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. LieThere 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/PiqueFor 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 haveIf 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. ThanThen 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'sLets 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. PassedPassed 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/II 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. IllusiveElusive 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. EludeTo 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. DiffuseDefuse 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.