March 4th was National Grammar Day – did you not celebrate? The day serves as not only a celebration of language, but also as a day to raise awareness of what it means to write and speak well.
I’ve written about my grammar qualms in a prior post in PR 101, but I think this day is cause enough to bring up a few more. At Schroder PR, we take an AP Style quiz before our staff meetings twice a month, so I’ll use some feedback from those to begin.
Firstly, adverbs have to be one of the most wrongly used parts of speech. For example, bad versus badly is surprisingly confusing. Sometimes I want to use “badly” because I think I need an adverb in my sentences, when I should simply be using, “bad.” For example, “I feel badly about that.” That sentence could be interpreted as meaning your sense of touch is bad. So, remember: when you’re sick, you feel bad. When you’re remorseful, you feel bad about it. Bad should not be used as an adverb, and it doesn’t lose its status as an adjective in a sentence such as, “I feel bad.” Such a statement is the idiomatic equivalent of, “I am in bad health.” (I’ll save, “I’m good,” and “I’m doing well,” for another day. )
Another mistake that I didn’t realize was so common until I was asked about it last week – using apostrophes in inappropriate places. I’ve noticed that people love apostrophes. Have you ever seen this: “90’s?” Why would the ‘90s be possessive? You should either write it as “the 1990s,” or “the ‘90s.” Apostrophes indicate possession or are used in contractions, but they do not denote plurality.
Who and whom are another example of words that are habitually interchanged, but it’s actually a fairly easy rule to remember. “Who” refers to the subject of a sentence, and “whom” refers to the object of a sentence. (Just in case you need a refresher: a subject does something; an object has something done to it.) Dr. Ed Williams taught my Journalism 1100 class at Auburn and taught us a trick. If you can answer the question with him, use whom. If you can answer the questions with he, use who.
Let’s try it. (Who/Whom) will we listen to tonight? We will listen to him. In this example, “Whom” is appropriate. (Who/Whom) will accept the delivery? He will accept the delivery. In this example, “Who” is appropriate.
I only have a few final thoughts before I let you get back to celebrating National Grammar Day. “Canceled” has and will always have only one “l.” The number of people who spell that one word wrong is absurd. And lastly, “adviser” is AP’s preference in all cases of the word. The “or” spelling should only be used if it’s in a formal title or recognized certification. I’ll bet that is the first time some of you have read that rule, but it’s in there.
Hope you all had a wonderful National Grammar Day! I can’t wait until next year! In the meantime, please share your list of annoying grammatical errors you see regularly.
- Sarah Funderburk