Even before I became a high school English teacher, I felt passionately about correct grammar. Strangely enough, I never received strong formal grammar instruction in school because when you were in the advanced English classes, the emphasis was on reading, critical thinking, and writing. As any avid readers can relate, grammar and vocabulary comes more naturally the more you read because you internalize the rules and words in practical action. I think grammar and vocabulary is actually more effective this way. Although, admittedly, I do not know all the grammar rules and crazy nuances that come with our wonderful English language, I actually do not think they are all that important.
Did the English teacher really just say that? Yes, I sure did. Let me explain though. I value being able to write and speak compelling arguments. How compelling will your argument be if you have incorrect spelling, poor grammar, and limited vocabulary? Not very, you guessed it.
4 Common Grammar Mistakes (and how to fix them).
So before I was a teacher, while I may not have been able to explain how I knew correct grammar, I still knew it, and to me, that is what is important. Because of that, I think a practical application approach to teaching vocabulary and grammar, through lots of guided reading and discussion, is more effective than expecting students to memorize rules in isolated exercises. Anyway, I got off track: The purpose of this post is to share four common grammatical errors I see and hear and share how to fix them.
This is she (not this is her!).
Hi, is Lindsay there?
Yes this is…
Would you say ‘her’ instead of ‘she?’ If so, I’m sorry to say, you would be incorrect. When you are asked about your identity, which commonly occurs on the phone, please ingrain this rule in your brain now, as my mom did since I was a child. It’s not too late for you! If you’ve been doing this wrong your whole life, it may feel funny, but that is not a reason to speak incorrectly. Will it help you to know the reasoning behind it? Okay, here it is put simply:
Why ‘this is she/he’?
Let’s break down the statement ‘This is she.’ This is your subject and is is your verb – not just any verb, a linking verb. Linking verbs connect two of the same parts of speech. Since we know ‘this’ is a subject, we know that whatever comes after ‘is’ must also be a subject. She and her are both pronouns but serve different functions. She acts as a nominative pronoun, which just means it stands as a subject, while her is an objective pronoun, meaning it acts as an object. Since linking verbs connect two like grammatical units, it must be ‘this is she.’ My mom taught this to my siblings and me as soon as we could answer the phone!
Another way to think about it is by rearranging the sentence to see what makes sense.
Hi, may I speak to Lindsay?
This is her–> Her is Lindsay. Mmmm, nope. Doesn’t work.
This is she–> She is Lindsay. Yup, bingo!
Who and Whom
Before I knew the rules for when to use who and whom in grammar school, I always just thought ‘whom’ sounded fancy and sophisticated and right. But nothing is less fancy and unsophisticated than using the wrong word and believing you’re right. Luckily, this is an easy one. Think of this:
Who = she, he
Whom = her, him
Now try filling in the blank to see which is correct.
______ likes Taylor Swift’s new album? (‘Her likes it’ sounds wrong, so it must be ‘who.)
To _____ did you give her album to for Christmas? (I gave it to he? Nope. I gave it to him, so use whom.)
Commas and conjunctions
For some reason, people really struggle with commas. People are either comma happy or comma shy; rarely are commas used correctly. Sure, many comma rules are ambiguous, but one rule is completely clear – commas with conjunctions. A conjunction is a little word that connects other words, phrases, or clauses (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). When you see a conjunction in a sentence, do you put a comma before it? It depends on what comes before and after the conjunction.
Use a comma when the conjunction combines two complete sentences (also called independent clauses). You can simply cover up the conjunction and the rest of the sentence to isolate both parts to determine if you have complete sentences that could stand alone.
If only the first part before the conjunction is a complete sentence and the second one is not, do not use a comma (or vice versa).
Punctuation with Parentheses
Do you know how to punctuate your end marks with parentheses? Is there a difference when the parentheses are located in the middle or at the end of a sentence? (No.) Is there a difference with the parentheses stand alone? (Yes.)
Parentheses in the middle of a sentence
Do not capitalize words in your parentheses when they come in the middle of the sentence (unless of course they are proper nouns). Do not use end punctuation; this will only come at the end of the sentence.
Parentheses at the end of a sentence
The same rules apply as above. There is no end punctuation until the end of the sentence, which means after the last parentheses mark, not inside the mark.
Incorrect: I’m ravenous and thinking about having a bowl of cereal (even though I already had dinner.).
This is incorrect because there is a period inside and outside the parentheses.
Parentheses standing alone
When your parentheses are not included as part of another sentence and instead stand alone, treat it like a normal sentence, which means your end mark goes at the end of the sentence, or inside the parentheses.
(This is what I’m talking about.)
(The period is inside the parentheses, not outside, and not inside and outside.)
If the words inside the parentheses have a question mark or exclamation mark, you will include that inside the marks, and keep your period outside the parentheses as well.
I stayed up way too late (even though my baby went to sleep early) and felt exhausted the next day (how silly was I?).
Since the last statement in my parentheses is a question, I put the question mark inside and the end punctuation of a period outside.
Whoever you are – students, writers, bloggers, working professionals, moms, dads, grandparents, musicians, artists – I hope you take these four common grammatical errors to heart (and mind) and please make the world a better place by correcting these faux pas. You will make yourself look and sound more credible, and now you know the reasoning behind these rules.
Did you know and understand the reasoning behind all of these rules? Do any grammar mistakes really bother you, too?
PS- Coming soon, a grammar post of my personal preferences of certain ‘rules’ – how exciting, I know!!