Archive for the ‘Grammar nazi’ Category

I haven’t done a grammar post for ages, but while helping a friend this weekend, a few current peeves came to mind.  I really don’t write about these just to blow off steam, but to help you become a better, more concise writer and speaker.  Really!!  🙂

Today, let’s look at whether you should use between or among, when “at” is just too much, what to do when you’re talking directly to someone in print, and whether to use lie or lay?  Ready?  Let’s go.

1.  Between or among?
“Between” is used when there are two of something, “among” when there are three or more. In the following picture, the tall giraffe is between the other two.  Among the three, I don’t know which I like the best (not better, which is also used with only two.)


I often hear people ask things such as “Where are you at?”, “Where’s the dog at?”, “Where’s the party at?”  At is a preposition which means, without going into any heavy grammar, it needs an object, something that answers the question “Where/where?”   He’s at  (what?) the house, at (what?) the party, at (what?) the zoo.  The dog’s at (what?) the neighbor’s house, digging in the yard.  After the neighbor comes after him with a broom, he’ll be at (what/where) home.  I might be at (where?) the end of my wits at (what?) the antics of my children.

But at doesn’t come at (where?) the end of a sentence.  In that position, there’s no object, no answer to the question. All you need to ask is “Where are you?”  “Where’s the dog?”  “Where’s the party?”

3.  I’m talking to you! 
If you’re talking to me, or anyone, directly when writing, you need to use a comma or commas to set their name apart from the rest of the sentence.  It’s simple.  Look at these examples.

“I left a comment on Rosalind’s blog.”   No comma, as you’re not talking directly to Rosalind.

“I left a comment on your blog, Rosalind.”    Comma!  You’re talking to her in person (so to speak), so you need that comma.

“I think, Rosalind, that you need to change the ending of your story.”  Two commas needed, to set the name aside from the rest of the sentence.

Here are examples of places in Blog Land that you need these commas:

“Great story, Jack!”
“That poem, Ann, is simply superb!”
“Rick, the colors in that photo are so vivid!”

4. Application…

*Among these three tips, which do you find most useful?  Which tip is between the other two?

*Which is correct: Where are you while reading this post or Where are you at while reading this post?

*Will anyone comment, “Janet, this is one of the most useful posts I’ve read for some time.”  Or will it be “Great post Janet?”

I hope these hints will help your writing improve.  Have any grammar peeves of your own?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.  But don’t leave them where the comments are at!

 5. Lie or lay

Can’t believe I forgot this one!  If you pay close attention, this is fairly easy.  When you’re in the present, right now, you lay something down–there has to be an object.  I lay the book down right now, I lay a kiss on my husband tonight, I lay the plates on the table.  Each answers the question: I/you/he/she/whoever/whatever lay what down?

Unless you’re a liar and you lie about something, lie is used when someone goes to sleep or at least gets into bed for that purpose (or perhaps for other purposes.)  You lie down to take a nap; no direct object, nothing to answer the question: You lie what down?  Of course, you can lie on places other than the bed, such as the floor, to relax your back, but you get the idea.

*To recap:  You lay something down but you lie down.   Remember, that’s all when something is happening now and that’s when the two are most often used incorrectly.

If you want a little bit more, the past tense is where things get slightly confusing, but I have confidence you can get it.  The past tense of lie is…oh, no…LAY.   No worries!  Just remember these two sentences:

*Today I lie down to sleep.  Yesterday (in the past) I lay down to sleep.

The past tense of lay is laid.  Here are your sentences:

*Today I lay the book on the table.  Yesterday I laid the book on the table.

OK.  I’m going to lay down my laptop and shortly I will lie down to sleep, secure in the knowledge that between the two of us, we’ve conquered these grammar bugbears.  Among all of you reading this, most of you will be able to put this information into use soon.  Where will you be, my friends and readers, when you do?  (Why the commas?  Remember, I’m talking to you! And don’t forget, I didn’t say, “Where will you be at, my friends and readers, when you do?”)

Thanks for sticking with this sticky subject and for being friends and readers!

I’m going to go a little Grammar nazi on you on this Saturday morning, but only a little, I promise.  It’s just a matter of one or two commas to correct something very often done incorrectly or, rather, not done at all.

If you address someone directly, the name needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma (or two, if the name is in the middle of the sentence.)

An example:

Joey, please pass the dessert…or, at the other end…Stop playing with your food, Alicia.

If the person’s name is in the middle of the phrase, you need an extra comma:

I think, Juanita, that it’s much too late to go out tonight.

If you use a term of endearment or another term that could have a name substituted for it, you need to do the same thing.

For example:

Sir, you are a cad!

You, sir, are a cad!

Are you cold, my dear?

Call 911, somebody.

However, if you simply use someone’s name in a sentence without directly addressing them, this rule doesn’t apply.  You would properly say, “Mom is going to the store to get Henry some medicine.”  But if you said, “Go to the story, Henry, and get Mom some medicine,” you need to bring out the commas.

I hope this clears things up a bit, my friends.  The next time you comment on a post and use the person’s name, you might say, for example:

Janet, that’s one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read.


When I think of the perfect blogger, Janet, I think of you.


What a fabulous photo, Janet!


Have a wonderful weekend, dear reader!

What do I spy with my grammar nazi eye?  Well, during the last month, I came across four gems to share with you.

grammar nazi (more…)

In the last few weeks of internet reading, I’ve come across a three-letter mistake that seems to be everywhere.

Do you use “its” or “it’s”?  The Grammar nazi wants to help out with a simple explanation.

grammar nazi (more…)

It might be amusing to come into a room and gasp, “Someone in this room has a dangling participle”, then observe who looks where.  However suggestive it might sound, a dangling participle is only a crime against grammar, not a jail-able offense, although grammar nazis may disagree.

grammar nazi (more…)

Spotted, appropriately, on the wall leading from the parking garage to the theater/drama department… (more…)

I haven’t posted any Grammar nazi sightings for some time, which doesn’t mean I haven’t spotted any.  These three may not all be strictly grammar, but they’re certainly related to how to write precisely–or not.

grammar nazi (more…)

The Grammar nazi has been quiescent for some time.  No glaring misuses of the language have impinged upon her delicate ears or thrust themselves before her limpid gaze.  But then this morning, she read the following two sentences and had a Grammar nazi flare-up.


I haven’t posted a Grammar nazi post for a long time but when this popped up on my Facebook page, I had to post it once I’d stopped laughing.    All I can say is that this is a difference worth knowing!!!  Who says grammar doesn’t matter?  Doug, this played  perfectly in to your Friday Fictioneers story.  And for anyone who would like to know what I’m talking about and would enjoy some stellar writing, here you go… (more…)

“Patios full”….Facebook status by a restaurant.  If they have more than one patio, this works.  Otherwise, not.  I don’t think they do. (more…)