Sunday, October 01, 2006
In Which Zombie is Extremely Helpful
I've done this before, but I'm going to do it again, because it's apparent no one pays attention to this stuff. And people need to. The Interwebs is becoming a vast garbage dump, and it's all your fault. Yes, your fault. You. You, the one that writes the blog and puts it on the Interwebs and hurts my brain. You. I hate you.
Earlier today, I was completely amazed by several blogs. These blogs were supposedly written by "professional" writers - folks that write for real magazines or newspapers or perhaps have a book out or something to that effect. All of them, down to the very last one, made repeated, easily-corrected mistakes with their grammar and punctuation. Over and over and over again, they did this. My despair knew no bounds.
Seriously, folks, what's up with people writing when they don't know how to write? I'm not talking content here - after all, my own blog is often dreadfully devoid of content, a fact I like to try to hide by producing extremely wordy paragraphs and posting videos and suchlike.
I figure, at the rate I'm going, I may eventually descend into the comedic abyss of cheap dick jokes... but at least they'll be extremely wordy and impeccably constructed cheap dick jokes, thank you very much.
But I digress.
No, what I'm talking about here is the actual nuts-and-bolts process of writing: grammar, punctuation, spelling and all of that happy crappy.
"Eeeeuuugh," you are saying now, recoiling from your monitor. "You're going to devote an entire post to grammar? MUST you do this, you pedantic and evil, yet unbearably attractive and civilized Nazi?"
Oh, yes. I must.
You see, I'm sort of (okay, make that "really") tired of watching people butcher the English language in new and uninteresting ways daily.
I am not referring to the occasional typo, which everyone - including Ye Olde Exalted Yours Truly - makes from time to time. I am not talking about doing something incorrectly on purpose (like when I do this: "zomg you makes teh speling error u r dum ha ha u suX!!!!eleventy").
I am talking about the complete and utter disregard of the correct use of the language. I am talking about people that spew out any old nonsense, pay no attention to what it is they've put down, slap it up on the Interwebs, and then expect us all to decipher what it is they were trying to say. If I have to work to read your stuff, I'm not going to read your stuff. It's that simple.
So, to help those of you that are decidedly deficient in the Knowing What the Fuck You're Doing department, I've compiled the following resource to clear up common mistakes, misconceptions, and outright fuck-ups when it comes to writing in English.
I'm sorry, but all of my readers from scenic Uzbekistan will just have to go hang, because I can't help you.
Not that I actually have any readers from Uzbekistan...but if I did, they'd have to go hang, because I can't help them.
Just thought I should clear that up.
Here we go. Introducing...
Hey, Fucko, You Write Like a Dumbass: A Short and Handy Guide to Basic Writing Rules for Clownboats That Didn't Pay Attention in School
Let's start with some commonly misused words, shall we?
1.) "It's" and "its" are entirely different words. They are not interchangeable. Please cease using "its" where "it's" should be, and vice versa.
"It's" is a contraction. "It's" is a contraction for "it is."
"Its" is a possessive, used to describe something as belonging to something, as in the following: "The door does not work. Its hinges are broken."
2.) As in No. 1, "you're" and "your" are entirely different words and not interchangeable.
"You're" is a contraction for "you are."
"Your" is a possessive.
3.) Likewise, "they're," "their," and "there" do not mean the same thing.
Here is a sentence using all three words correctly:
4.) "Too," "two," and "to," are, as you can probably guess, also all different words and not interchangeable.
5.) Ditto for "then" and "than." I realize that when people are speaking, they often pronounce "than" as if it were "then." They do not mean the same things, however, and should not be used interchangeably.
I was more drunk than he was.
Another pair of words that is butchered like "then" and "than" is "accept" and "except."
If you accept something, that means you take it. If you except something, that means you leave it out. Someone fucking this up can sometimes be amusing, like when I get an email from a Jesus-freak:
Well, imagine that! He's right! I have excepted Jesus and my life is much better! The problem is that he really should've written "accept" because he wants me to let Jesus in, not leave him out.
I could answer him and say that I have excepted Jesus, thank you, and my life is just peachy, but he wouldn't understand why it's funny and might think he's converted me or something, and that just won't do at all.
Anyway, you do see the differences, right? Okay.
6.) For fuck sake, stop using "loose" and "lose" incorrectly. Observe:
Bad grammar makes me lose my shit.
The differences there are very easy to see. These words are even pronounced differently, and people still fuck it up on a regular basis. You wouldn't use "noose" and "nose" interchangeably, would you? No, you would not. Bear that in mind next time you are using these words.
Let's move on to some more complex issues.
7.) There is a proper time and place for the comma. You should not fling commas around arbitrarily, nor should you forget them entirely.
Commas can completely change the meaning of a sentence if used incorrectly. If that happens, then your meaning is lost. If your meaning is lost, what's the point of writing at all? That's what I thought.
Rules For Using Commas:
a) Commas should be used when addressing someone or some thing:
b) Commas should be used to separate things in a list.
