Lia’s guide to writing and speaking good…er, well

The world is full of them, and they are all around me. When I see them, I wince with excruciating pain. Their perpetrators should be jailed.

What are they? They are mistakes in grammar, spelling and word usage. And they’re everywhere.

Since I can’t take a big red pen and correct every error in sight or strike from the record everything anyone has ever said, I’d like to help the world out a bit by explaining some aspects of the English language to all of you here.

Lia’s Top 10 Grammar/Spelling/Word Usage Tips:

1) To / too / two

To = preposition. Too = also. Two = one plus one.

I am going TO the store. Oh yeah? Me TOO. The TWO of us should go together.

2) You’re / your

You’re is a contraction of “you are.” The apostrophe replaces the space and the “a.” Your means “belonging to you.”

YOU’RE pretty, but not as pretty as YOUR sister is.

3) It’s / its

It’s is a contraction of “it is.” Its means belonging to “it.”

IT’S a shame the dog doesn’t even know ITS own name.

Do NOT do this:

4) Their / they’re / there

Their = belonging to them. They’re = they are. There = not here.

THEY’RE gone. Where did they go? They went over THERE. Too bad, because I wanted to eat THEIR food.

5) Than / then

Than is used to compare things. Then is what happens after now.

You are better THAN he is at basketball. If you teach him how to play, THEN maybe he’ll be a better player.

6) Good / well

Good is an adjective (describes a noun), well is an adverb (describes a verb).

She sings WELL, but she’s not a GOOD dancer.

7) Everyday / every day

Everyday (one word) = adjective. Every day (two words) = adverb.

She usually wears her EVERYDAY clothes EVERY DAY of the week, but on Saturday, she dressed up.

8) Apostrophes in years

When describing a decade, just add an “s” at the end of the four-digit year. When you’re just using the two-digit year, add an “s” at the end, and add an apostrophe at the beginning.

Remember: an apostrophe means something is missing.

I was born in the late 1980s, but I listen to music from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

9) Freshman / freshmen

Freshman is singular and freshmen is plural; however, freshman can also be used as an adjective.

When in doubt, replace the words with sophomore or sophomores and you’ll know what to do.

Hey FRESHMEN! Come to the FRESHMAN Bonding Night. All the cool FRESHMEN will be there. But don’t worry, Mark won’t be there because he’s not a FRESHMAN. He’s a sophomore.

(Replace with “sophomore”: Hey sophomores! Come to the Sophomore Bonding Night. All the cool sophomores will be there. But don’t worry, Mark won’t be there because he’s not a sophomore. He’s a junior.)

10) Fewer than / less than

Fewer than is used for individual items, and less than is used for bulk or quantity.

FEWER THAN 20 people visited the restaurant and those people spent LESS THAN $100, so the owner had to go out of business. I went to the supermarket and bought LESS food THAN I bought yesterday, and I paid for it in the “10 Items or FEWER” line.

And there you have it: 10 easy guidelines to speaking and writing English properly. THEY’RE very useful, and knowing grammar WELL is better THAN sounding like an idiot. Use these rules EVERY DAY!


9 thoughts on “Lia’s guide to writing and speaking good…er, well

  1. I always stick to your guidelines on decades/years; however, I think some style manuals are cool with 1970’s. I definitely can understand the argument for “Steven always got good grades: As or Bs” turning into “A’s or B’s,” but I know that’s not cool.

    Also, the fewer vs. less thing–a little tricky, isn’t it?

  2. Hi Sethie!

    Whichever style manuals are cool with 1970’s should die. These rules all follow AP Style, which, when you’re in journalism, is your bible.

    I never liked the A’s and B’s thing. It does get confusing because “As” (I got three As on my exams) looks like “as” (but not as many as my friend). I’m not quite sure what AP says about that, though.

    I just hate when people use apostrophes to make things plural: I ate three apple’s. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Just because a letter grade is, well, a letter, doesn’t mean it should be allowed to become pluralized with an apostrophe.

    The fewer vs. less concept is a little-known fact–most people don’t know the difference. So, please, make the world a better place and correct people whenever possible. That’s what I do. =)

  3. its two bad. you think your better then every one, because you write good, and because you make 100’s of mistakes less than them. but your wrong, because mistakes, their bound to happen everyday, and people still understand what you say good no matter how you say it (and i knew this even when i was a freshmen).

  4. General English grammar, which AP style often contradicts, does indeed condone apostrophes after years and mandates them after letters. Now, you said,

    Your means belonging to you.

    When you wrote this, you correctly italicized “Your,” but needed to place “belonging to you” in quotation marks. Forgetting to do this often makes sentences very confusing.

    Oo! Here are another couple of good rules for ya’ll:

    1. “Ya’ll” doesn’t make any sense. What does the apostrophe replace? The “ou” in “you.” So write “y’all.”
    2. Two-word adjectives must be hyphenated, unless the first word is a well-chosen adverb.

    Lia, your examples were incredible. Did you get those from a style manual, by any chance?


  5. Thank you for the correction.

    I don’t hear people say “y’all” very often because I’m from Chicago. Down south in St. Louis, though, I bet you hear it all the time…

    Don’t even get me started on hyphens. Ohhhh man. I love hyphens, but the rest of the world seems to hate them. I could do a whole post on how to use hyphens. I have a million other grammar pet peeves but I wanted to focus on 10 here. Maybe I’ll do another post in a while with my next 10 grammar pet peeves. But yeah. Use hyphens, kids.

    And my examples were all from up here [points to head], thank you very much. I’m not going to lie, I often spend much more time on blog posts than I do on other things, like homework. But I had a lot of fun coming up with those examples!

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