Breaking the Myth Monday, May 6 2013 

In a time when our writing is becoming less proper by the moment, we still are hanging on to the old myth that a sentence should never end in a preposition. I know I avoided it for most of my writing career, but I assure you, it is perfectly acceptable to do so.

Prepositions are words used before nouns and pronouns to form phrases that modify verbs, nouns, or adjectives. They deal with time and space. Examples of prepositions include: above, about, around, before, beneath, beyond, near, of, on, outside, under, upon, to, toward, and with.

If you want to sound more sophisticated, go ahead and say, “To whom shall I send this?” But writing or saying, “Who should I send this to?” really is just fine.

After I write something, I read it aloud. I can usually hear if the sentence is awkward even if I don’t see it on the computer.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: All Together/Altogether, All Ready/Already, All Right/Alright Thursday, Mar 21 2013 

In the English language, we love to combine our words but then become confused as to how to use them, especially if the meaning changes slightly. We often find this with words that involve all, such as all together and altogether; all ready and already; and all right and alright.

Here are a few tips to help keep them straight:

A good way to remember when to use all together or altogether is that all together is used when the items that are grouped remain separate whereas altogether indicates the blending of the items, such as seen in the words themselves.

All together means “in unison,” “gathered in one place.” Use this pair of words when several things or people are brought into close proximity.

Examples:

  • The workers met all together in the cafeteria.
  • The choir sang all together.

Altogether means “entirely,” “completely.” If you can substitute either of these words, use altogether.

Examples:

  • Mix the ingredients altogether. (Mix the ingredients completely.)
  • This book is altogether different from the first one in the series. (This book is entirely different from the first one in the series.)

* * *

All ready means something is “completely prepared.” If you can use only the word “ready,” then “all ready” is correct.

Examples:

  • Dinner is all ready. (Dinner is completely prepared. Dinner is ready.)
  • My speech is all ready for the convention. (My speech is ready.)

Already has to do with time. This word means “by now,” “before now,” or “prior to a specified time.”

Examples:

  • I arrived at the theater by eight but the play already started.
  • She wanted another cookie but already brushed her teeth.

You can see the difference when used in the same sentence: Jack was all ready for work but his train already came.

***

All right and alright are interchangeable with some restrictions. Alright is generally accepted, but some sources continue to state that the word is a misspelling of all right. You may want to use the full form in academic or more conservative writings.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: Everyday and Every Day Thursday, Jan 31 2013 

One of the complicated aspects of the English language is the proper usage of words such as everyday and every day. These words are pronounced the same but are grammatically and significantly different. Verbally, this is not an issue, but it is in writing.

Here are some points to remember when writing these words:

  •  Everyday means common, ordinary, or normal.
  • Everyday is an adjective. Adjectives are used with a noun.

Examples:

  • Everyday life is the theme of this blog.
  • You wear your everyday coat during the week but your dress coat to special events.

Notice that everyday is accompanied with the nouns life and coat. If you can ask, “what,” such as everyday what, use everyday.

  • Every day is a combination of two words meaning each day.
  • Every day consists of an adjective (every) and a noun (day).

Examples:

  • I walk three miles every day.
  • I drink coffee every day.

Notice there are no more nouns after the word day. If you can replace every with each, use every day.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

You’re Your Own Person Thursday, Sep 27 2012 

Texting is resulting in a society that no longer can write appropriately. Because of the constant flow of quick messaging, we’re often hurried and sloppy in our spelling and grammar usage. The misuse of contractions is particularly common.

Contractions are the shortened versions of words or groups of two or more words. Unlike compound words that use the words in their complete form, as illustrated in the word “bookkeeper,“ contractions replace a letter or two with an apostrophe. For example, “they” and “are” becomes “they’re;” “do” and “not” becomes “don’t;” and “I” and “am” becomes “I’m.”

When unsure of using words with the same sounds such as “your” and “you’re,” ask yourself if the word can be replaced with the full form such as “you are.” If so, use the contraction (or the full form).  It’s very simple and only takes just one more moment. The more often you spell the words correctly the easier it becomes.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: There, Their, They’re Wednesday, May 16 2012 

 

They’re looking for their shoes over there.

They’re, there, and their. These three words are misused daily, and I must admit that although I know the right usage, occasionally I also have keyed in the wrong one. So here’s a quick review on how to use them correctly.

They’re, there, and their sound the same but have different meanings. Knowing when to use which one is simple if you take a few seconds to think about what you want to say before writing.

  • They’re is a contraction, a combination of the two words they and are. If you can substitute They are in the sentence you also can use they’re.
  • There is a place. If the word answers the question, “Where is it?” use the word there. (Notice the word “here” within the word. If it’s not here it’s there.)
  • Their shows ownership. It is the possessive form of they. Whose book is this? It is their book.

Do you have a grammar or writing question? Tell me and I’ll cover it in a future post.

©Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: Me and I Wednesday, Apr 18 2012 

When is it correct to use “I” and when should you use “me?” The two words are often used incorrectly. But it isn’t that difficult to know which is correct.

“I” is the subject of a verb – the one who does the action. “Me” is the object of the verb – the one the subject does the action to. Example: I want this for me.

When “I” and “me” are used with another noun, you often can hear which word should be used if you remove the other noun. Look at the following sentence:

Patti and (me or I) ate the whole loaf of bread.
Patti ate the whole loaf of bread. I ate the whole loaf of bread.
Patti and I ate the whole loaf of bread.
“I” am the subject of the verb. I ate the bread.

And here is an example for “me:”
The doctor gave both my husband and (me or I) prescriptions.
The doctor gave my husband a prescription. The doctor gave me a prescription.
The doctor gave my husband and me prescriptions.
“Me” is the object of the verb. I didn’t do anything. It was done to me.

Now you try it. If you stop and think a moment before speaking or writing, you soon will hear the correct pronoun to use. Just remember, “I am not the king. I am the subject.”

©Mary K. Doyle

%d bloggers like this: