Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A Blogger's Guide To Spelling & Grammar

As an English teacher, spelling and grammar are close to my heart. I didn't have the benefit of a great education (my secondary school was so bad that, at one point, we were rated the 6th worst school in England and Wales) but was lucky that my parents encouraged me to learn at home, and we had a house full of books from which I could pick up the basics of decent sentence construction. Still, when I began my teacher training I realised just how much I didn't know about the rules of English, either because I'd never been taught it at all or because I'd been too busy writing love letters to my girlfriend when I was at school. In the ensuing years I'll admit to having become a bit of a grammar bore: spot a misplaced apostrophe and I'll have whipped my red pen out before you can say "you're".

It's ok not to know this stuff - hell, I didn't - but I do think that as bloggers, people who make a hobby and in some cases a living out of writing, it behoves us to educate ourselves. So, I thought that a quick round-up of some common errors and misunderstandings might come in handy.

brooch = a piece of jewellery
broach = to approach or raise a topic in conversation

defiantly = to do something in a defiant (uncooperative) manner
definitely = without doubt

This is often an auto-correct fail, but definitely is almost always the one you need. For example:

WRONG: "I defiantly want to see the new Star Wars film" = you want to see the film whilst having a strop.
RIGHT: "I definitely want to see the new Star Wars film" = you want to see it for certain, you will see it. 

Something that actually happened; not metaphorical (e.g. made up for effect). For example: 

WRONG: "My belly was literally bursting after eating at Five Guys" = Might make your reader call an ambulance, because if your belly is literally bursting then you're in trouble.
RIGHT: "My belly was bursting after eating at Five Guys" = I was really full after eating at Five Guys so I've used the metaphor 'bursting' to show how full I felt.

sneak peak/sneak peek
I saw a major denim brand get this wrong on Twitter recently and it made me rage. Just remember, peak = hill, peek = to take a look. For example:

WRONG: "I had a sneak peak at the Boden SS16 collection" = you sneakily took a hill with you (although good luck sneaking a hill in ) to the Boden SS16 collection launch.
RIGHT: "I had a sneak peek at the Boden SS16 collection" = you had a look at the Boden SS16 collection before anyone else.

And while we're on the subject of peak... 

pique = to prompt an interest in something, e.g. "the review on your blog piqued my interest".
peak = still a hill

wander = to take a leisurely walk
wonder = to think about something 
For example: 

WRONG: "I took a wonder around the lovely city of Venice" = I thought my way around Venice.
RIGHT: "I took a wander around the lovely city of Venice" = I walked around Venice. I used to tell my students that if you ever forget which is which, remember that wander and walk begin the same.

would of/would have
Despite, when spoken, sounding like "would of" in many areas of the UK, the correct written usage is always "have", e.g. would have, could have, should have. 

your = something belonging to you, e.g. your laptop, your favourite book
you're = contraction of 'you are', e.g. you're (you are) working on a new post 

me, myself & I
I left this till last because it's a bit long-winded. The trick is to take the other people being grouped with me/I out of the sentence and see what sounds right. For example:
"Me and Shilpa went to Brewdog for a drink." 
Take away Shilpa and you're left with, "Me went to Brewdog for a drink." Clearly not right, so instead it needs to be "Shilpa and I went to Brewdog for a drink."

However, if the sentence includes a "my..." then "me" is needed. For example:
"My mum gave my sisters and I pyjamas for Christmas." 
Remove the sisters and you're left with, "My mum gave I pyjamas for Christmas," which sounds ridiculous, so it needs to be, "My mum gave me and my sisters pyjamas for Christmas."

Finally, "myself" should only be used when there's also an "I" in your sentence. For example:
"I bought myself some new Lush goodies." It's often used incorrectly in place of me or I (e.g."Jo and myself went to the product launch", which should be "Jo and I went to the product launch").

Phew! I'm feeling in need of a drink after all that grammar and I didn't even get on to apostrophes...