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Grammar PSA

Sufjan Stevens Gives Miley Cyrus a Grammar Lesson

stevensIndie rock star Sufjan Stevens followed Sinead O’Connor‘s example, writing a letter to pop star Miley Cyrus this week. But instead of offering career and lifestyle advice, Stevens only talked about grammar:

Dear Miley. I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: “I been laying in this bed all night long.” Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. “I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.” Whatever. I’m not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #Get It Right The Next Time. But don’t worry, even Faulkner messed it up.

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Who & Whom Advice from The Oatmeal

If you (like this GalleyCat editor) occasionally confuse the use of “who” and “whom” in your writing, The Oatmeal has created a webcomic and poster to remind you.

The comic uses funny graphics and sentences about spiders, dirty koalas and kids with flamethrowers to teach an important grammar lesson. Click above read the whole comic and follow this link to see the $20 poster version of the comic.

PSA: Don’t Overuse the Word ‘Suddenly’ in Your Writing

Do you abuse the phrase “then suddenly” in your writing? You should check and clean up your manuscript.

Earlier this week, reddit reader Ryan DeJonghe got fed up with overuse of the word “suddenly” in a book. He used Kindle searches to do a brief survey of how writers use the word. Check it out:

Thanks to the Kindle’s search feature, I conducted a little experiment. This 2-D book has 55 uses of suddenly, including three uses of all of a sudden. This averages out to one suddenly for every ten pages. I went on to test some other authors. Stephen King in his early works had about the same average; his newer works about one in twenty pages. Neil Gaiman about the same–one in twenty pages. Then I tried Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club. In 224 pages, there was not a single use of suddenly.

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Sherman Alexie: ‘Grammar cops are rarely good writers’

 

Novelist Sherman Alexie generated hundreds of tweets, puns, grammar jokes and arguments with the simple Twitter post embedded above: “Grammar cops are rarely good writers. Imagination always disobeys,” he wrote.

Does an obsession for grammar make you a lesser writer? As regular GalleyCat readers know, I still make plenty of grammar errors in my own writing–so I don’t feel like I can make an unbiased judgment.

Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite responses in a single Storify post.

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Informal ‘Literally’ Definition Creeps into Dictionaries

For years, readers and writers have debated a common informal use of the word “literally.”

In conversation, some people use the word to provide exaggerated emphasis for a statement: “I love Haruki Murakami so much I literally read South of the Border, West of the Sun one hundred times.” Back in 2011, we even published a grammar PSA about the word.

Reddit reader andtheniansaid shared three separate dictionary definitions that include this informal usage, arguing that “it is okay to use the word ‘literally’ for emphasis.”

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Never Write the Phrase ‘Have Went’

For our first Grammar Public Service Announcement of the new year, we have some deceptively simple advice: Stop writing the phrase “have went.”

Never write a sentence like this: “I have went to my local independent bookstore.” Instead, always use this construction: “I have gone to my local independent bookstore.”

English Plus has a great post on the technical reasons: “Gone is the past participle of to go. Used as the verb of a sentence, it must always be preceded by an auxiliary verb such as has, have, had, is, am, are, was, were, be, or one of their contractions. Went is the past tense of to go. It never takes an auxiliary verb.”

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Banished Words of 2012

The activist grammarians at Lake Superior State University have released their 2012 List of Banished Words, a collection of overused, abused and fake words that infected our language this year.

The hardboiled English monitors singled out a host of words, including “amazing,” “baby bump,” “man cave” and “occupy.” What words would you like to banish from the English language next year?

In a clever twist, the press release utilized many of the banished terms: “Lake Superior State University released its 37th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness, an amazing list that is bound to generate some blowback. ‘Worn-out words and phrases are the new normal this year, but with some shared sacrifice, we can clean up the language and win the future,’ said an LSSU representative.” (Via Huffington Post)

Grammar PSA: Stop Abusing the Word ‘Literally’

We have another Grammar Public Service Announcement today: stop abusing the word “literally” in your writing.

Here’s more about the misuse of literally: “This is such a widely known misused word that examples are less common, as most people know to avoid the term – which should be used to describe something that is actually happening (for example, ‘He literally danced with joy.’) but should not be used for emphasis (‘Steam was literally coming out of his ears.’)”

Earlier this month, we warned writers against using the controversial word, “irregardless.” Our sibling blog eBookNewser shared today’s tip, linking to a list of the Top 10 Misused Words. What’s your favorite word that everybody abuses? (Literal dead end photograph via MorrowLess)

Why You Should Never Use the Word ‘Irregardless’

During the taping of BookTV’s  fall book preview this weekend, this GalleyCat editor unwittingly used the word “irregardless.” After the show aired, readers around the country responded with swift grammatical justice.

Despite the fact that some spell-checkers recognize the infamous word with more than one century of history, the Oxford English dictionary has a blunt entry: “Irregardless means the same as regardless, but the negative prefix ir- merely duplicates the suffix -less, and is unnecessary. The word dates back to the 19th century, but is regarded as incorrect in standard English.”

What do you think? You might be able to get away with using the word in everyday conversation, but don’t ever use the word in front of an audience of passionate readers. Once you have recovered from the grammatical shock, check out BookTV’s  fall book preview–it explores a massive slate of upcoming nonfiction books.

How To Correct Twitter’s Grammar

Blogger Thomas Steiner designed a Google Chrome extension to fix one of the most viewed and easily overlooked grammar mistakes on the Internet–Twitter’s “Who To Follow” feature.

When installed in your Google Chrome browser, Steiner’s free extension converts Twitter’s grammatically incorrect ‘Who to follow’ into ‘Whom to follow’ whenever you visit the social network site.

As most regular readers know, this GalleyCat editor constantly struggles to improve his grammar. It is somewhat reassuring to watch a major social network struggle with the same rules…

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