This topic is adapted from the Glove and Boots YouTube channel.
People develop first impressions based on a person’s presentation of him or herself. Your presentation includes your manners, appearance, and body language. When you write something, people develop first impressions based on your grammar and usage. Though there’s more to writing than those surface-level details, proper grammar and usage earns you credibility. Proper grammar and usage also helps with clear communication because some grammatical rules often exist for the purpose of clarity.
- Literally: The word “literal” (and its adverb form literally) means that something is without “exaggeration or embellishment”. Though contradictory, some like to use the word “literally” figuratively, or to exaggerate something. The definition page for “literally” acknowledges this usage and actually includes it as a definition. However, Merriam-Webster also states that the exaggerative use of the word “often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.” So leave it out unless you mean it literally.
For example, I literally gag when I put my lunch in the fridge at work because it smells. Since you might think I’m exaggerating, I add the word “literally” to show I’m not.
- Its and it’s: Remember that one function of an apostrophe is to substitute for one or more letters. In the case of it’s, the apostrophe substitutes for an “I “in the word “is.” Therefore, “it’s” is short for “it is.” For example, it’s almost Christmas time. (I can also say “It is almost Christmas time.”)
The confusing part about this rule is that its is the possessive form of “it,” but unlike possessive nouns, there is no apostrophe. (Note: A possessive form means that the noun owns another noun in the sentence.) Therefore, use its when something belongs to it. For example, the dog chases its ball. (The ball belongs to the dog.)
- They’re, there, and their: “They’re” is a contraction of “they are.” The apostrophe is substituting for the “a” in “are.” Only use “they’re” when you mean “they are.” “There” is a place. Here’s an easy way to remember it: “Here” and “There.” Just add a “T” at the beginning! Or “W” makes it “where.” It’s all about places! “Their” is the possessive plural pronoun. So if a dog belongs to a married couple, he’s “their” dog. You learned this in the third grade, dummy!
- “Heighth” is not a word. It’s “height!”
- You don’t do stuff “on accident,” but “by accident.” You do other stuff “on purpose.” Get it right!
- “Loose” and “lose” are two different words! One’s an adjective that’s the opposite of “tight.” The other’s a verb about misplacing something, forgetting something, or, we don’t know, “losing” something! Two different words, what’s wrong with you?
So if you’re writing an important email, submitting an academic paper, or banging out a cover letter for your next big gig, it’s pretty crucial for you not to come off like a second-grader, since you learned this stuff in third grade!
Written content for this topic by Amanda Walker and Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- There seems to be a stigma about people who care a lot about grammar. They are even called “Grammar Nazis.” Why do you think there is such a stigma against people who care about grammar?
- What’s your biggest grammar pet peeve? How would your parents answer that question?
- Does proper grammar make you “credible?” Give some examples of why or why not.
- Do you think social media is making people smarter (grammatically speaking) or the opposite? Explain.
- Are you the kind of person to correct someone when they make a grammar mistake? Why or why not?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.