I may be, ahem, a bit more of a stickler about grammar than most folks, thanks at least in part to the venerable Mr. McCann’s high school English class, as well as my stickler-on-many-fronts father. It became ingrained in me. And although many people aren’t as “hard-core” as I can be, I think most would agree that poor writing, particularly in the form of incorrect grammar and/or lack of proof-reading, can severely affect the professional appearance of your blog, memo, paper, or what-have-you.
Keeping in mind that there are definitely different rules for different venues, differing “opinions” across sources, as well as different requirements based on the level of formality appropriate for the audience, here are just a few grammar rules I find are often misunderstood and can negatively affect my opinion of the writer who ignores the rule.
- I versus me when referring to yourself and other people: The easiest (so simple, really) way to test which is correct is to try the sentence with the other person/people left out. Would you say “Me went to the store” or “They will meet I in the conference room”?
Incorrect: She and me went to the store.
Correct: She and I went to the store.
Incorrect: They will meet Mark and I in the conference room.
Correct:They will meet Mark and me in the conference room.
- If and wish take were: In a conditional clause — such as one where you are using “if” or “wish” — the form of to be that is correct is the conditional, or “were.”
Incorrect: I wish the meeting was earlier. If only I wasn’t here.
Correct: I wish the meeting were earlier. If only I weren’t here.
- Fewer versus less: Fewer refers to something clearly countable, such as items in the grocery line (only a few stores get this one right!), while less refers to something a little more fluid, such as time. Incidentally, this makes it possible to have a sentence with the phrase “many fewer items” in it, which can sound odd, but is nonetheless correct.
Incorrect: This line is for customers with less than 12 items.
Correct: This line is for customers with fewer than 12 items.
There are, sadly, quite a few more grammar offenses that give me pause, but this will do for now. Stay tuned if you want to improve the professionalism of your writing! Meanwhile, what are your grammer pet peeves? Share with us in the commments please!