Are you guilty of these crimes against grammar?
As a communications professional and journalist, it’s probably no surprise that I’m a lover of words.
Well, I say, ‘a lover of words’ but what I really mean is ‘a fully paid-up member of the grammar police.’
You could also call me a ‘grammar warrior’ – whatever you like!
You see, nothing makes my teeth itch more than a glaringly obvious spelling mistake or punctuation error.
But what really sets my molars on edge is when that mistake has been professionally reproduced in print such as a leaflet, a shop sign or a newspaper article.
And worse than that, when I know that it could have easily been avoided with a quick proof read.
Take these words:
We’ve made our cars’ more efficient.
Have we done the same with yours?
It’s the front cover of a brochure I spotted recently for a major car manufacturer. It will have gone through several rounds of approvals and no doubt cost as many thousands of pounds to print and distribute to showrooms around the UK.
And yet, somehow, despite the many professional eyes that will have been cast over these simple two sentences of copy, there is a rogue apostrophe so blatant, it may as well be shaking pom-poms and decked out in fairy lights.
That’s it, right there, after the word ‘cars.’ The apostrophe is completely unnecessary! And it’s this poor little member of the punctuation family that I see used wrong all the time – usually around plurals, but this isn’t an English lesson.
Well, seeing as I’ve started…as every punctuation pedant knows, an apostrophe either indicates a missing letter (it is = it’s) or possession (the cat’s whiskers). Where it gets really confusing is plural possession (the teams’ buses were in the car park). None are applicable here.
Careless mistakes like this are all too common but can give a poor impression of a brand.
So, before you commit any words to print, check that you’re not committing any of these grammar crimes:
‘And I’ or ‘and me’?
In theory it’s considered polite or correct to list yourself last in a sentence but ‘…and I’ isn’t always the right replacement for ‘me and…’
For example, instead of ‘Here is a photo of me and my friend’, don’t use ‘Here is a photo of my friend and I’, use ‘Here is a photo of my friend and me’.
An easy way to check is to remove the other person (in this case, the friend) from the sentence – ‘Here is a photo of my friend and I’ doesn’t make sense. ‘Here is a photo of my friend and me’ does.
‘…and I’ is correct when you are the subject of the verb, i.e. the person doing something in the sentence such as ‘My friend and I are going shopping’ rather than ‘My friend and me are going shopping.’
Shoulda, woulda, coulda…
Should have, would have, could have not should of, would of, could of (although I have heard that it may creep into the dictionary…no!
If you struggle to remember, it might help to think of the abbreviations – should’ve, would’ve, could’ve – the apostrophe is in place of the h and a from have.
Was you? No, I wasn’t – you were!
If you’re talking about a singular thing or person, use was – ‘I was watching TV’, ‘She was reading a book’, ‘The dog was barking’ etc.
When using you or a plural, were is correct – ‘You were right’, ‘They were wrong’, ‘The children were playing’.
You’re getting your words mixed up!
This one trips people up all the time.
Your refers to something that belongs to you, that is yours.
You’re is an abbreviation of you are. As mentioned above, the apostrophe indicates that letters are missing, in this case the letter a.
If in doubt, check your sentence by inserting you are in full and see if it still makes sense i.e.
‘That is your book’ à ‘That is you are book’ X
‘Your looking well’ à ‘You are looking well’ à ‘You’re looking well’ ü
I could go on.
But my point is that although it’s important to get these details right, I also understand that not everyone is confident when it comes to the English language.
And that’s OK.
I can’t fix cars so I hire a mechanic to do the job for me. Likewise, if grammar is all Greek to you, consider calling on a professional to help you out.
Whether it’s simply proofreading something you’ve written yourself, or drafting materials from start to finish, I’m happy to be-on hand with as little or as much help as you need.
Get in touch to see how I can work with you: