Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three grammar goofs you can easily fix

Most of you probably don't need help with your grammar. Many of the people who read this blog are great writers already and don't need me to explain the basics. Even so, it's amazing how often people ask me about how I proofread my own work and how I get my writing 'so clean' (ahem, they don't mean there isn't any sex, any book with 'Scandal' in the title has to have something of that nature ...)

Anyway, one of my proofreading 'secrets' is that I use software that reads my work out loud, and I pick up LOADS of mistakes that way. There are various programs out there, with voices and accents from all over the place. I use TextAloud, and it's great. I pick up so many repeated words and awkward phrases that way - stuff I would never, ever see if I was reading it myself. But then there are those thorny grammar issues that catch us all out from time to time. Things that the spellchecker and TextAloud would miss. Today I'll deal with three of the nasty little suckers:

1.Do I use loose or lose?
If your knickers are too loose, you might lose them. 
If your morals are loose, you may lose your dignity
I'm sure you can think of lots more - who knows, we could start a twitter trend!

2. Do I use it’s or its?
It’s replaces it is in a sentence.
It’s a contraction and it’s painless and easy to use (no epidurals required).
It’s my kind of book.
Similarly, he’s replaces he is
He’s my kind of man.
She’s my best friend.
Looks easy, but phrases like ‘My parents’ house’ still trip us up. The trick is to turn the phrase round: the house of my parents. There are two of them. The apostrophe comes after the whole word: parents.
My aunt’s house. The house of my aunt. This is fine if there’s only one aunt. More aunts in the same house and you’ll need to move the apostrophe. Okay?

Its belongs to a different set of words: His, hers, its.
The book has lost its cover. (Try putting ‘it is’ in there. Doesn’t work.)
My husband has lost his marbles.
My boyfriend is human, but hers is a vampire.
Not an apostrophe in sight. Do not give in to the urge to add some. It's not like salt.
3. I was brought up in a London overspill town, and everyone at my school said  things like ‘You could’ve told me my shirt was hanging out’. The result was that when we tried writing down this lovely phrase, we often put ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’ because that’s how we spoke. People who went to posh schools where languid young men said things like ‘you could have told me my flies were undone’ are much less likely to make this awful blunder. But now that you’ve read this, you will have learned your lesson! You will never write could of, should of, or would of again. You’ll sound like a proper toff and no mistake. Orright, mister!

I hope some of this helps. More grammar goofs coming soon. Oh, and feel free to let me know if I have made grammatical errors in this post - it's more than likely!


  1. Thanks Cody! Your post was helpful. If you add an e-mail widget to your blog (I just did on mine) then people can sign up to get your posts delivered automatically to their e-mails (myself included!) You will love She Writes, it is a great place. Best wishes and welcome.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth, that's great advice

  3. Great idea about TextAloud. I'll have to give a try. BTW, visiting from SheWrites.

  4. P.S. I also have a set of twins (boy/girl) and four teenagers.

  5. Great information Cody. Thanks.

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