Do You Really Understand English
Everyone who reads my blog knows I love Reader’s Digest. In their September 2010 issue, they presented an article by Melissa Demeo and Paul Silverman that resonated with me. Although I like to think I’m literate when it comes to speaking and writing, I honestly had to pause after each example and consider if I’m an offender.
I’m going to share some of their tips with you today. I suppose as long as I’ve credited the magazine and authors, I won’t be brought up on plagiarism charges. I’ve “bolded” the correct examples below, and in some cases, both are appropriate when used in the correct situation:
Could care less versus Couldn’t care less: Because you care so little already, you couldn’t care less.
Less versus Fewer: Recommend the use of fewer when you specify a number of countable things (50 words or fewer). Less is appropriate when speaking of mass amount (less than half.) *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*
Hone in versus Home in: Since hone means to sharpen, Home in comes from “homing pigeons.” which indicates being single-minded. You either want to home in on something or, if you’re confused, zero in on the topic.
Brother-in-laws versus Brothers-in-law: Form the plural by adding an s to the thing there is more than one of. Of course an ‘s would indicate possession by one brother-in-law. (applies to runners-up and hole in ones, too)
Different than versus Different from: If you can substitute “from: for than, then do it. Use “than” for comparisons. Example: My office is different from any other in the building. My office is bigger than any other in the building. *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*
Try versus Try to: If you are planning to do something, then try to do it. Of course, try and try again makes sense, but remember the rule.
Supposably versus Supposedly: Although spell check tells me that supposably is not a word, it is one—meaning “conceivably.” But, if you’re trying to relay, “it’s assumed” than supposedly is what you want to say and what most people recognize as correct English.
All of versus All: Drop “of” whenever you can, but not before a pronoun. Examples: All the children were in their seats. All of them were in their seats.
Outside of versus Outside: Both are prepositions and weren’t meant to be used together.
Each other versus One Another: Each other is appropriate when speaking of two people or things. Example: Ginger and Barbara present each other with a gift for the occasion. One another is used when more are involved. Example: The debaters argued with one another.
Now for some confusing pairs:
Wary = suspicious
Weary = tired
Farther = physical distance
Further = metaphorical distance or time
Principle = rule
Principal = School official
Compliment = saying a nice thing
Complement = match
Continual = ongoing but intermittent
Continuous = without interruption
Stationary = doesn’t move
Stationery = paper
Imply = suggest a meaning
Infer = draw meaning from something
Affect (v) = to act upon. (n) = an emotional response
Effect (n) = something produced, but as a verb) to bring about
If you’re like me, you’re still confused about affect versus effect, so here are some examples: His bad behavior affected the entire classroom. His bad behavior had a negative effect in the classroom.
I still don’t get the “emotional response” usage of affect as a noun.
A few last helpful hints: Did you know that saying “at this point in time” is redundant? Point and time have the same meaning in this instance. At this time, at this point…
Past history? Isn’t all history past?
Be careful where you place your modifiers…if you even need one. If you read this sentence with “even” placed after “need”, the meaning of the sentence is changed. “Only, also, and even can impact your story if you aren’t careful.
And one of my favorites, I versus me: When comparing yourself to someone or something, use I. “Am” is implied so consider that “me am” is not appropriate. Meow is, if you’re a cat. J
The rules continue to grow the more I write. Just when I think I have a grasp on something, one house claims the rule inappropriate and I have to change my logic. What logic, I say….there is none in writing. But just in case you want to check out my accomplishments, please visit my website at http://www.gingersimpson.com and see if you think I understand English. Now don’t forget, we’re talking U.S. English, not The Queen’s English. Shouldn’t English be English? See, I told you…no logic.