Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Little Language Lesson

I once proofread material for a man who wrote political commentary. He was focused, articulate and fearless in his thoughts and opinions. But he didn’t seem to know the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’. It made me nuts. I destroyed his clean white copy with my red pen when I saw these words improperly used and he was frequently amazed at his own misuse of the terms. He wrote ‘then’ when he meant ‘than’, All. The. Time. I did the proofreading as a favor to him and didn’t get paid, so imagine an editor reading small, avoidable errors and finding the intrusion too jarring to continue with your piece. Ugh. Here are three other examples of such abuses that bug me.

  1. There’s no such word as alot just as there’s no such word as alittle. Yet the use of this non-word, alot, has become alarmingly common. Please, please don’t ever use it. A lot is always two words.

  1. Use it’s and its properly. It’s is a contraction of it is ie: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The term its, without the apostrophe, denotes possession ie: The clock lost its ability to tell time.

  1. Please don’t write your when you mean you’re. This, too, is becoming quite commonplace.  Again – your indicates possession ie: The Prize Patrol is on its way to deliver your check. And then we have you’re, a contraction of you are ie: You’re looking mighty fine today, sweetie.

Okay, that’s it for today – rant over.

Image: graur razvan ionut


  1. Susan --

    Nice rant -- and a necessary one.


    1. Steve, I try not to be a pain in the whatsis about language abuse, especially with non-writers. But sometimes you've just go to say something, ya know? Thanks for commenting!