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We did a little research on apostrophe use in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages floating around cyberspace and …

Mom’s win!

By far, there were more mistake’s for Mother’s than there were foul up’s for Father’s … (of course, our apostrophe abuse is intentional here).

We thought you might get a chuckle at some of our findings, so, here you go:

  • Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely Mom’s!
  • … wishing all the Mommy’s I know a Happy Mothers Day!! (this one could have just moved the mark to Mothers)
  • We have to celebrate our mama’s by the way…
  • … can’t wait to have dinner at moms house. (now, this one needs an apostrophe)
  • Happy Mothers Day to all those amazing Mom’s out there :)
  • … happy mother’s day to all d mom’s of d Boston celtics lol! (this one needs some Capitalization help, too)
  • Thank You, Yeah Us Mom’s Do Rock.
  • Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to Mom’s everywhere! (incorrect, unless his mother is omnipresent)
  • Happy Mother’s DAy to all tha mom’s n soon to b mom’s out there uu deserve it (this one needs some spelling help, too)

Therefore, today’s punctuation concentration is on avoiding that embarassing apostrophe catastrophe

To start, let’s define this little character:

apostrophe. noun. a mark of punctuation ( )used to indicate possessive case or omission of one or more letter(s) from a word.

You may see some sources state that the apostrophe is also used for indicating plurals of abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. We heartily disagree with this usage — we feel that this practice is outdated.

We do like Grammar Book’s baker’s dozen of Rules for Apostrophes, so we’ll refer you to their site for the full details and just give you a summary here, with one addition from us:

Our Apostrophe Rule:

0. Do not use an apostrophe to form a plural. This goes for words, symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms. * (This is related to Rules 5. – names, and 11. – CAPS & numbers used as nouns, below, but more encompassing.)

* Here are examples of misuse according to our rule:

CD-s and DVD-s

SUV-s

PC-s

Grammar Book’s Apostrophe Rules:

  1. Use the apostrophe with contractions.
  2. Use the apostrophe to show possession.
  3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
  4. Use the apostrophe to show plural possession.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name. * (We have some people in mind who need to learn this rule!)
  6. Use the apostrophe with a singular compound noun, to show possession.
  7. Use the apostrophe with a plural compound noun, to show possession.
  8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
  9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.
  10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it’s is when it is a contraction for it is or it has. (Remember, “its” is a possessive pronoun – no apostrophe.) See photo below.
  11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes. *
  12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
  13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun. (Refer to Rule 9. re: pronouns.)

Speaking of rules … we like this … from Trevor Coultart:

it's

Should be its.

Sources: GrammarBook.com, Flickr

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Several years ago, an article in an airline magazine, “Nouns Gone Bad,” really hit home with us.

It discussed the phenomenon of using nouns as verbs, and the growing prevalence of this practice.

A recent tweet (on Twitter) reminded us of this ever-growing trend …

“There is a poor grammar jesus bumper sticker collection on a van. I want to at least ‘Sharpie‘ it so it makes sense.”

You may know that a Sharpie® is a marker made by Sanford. Many professional athletes (and other celebs) use these markers for signing autographs. The pens have many other uses, and we confess to having what must be one of the largest collections of Sharpie® pens around (all colors, widths, point-types, and styles – literally, in buckets in the office). But we digress …

There is an interesting paper called “THE ENVIRONMENTAL STYLE” that was written in 2005 by R.P. Detwiler, NASA Office of General Counsel, in which this trend is addressed. Detwiler uses the examples: partner, team, dialogue, and task.

Have you heard (or used) these nouns as verbs? Maybe, in instances like (yes, we mean “like,” not “such as,” here):

  • Let’s partner on this venture.
  • How about we team up to find the solution?
  • We can dialogue about that topic.
  • My boss likes to task us with many jobs.

There are many other examples. There are even uses that are not primarily business-related:

  • Do you know anyone who likes to go antiquing?
  • The cops Tasered a stuffed animal the other day. (see the story)
  • That recent study really impacted our lives.
  • Did he transition from runner to cyclist?
  • Will picnicked during the soccer game.

These days, use of the Internet provides us with the opportunity to perpetuate this bent:

  • Ooh, let’s Google that …

So, now we add “Sharpie” to our list of nouns gone bad.

What are your offenders?

Be sure to see our related posts:

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We love this … obviously translated into English from some other language … enjoy!