Note: There appears to be some debate now over whether or not it's necessary to use a comma before the "and" in a sentence like the one above. I learned to do it that way in grade school and that is what I am used to, though it's apparently now acceptable to leave that comma out. Use your own discretion on that, as long as your discretion isn't retarded.
c) Commas should be used to separate compound sentences.
d) Commas should be used to separate off bits of the sentence that don’t really need to be there. The technical terms for those bits are "parenthetic phrases" and "introductory phrases."
I realize that sounds a little ambiguous, but let's break it down using an example, shall we? In fact, I can use that previous sentence to break it down.
The bit that doesn't really need to be there and is consequently preceded by a comma is the "shall we?" bit. If you removed that part of the sentence, it would not change the sentence's meaning in any way. So, if you find yourself writing a sentence and aren't sure whether or not something should be partitioned off with commas, just try taking that bit out. If the sentence still makes sense without that part, then you can put the commas in there. If the sentence becomes incoherent, those words are necessary and probably shouldn't have commas.
WARNING: Just because you take a natural pause when reading or saying something does NOT necessarily mean a comma should go in that spot. Follow the rules to decide whether or not a comma should live there.
WARNING, THE SEQUEL: Commas belong inside the quotation marks. An exception to the quotation marks rule is if the quotation comes at the end of the sentence, as in:
Notice that the comma is outside of the quotation marks in that instance. Also note that the period goes inside the quotation marks.
Another exception is if the quotation ends in a query mark or an exclamation point, as in:
"Are you insane?" she asked.
8.) Don't say "but yet." Instead, use "and yet." I don't really have the patience to explain why. Just don't do it. Thanks.
9.) However painful this may be for you to hear, "alot" isn't a word. The correct term is "a lot." See the space in there between the "a" and the "lot"? Learn the space, use the space, love the space. The space is your friend. If you don't believe me, click here. That's right. There's one dictionary entry for "alot" and it's a motherfucking acronym. I win.
Even though I just used the dictionary to prove a point, I am going to be a big hypocrite now and say something else.
10.) "Irregardless" may now be in the dictionary, but I don't care. It sounds stupid and I say you're not allowed to use it. The word "crunk" is probably going to end up in the dictionary, too, at some point, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous-sounding.
Check the dictionary entry for "irregardless," since one of the usage notes includes the lovely phrase "logical absurdity" and makes me happy.
Ditto for "alright." Use "all right." "Alright" is non-standard and it's silly. Stop it at once.
11.) When using "affect" and "effect," you only need to remember one thing. To affect something is to change it in some way. The effect is the result of that change. Now, isn't that easy?
12.) Stop using "would of." It's "would have." "Of" is a preposition and prepositions do not go with verbs like that.
13.) Don't use "supposingly" or "supposably." It's "supposedly."
14.) Quit screwing apostrophes over. What did they do to you, anyway? Why must you harass them and make them do things they aren't meant to do?
Do not use apostrophes to pluralize a noun. Most nouns only need the addition of an "s" to make them plural. Some nouns need "es." Then you have the freaky nouns like "mouse," which turns into "mice" when pluralized. That's all.
No apostrophe is necessary to make a noun plural, so leave the damned apostrophes alone.
Apostrophes were made to do three things and three things only.
a) To form a contraction.
b) To form a possessive.
c) To pluralize lowercase letters.
That is it.
Please note that the last one there refers to lowercase letters, not capital letters. Lowercase letters. If I see one more person write "CD's" to talk about his vast music collection or "DVD's" to talk about his shelf full of movies, I am going to find the nearest clocktower and start blasting away. Just sayin.'
NOTE: Using the apostrophe to replace the "g" in "saying" counts as a contraction. Aren't we all getting more and more clever by the second?
15.) "Literally" should not be used in place of "figuratively." I realize that common usage has people using "literally" left and right when they really mean "figuratively," but it drives me crazy and it's incorrect and if you don't stop it right now, someone is likely to get hurt. I won't be held accountable for my actions. I mean it.
Listen: "Literally" literally means "not figuratively." See what I did there? Using "literally" correctly in that sentence? Aren't I so cute?
You should not say something like, "I was laughing so hard, my head literally fell off." Your head did NOT "literally fall off." If it did, you wouldn't be able to say that to me, as your head would actually be somewhere on the floor and perhaps rolling down the hall. Maybe your head figuratively fell off, but I can assure you that it did not literally fall off, unless you happen to be some sort of freak of nature whose head can be detached at will and still retain the power of speech. Are we understood? Good.
Oh, and now I have to add Number 16.
16.) Mixing up "whose" and "who's" is annoying, so knock it off, damn you all.
"Whose" denotes possession.
"Who's" is a contraction for "who is."
Well, now. I'm glad we got all of that cleared up. I feel so much better. Don't you? Now you have no more excuses for screwing any of those things up and you are instantly a better writer than you were ten minutes ago and that makes you more attractive, consequently dramatically upping your odds of getting laid. I don't know about you, but good grammar really turns my crank. It is no coincidence that EB has impeccable sentence structure, after all.
Christ, I really should be famous by now, what with all my thought-provoking sentiments and helpful guides for living. Someone get me on TV right away! I have a world to change - one tiny-brained, malleable mouth-breather at a time!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Spelling and Grammar Nazi
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