I love Weird Al. I have always loved Weird Al. But now I REALLY love Weird Al.

Not only does he know that "it's" is a contraction, he also knows what a dangling participle is. (Be still my heart!)

Now that I am backed by a celebrity, I feel inspired to add my own Word Crimes:

1) Impact is not a verb. It is a noun. You can have an impact on something, but you can't impact it. (It may be true that all your friends, TV announcers, and anybody with an MBA believes impact is a verb. THEY ARE ALL WRONG!)

2) "Issue" does not mean "problem," it means a topic of debate. You can discuss an issue, but you cannot have one. (This grammar crime was fomented by therapists, who also have convinced susceptible individuals that they can be "conflicted" when they have "issues.")

3) Grow is what you do with potatoes - not audiences, businesses, or twitter followers. (This is an MBA crime.)

4) "Conflicted" does not exist. You can feel conflict, you can even be in conflict, but you can't be conflicted. (See number 2 above.)

4) Disrespect is not a verb, it is a noun. You can show disrespect, but you can't disrespect someone.

5) "Different from" (or "different to" in Great Britain) is correct when you are comparing nouns, not "different than." For example, California is different from ... well, just about anywhere.

6) The object of a preposition is object case, not subject. Let's keep this between you and me, not you and I.

7) "Like" is for comparing nouns. "As if" is for verb phrases. I act like you, but we can't act like nothing matters. We must act as if nothing matters.

8) Plurals do not use apostrophes - EVER. You own CDs, not CD's.

9) A possessive goes with a gerund. "My going to California upset her" is correct, not *Me going to California upset her."

10) Reported speech uses declarative sentence structure. "I asked him what the time was." Not *"I asked him what was the time." If you are quoting, you can use interrogative structure. Ex. I asked him, "What is the time?" (Reported speech is comprised of sentences beginning with phrases using verbs such as wonder, consider, ask, etc. Ex. I wondered what the time was. I considered what the alternatives were.)

If you are guilty of any of the above grammar indiscretions, you are doomed to suffer the eternal torment of grammarian hell. Also, people will assume you did not pay attention in my English class. (That's right. I'm talking about you, Pete.)
 
 
Picture"Please step away from the keyboard! Now!!!"

Every writer knows that grammar and spelling errors are unforgivable in a manuscript. That's why we seek outside editors and send our manuscripts to proofreaders. What writers don't realize is that making simple mistakes in an email to an agent, or a query letter, or even on a blog can cost you your career. (You never know who might be reading your blog.)

I'm not talking about spelling the word “precede” wrong. After all, it's the most misspelled word in the English language, and chances are your agent won't know how to spell it either. I am talking about a little word. It's its.

It's is a contraction of “it is.” Its is a possessive (e.g. its teeth.)

An apostrophe in the wrong context is a catastrophe.

A while ago, I took a seminar in grant writing. I was the director of a nonprofit at the time, and knowing how to write a grant was essential to the future of my project. The leader of the seminar asked the group if we knew how grantors made their decisions. We replied, “On the merits of our projects.” (Like writers, nonprofits believe that good work counts.) She immediately set us straight. “They hold up the first page of each application to the light,” she said. “If they see white-out [this was in the day of typewriters], they throw the entire application away. They repeat that process, going through each page, until they get a pile of applications with no corrections. Those are the ones they read.”

The moral of the story: Don't give anybody an excuse to throw you out. Use your spell check on everything you write, check all your punctuation marks, and watch those apostrophes.

They'll get you every time.

 

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