Seen on a Health and Beauty Web site:

“You have to be on fire 3500 MORE calories than you eat, to lose 1 pound of fat. Consequently how a lot of total calories you would require to burn would depend on your caloric eating. Characteristically though, an important person eating correct and exercising frequently can lose 1 – 2 lbs a week with refusal difficulty. I weighed in my opinion before I leaved into a sauna and evaluated 148.8. I went into the sauna for concerning 10 minutes, and weighed for my part behind, I after that weighed 147.6. There single pound, other than if you desire to lose a few weight do a lot of cardio action, somewhat than exciting weights. Losing 1-2 pounds shouldn’t be that tough. I would create yourself off simple though and occupation your weigh up so your body is second-hand to it and you won’t totally tire out yourself and weak. To misplace 1 pound per week you require taking in 500 calories a smaller amount, whether by dropping your food, picking enhanced choices or in grouping with exercise. To mislay 2 pounds per week you require doing the similar, but 1000 calorie decrease per day. Unless you go after a thermo genie diet similar to Kinkiness and then you drop much earlier than the 3500 calorie regulation allows.”

Then, a Twitter follower sent us a twitpic that we just had to include in this post:

lost in translation

Thanks to @albertart who says: “I saw this outside a ramen restaurant when I was in LA.”

Gotta love it!

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Updated post:

Compounds plural or compound plurals? That is the question …

We were already compiling a few notes about the “art of pluralizing” when we got a rash of input (from TV, Twitter, and email) about the plurals of compound nouns, specifically those compound nouns consisting of a noun plus a modifier.

We’re taking our best shots here, so please feel free to disagree or otherwise comment.

In question:

daddy longlegs – conventional wisdom would lead us to the plural form of: daddies longlegs, however, since that is cumbersome, we suggest: Harvestmen

Attorney General – no question about this one: Attorneys General

gin and tonic – conventional wisdom (gins and tonic) again loses out here (we defer to ironic1.com for this one ): gin and tonics

gin and tonics

notary public – not much question with this one: notaries public

brother-in-law – consistent formation found for this plural: brothers-in-law

maid of honor – 1) for more than one honor: maid of honors; 2) for more than one wedding attendant: maids of honor (please, only one MOH per wedding); for more than one copy of the movie Made of Honor: we suggest DVDs.

made of honor

man-of-war – encounter one and there are likely more on the beach or in the water: men-of-war

Bride of Chucky – ok, so are you talking about the plural of Chucky’s mates or the number of movies … or, even, the possessive? For our purposes here, today: Brides of Chucky

Good, now we’re getting more input. In a recent Twitter conversation:

@NeillShenton to @GrammarCops “ok, what about multiple spoons full of something? Plural* me that – i’d rather rephrase a sentence than type THAT ugly word.” 

* We’re now adding “plural” to our list of Nouns gone bad … Thanks!

@GrammarCops to @NeillShentonGood one … it’s actually one word ‘spoonfuls.’”

spoonfuls

There are likely hundreds of such examples. Please contribute.

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It’s Friday afternoon. It’s time for some fun with headlines to finish out the week.

This one came from Twitter … @Newsweek posted this:

“Absent from the health-care debate, Ted Kennedy will weigh in tomorrow with a Newsweek story…”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

Kennedy weighs in

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Today there is lots of buzz around usage of use vs. utilize. What fodder for us!

The tweets (from Twitter) that got us started …

@phoefling to @GrammarCops: “*grammar rant* Whatever happened to the word ‘long’? A perfectly good word that’s been replaced by ‘lengthy’. Yuck!”

@Ms_Austen to @GrammarCops: “your description of ‘long’ similar applies to the word use,’ a perfectly good word often replaced by utilize.’”

@mightyredpen to @GrammarCops: “Up there with perfectly good word ‘use‘ being replaced by ‘utilize.’ Ugh.”

@mattimago (a Grammar Police Deputy) to @GrammarCops: “Utilise vs. use: I fully intend (split infinitive!) to utilise any pertinent points you post. I have no use for poor grammar.”

Then, the topic quickly turned to split infinitives … (upon which we shall dutifully follow-up and utilize in a future post). he he

@ChristinaGayle to @GrammarCops: “I like to use split infinitives from time to time. It makes me feel dangerous.”

