Monday, July 1, 2013


By Pamela
My favorite T-shirt--a gift from Elizabeth. 

As a writer and editor, correct use of grammar and words stay forefront in my brain constantly continually continuously. (Some people might say 24/7, but that's a phrase I loathe almost as much as 'at the end of the day'--which makes it hard to watch Matt Lauer.)

Here are a few edits I've come across recently along with explanations, if needed.

The throes of summer (not throws)

The Naval Academy (not Navel), although it would be fun to attend a school devoted to belly buttons, I think!

I feel good (not well) or I feel bad (not badly). In this case, 'feel' is a linking verb not an action verb. Turns out James Brown knew his grammar better than some give him credit for. (Yes, I ended this in a preposition; I do sometimes.)

Further vs. Farther: At some point, I think we've started using 'further' in all cases, perhaps because we think it sounds smarter? I don't know. But they are two different words with two different meanings. Farther (think 'far') is used when referring to physical distance; further relates to figurative distance. For example: You drive farther down the street to a job interview that will further your career. (I swear, the TV is on as I'm writing this, and a voice-over just said, "As the dog runs further down the path..." Grrrr!)

Insure vs. Ensure: You insure your life, property, car, etc. You ensure an event or condition. For example: To ensure we won't run out of cupcakes, we baked 200. To help you remember the two: Think 'INsure' as it relates to 'INcome' and 'ENsure' as a 'guarantEE.'

Lead vs. Led: This is a hard one to explain, but read these two words as homophones. They might sound the same, but one is a metal; the other is the past tense of lead. So, if you write "She lead me to her leader," you really mean "She led me to her leader."

e.g. vs. i.e.: You might find the need to use these to explain what you're talking about, often set off as a parenthetical phrase. E.g. means 'for example' and i.e. means 'in other words'. So, if I write: "I love baking desserts (e.g. cupcakes, cakes, pies)" I'm giving you examples of what I love to bake. If I write: "I love baking with my neighbors (i.e. Tracy and Irene)" You know my two baking neighbors are Tracy and Irene. If I write: "I love desserts (i.e. cakes, cookies and cupcakes)" then you know I don't like pies because I used i.e. and not e.g. Confusing? Yes. If it makes you crazy, just write out: for example or in other words. Even though e.g. and i.e. were derived from Latin phrases and are widely used, you don't have to use them.

Possessive pronouns with gerund phrases The best way to explain this is with an example. If you write: "I hated him leaving the toilet seat up" you really mean "I hated his leaving the toilet seat up" because it's not him you hate but his action. Then again, maybe you do hate him, but in this case you should use a possessive pronoun OR write "I hate him and his leaving the toilet seat up." :) The key is the verb (or '-ing' word) that acts as a noun. Two more examples: Their arriving at dawn made us tired all day. We never anticipated his growing up so fast. For further reading on this, click here. And, please, master this. You'll sound so much smarter when you do.

Okay, that's enough for a Monday morning, but if you want more, may I suggest following Grammar Police and Grammar Girl on Facebook? They have enough ammunition to keep you entertained for hours!


  1. Lie/lay/laid is one of my pet peeves.
    Or seeing 'would have' written as 'would of.' ends up blunting my senses, so sometimes I feel badly when I can't feel well. ;)

    1. Swati, I credit great English teachers and diligent parents for paving the way to good grammar--including correcting me early and often for lie/lay/laid. That one bugs me too. Thanks for stopping by!


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