From The Rock

Only you can prevent word crimes.

By | August 28, 2014

If there’s a funny grammar meme out there, it’s a safe bet to say I’ve seen it (and loved it). My friends and family make fun of me all the time for my love of words. Some of my favorites are to comfort with the words there, they’re, their (sent by my friend Chelsea), the grammar dog (sent by my friend Kent) and the grammar police(sent by my Aunt Laura). But my all-time favorite came to me a few weeks ago in the form of Weird Al’s #wordcrimes (sent by my friend Amanda).

I’m not kidding when I say that if I’m feeling a little down for any reason, watching word crimes makes my day better. I’m a huge nerd, I know. But the video does a lot for calling out some really common things that I see all the time. As a follow-up to myPRoofread post from 2012, here are a few ways you can prevent word crimes.

If you think I’m wasting your time, think again!

You may think you don’t need grammar or spelling. But you never know who is watching. It’s a joke in my family that I don’t eat at restaurants called a “kafé” instead of a café. I don’t bring my dry cleaning to the “kleaner.” Now this is not to say I would totally discount a business using a K instead of a C, but it does mean that it’s much harder for me to take someone seriously who doesn’t spell things correctly. Ask any hiring manager, and they’ll say misspelled words on a resume are often a deal breaker. Your written word is often the first thing people see…so make your first impression a good one!

Weird Al makes some good points.

He went over a few common word crimes. If you missed them in the video, I’ll outline them here:

  • Less vs. Fewer – As a general rule of thumb, if you’re discussing items that can be counted, use fewer. An example would be “I have fewer pencils.” If it’s an abstract thing, use less. One example of that would be “I have less pain.”
  • Could care less – I get my husband on this all the time. Think about it. If youcould care less, it means you do care a little. If you don’t care at all, then the phrase should be that you couldn’t care less.
  • Its vs. it’s – In this case, literally follow the rules of a contraction. It’s means “it is” and “its” is possessive.
  • The Oxford comma – Some of my friends like to tease me with memes likethis one about why they still use the Oxford comma. I don’t use it. And that’s OK. There’s a place for both schools of thought here. But I will say this: If you’re relying on memes like that to make your point, you’re missing out on a whole word of words you can use to re-arrange that sentence!
  • Text speech – I know I’m one of the few who uses “you” instead of “u” in text messages. But please, for the sake of the English language, do not let your text speech invade your writing! As Weird Al says, BRCU are letters. Be, are, see and you are words!
  • Figurative vs. literal – This one is a result of dramatic exaggerations. And I’m guilty of it sometimes! But the fact is people literally overuse literally way too often.

The I vs. me debate

When you were younger, odds are your mother, father, teacher, babysitter or the overzealous older kid down the street corrected you when you said something like “Me and John are going to the store.” They probably told you that the correct way to say it was “John and I are going to the store.”

In that case, those people were right. But you may also have been scarred for life! These days I see a lot of people misusing I when me is actually correct.

As an easy way to remember, think about what you’d say if there was no one else in the sentence. For example, “John and I went to the store.” Without John, it’s just “I went to the store.” That means I is correct there. But if you were saying something like “Alice called me and John,” then me is correct, because without John, Alice just called me. If it bothers you that much, just change the sentence and use us.

Got any pet peeves I missed here? Leave them in the comments!