "should of" and while most people probably know the actual meaning of what they're writing, they aren't making the connection that "should of" makes zero grammatical sense. I had an epiphany a couple months ago about the word "segue" because it's something I'd always heard and understood the meaning of without really seeing written. So imagine my shock when I realized I was saying seg-way correctly, but writing it incorrectly as segue way. I was thinking segue was pronounced "seg" (like fugue isn't pronounced fug-way) and therefore there had to be a "way" after it. I felt like the biggest idiot ever. :-)

Julia Robert said...

English Grammar is an important part of English Writing and you can clear the concept of grammar through examples..

Conjunction and types of Conjunction with examples

Matt Sinclair said...

I didn't realize "wether" was a word, but then I've never had to write about castrated rams.

thị hậu nguyễn said...

I always look the first one up because sometimes I don't trust myself!

I appreciate this list. I have to say affect and effect get me sometimes too!
happy wheels
super mario bros

aliya seen said...

It is used more figuratively to mean to lessen a dangerous or tense situation.

sendul said...

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