Although the word utilize has origins as far back as the early 1800s, it seems that the computer age has put this term front and center. And, regardless of its standing as an official word in most dictionaries, it gets some people riled. Consider this usage note from dictionary.com:

Usage Note: A number of critics have remarked that utilize is an unnecessary substitute for use. It is true that many occurrences of utilize could be replaced by use with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as ‘They utilized questionable methods in their analysis’ or ‘We hope that many commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened.’ But utilize can mean ‘to find a profitable or practical use for.’ Thus the sentence ‘The teachers were unable to use the new computers’ might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas ‘The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers’ suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.

use vs utilize

Here’s a simple and functional distinction:

Use is the general word: (What is used often has depreciated or been diminished, sometimes completely consumed: a used automobile; All the butter has been used.) As applied to persons, use implies some selfish or sinister purpose: to use another to advance oneself. Utilize implies practical or profitable use: to utilize the means at hand, a modern system of lighting.

Plus, the dictionary definitions:

use. verb (used with object).

  • to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of: to use a knife. 
  • to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes: to use the facilities. 
  • to expend or consume in use: We have used the money provided. 
  • to treat or behave toward: He did not use his employees with much consideration. 
  • to take unfair advantage of; exploit: to use people to gain one’s own ends. 
  • to drink, smoke, or ingest habitually: to use drugs. 
  • to habituate or accustom.
  • Archaic. to practice habitually or customarily; make a practice of.

use. verb. (used without object).

  • to be accustomed, wont, or customarily found (used with an infinitive expressed or understood, and, except in archaic use, now only in the past): He used to go every day. 
  • Archaic. to resort, stay, or dwell customarily.

use. noun.

  • the act of employing, using, or putting into service: the use of tools. 
  • the state of being employed or used.
  • an instance or way of employing or using something: proper use of the tool; the painter’s use of color. 
  • a way of being employed or used; a purpose for which something is used: He was of temporary use. The instrument has different uses. 
  • the power, right, or privilege of employing or using something: to lose the use of the right eye; to be denied the use of a library card. 
  • service or advantage in or for being employed or used; utility or usefulness: of no practical use. 
  • help; profit; resulting good: What’s the use of pursuing the matter? 
  • occasion or need, as for something to be employed or used: Would you have any use for another calendar? 
  • continued, habitual, or customary employment or practice; custom: to follow the prevailing use of such occasions. 
  • Law. a. the enjoyment of property, as by the employment, occupation, or exercise of it. b. the benefit or profit of lands and tenements in the possession of another who simply holds them for the beneficiary. c. the equitable ownership of land to which the legal title is in another’s name.
  • Liturgy. the distinctive form of ritual or of any liturgical observance used in a particular church, diocese, community, etc.
  • usual or customary experience.

use. verb phrase.

  • use up, a. to consume entirely. b. to exhaust of vigor or usefulness; finish: By the end of the war he felt used up and sick of life. 

use. Idioms.

  • have no use for, a. to have no occasion or need for: She appears to have no use for the city. b. to refuse to tolerate; discount: He had no use for his brother. c. to have a distaste for; dislike: He has no use for dictators. 
  • make use of, to use for one’s own purposes; employ: Charitable organizations will make use of your old furniture and clothing. 
  • of no use, of no advantage or help: It’s of no use to look for that missing earring. It’s no use asking her to go. Also, no use.
  • put to use, to apply; employ to advantage: What a shame that no one has put that old deserted mansion to use! 

And then there’s …

utilize. verb (used with object). Also, especially British, utilise.

  • to put to use; turn to profitable account: to utilize a stream to power a mill. 

So, our usage recommendation: use use when not useful to utilize :-).

Source: dictionary.com

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grammar books

Just a little ditty for your enjoyment …

Grammar is good.
And usage is too.
Together, they help you communicate.

Language is fun.
Words do abound.
L’il marks: they can “all” help (you) punctuate!

Spelling with letters;
Syntax; formation …
Sentences will help you concatenate.

Nouns, sometimes proper;
And verbs all have forms …
If only to help us to conjugate.

Constructing a sentence,
A phrase, or a question …
Please, just be sure not to desecrate.

Superlative adjectives,
And adverbs to modify …
Just some tools we may use to formulate.

Yes, there are rules,
For speaking and writing …
When followed well, help you not irritate.

We’re referring to English
In this, our short tribute …
For which we’ve found none to compensate.

So, back to our blog,
Or Twitter, or work …
Something to which you likely relate.

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