writing things down…

Clean up

I was going through some old computer files in an effort to clean up my hard drive a bit and I came across a text file I had started a while back on some of the grammar and pronunciation peccadilloes that I wish students and speakers would learn to correct.

its is a possessive. “The ball is round. Its color is red.”
it’s is a contraction of it and is. “The time is 9 o’clock. It’s time to go home.”
’til is a shortened form of until. “Goodbye. It won’t be long ’til I see you again.”
till is what one walks through in a subway station or what one does to one’s garden. “Farmer Brown will till the field this afternoon and plant seeds tomorrow.”
affect is most commonly used as a verb to denote having influence or effect – “The war affects the soldiers.” Affect can also be a noun to indicate feeling or the subjective aspect of an emotion. It is often used in therapeutic contexts. “The patients showed normal reactions and affects.”
effect is most commonly a noun (usually the result of the verb, affect) – “The war had an effect on the soldiers.” Effect can also be a verb to indicate accomplishment. It goes beyond mere influence. “The next president will want to effect a peace settlement in Iraq.”
– it’s definitely. definately is not a word. – key: the root is ‘finite’
– it’s pronounced real-tor. two syllables, not three. real-a-tor is not a word. I believe He-Man cartoons must have affected the pronunciation of this word. We heard Skel-e-tor too often!
– the English language allows for relative pronouns to be objects of prepositions. learn this and use it. there is rarely need to end a sentence with a preposition. “I have a beautiful wife for whom I am thankful.”
who is the subject of a sentence (usually a question) or a relative clause, or it is a predicate nominative – “Who is my wife? Gail, who is also a wonderful therapist, is my wife. My wife is who?”
whom is an object (most often of a preposition) – “To whom are you married?”



  Mark B-W wrote @

You simply must add the correct pronunciation of “Nuclear” (NOT Noo-kyoo-lar) to that list!

  J. Matthew Barnes wrote @

Thanks Chris for this. I have seen something similar from Dr. Stassen, except in explaining different grammatical mistakes, he actually makes them himself. I’ll have to look through my stuff and see if I can’t find it!

  Doug Chaplin wrote @

I must disagree with you over the use of “till”. At least in British English it is regularly used as a synonym of “until” in many contexts. This includes recognised literary contexts, and it is cited with that meaning in the OED.

I would also suggest you are fighting a losing battle on the assimilation of “affect” and “effect”, much as we might value the distinction.

Finally, I note Sir Winston Churchill’s dictum “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.” Your list may contain a mix of common sense and pedantry.

  Chris wrote @

OK, Doug, I checked out till. You are right, it has been commonly used in place of until. I wouldn’t say it is a synonym, but rather an alternative spelling of the ’til contraction. Despite my use of them here and in informal writing, I don’t think contractions are appropriate for more formal academic papers. I recommend my students avoid them. So, on these grounds, I still oppose the use of till.

I’m willing to lose the battle between the verbal uses of affect and effect. There is little distinction between having an influence (effect) and accomplishing (affect). However, when a student wonders about the special affects of a movie, I must draw a line.

I readily accept the accusation of pedantry. These observations, for the most part, come from marking graduate level papers. I often need to be pedantic.

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