For nearly two years, I’ve written posts about grammar and usage, so clearly it’s a topic that I think is important. Equally important, I think, is knowing when it’s appropriate to insist on proper grammar and how to go about it.
You hear of cases now and then in which people go into public and make a big show of correcting grammatical problems on signage. Take for example this instance that resulted in probation for two men who fixed the grammar on a sign at Grand Canyon National Park. The men in fact went on a nationwide crusade to fix public typos, as documented in an NPR story and a book. Read more
Tasked this week with explaining how to properly use a semicolon, I thought immediately of the poster designed by the fellow behind web comic The Oatmeal. He’s done a number of grammar posters, and there’s very little I could add to the explanation he offers. I’ll summarize, but for some colorful examples, be sure to check out his post. Read more
English usage snobs all over the internet shudder when they hear the word “literally” used to mean its opposite. For example, somebody who claims to have been “literally scared to death” actually means that he was figuratively scared to death. If he had been literally scared to death, he wouldn’t be around to tell us about his fate. Search Google for the simple word “literally” and you’ll find no shortage of sites correcting the misuse. Some fun treatments include that of The Oatmeal (beware, it’s a little off-color) and xkcd.
You may have heard of the subjunctive mood. You may even be a little bit afraid of it. But did you know that you use it all the time without likely even knowing it? Even as someone who’s pretty familiar with the rules of grammar, I was a little iffy on exactly what the subjunctive mood was. In fact, I was even iffy on what “mood” meant in a grammatical context. So let’s start there. Read more
When we send a post into the blogosphere, we want to make sure our best feet are forward. That means making sure errors like typos or poor grammar don’t detract from what we have to say; it’s one of the reasons The Daily Post highlights grammar issues many of us struggle with. (With which many of us struggle?)
Grammar challenges will follow up on grammar posts, calling on you to put your new-found understanding to the test. It’s one thing to read about the rules, but another to put them into practice.
To participate, tag your posts with “DPchallenge” or leave a link to your post in the comments. (It would also be great if you could link to this post to encourage people to take part – the more the merrier!) Please be sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge; obvious attempts to link-bait will be deleted. We’ll keep an eye on the tag and highlight the week’s best posts on Freshly Pressed each Friday.
Let me be perfectly candid and say that Daryl’s the Grammar Maestro in these parts. My approach to proper grammar is not unlike the Supreme Court’s approach to pornography: I know it when I see it. I’ve never diagrammed a sentence and have been known to leave participles dangling all willy-nilly, so I look forward to his posts as much as you do.
About a year ago, I wrote a piece about the distinction between the active and the passive voice, but going on the assumption that I’ve had a lot of reader turnover over a year’s time, I thought a refresher might be useful.
When writing in the active voice, the subject of the sentence is clearly the one doing the verb. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is sort of buried. So: