A Miniature English Lesson...

...Or, "How to Not Sound Like an Ignorant Dweeb In Person or Online."

(You choose your favorite title.)

I have put off doing this post for quite a while now, mostly because I while I am certainly a fan of correct grammar/punctuation, I'm not such a fan of those who consider it acceptable to take out a personal vendetta against those who make mistakes when speaking or writing. I mean, I do it mentally all the time... but to actually verbalize (or type) such corrections can come off extremely snarky slightly condescending. So, I don't do it. I promise I'm not a cyber bully, even the corrective kind. I am a grammar Nazi, but sort of a closet one, if you will. My meek spirit never wishes to offend.

But, recently, I said to myself, "Don't worry about offending anyone. It's not as if you are trying to teach table manners to native Aborigines. You are simply reminding (because if you completed the third grade, you've heard this stuff) people of a few rules that some seem incapable of following inclined to forget." And thus ended my inspirational pep talk.

So, I'm putting on my stern teacher face:

And getting down to business.

Being the wimp that I am, I have resorted to a cowardly, semi-anonymous (gotta love the internet) way to confront the problem. What problem? Oh, you know... just the problem that a significant portion of the population has with sounding as if they might have received more than less-than-pathetic education. And while Facebook and other social media is typically the highest traffic source for these atrocities, we see them everywhere... stores, advertisements, etc. I'm not even talking better/best scenarios here- just plain WRONG usage of various words. Yes, some can be tricky, but that's why I'm offering my refresher course- right here, free of charge. So, let the war on ignorance begin. (Consider me the Katniss Everdeen of District Grammar.)

1. There/Their/They're

I thought I'd start off with a favorite of mine. I'll keep things simple.

-There is used to show where something is. "My purse is over there."

-Their is used to show possession. "That is their new car."

-They're is a contraction of the words they are. "They're coming with us to the mall."

Really, it couldn't be easier. My 3rd graders grasped this concept within a couple of lessons, so let's strive to beat that record, eh?

2. Your/You're

This mistake might be my number one pet peeve of all time. Let's clarify:

-Your is used to show possession. "Is that your sandwich?"

- You're is a contraction of the words you are. "You're almost finished with the test."

If you are trying to say "you are", then add the apostrophe and the e. It's just that simple. Seriously... do it.

3. Saw/Seen

Nothing sounds more "I just stepped off the train from Ignorantville" than a sentence beginning with "I seen...". Clearly, the sentence would not end with the words "the inside of a book on proper English." Come on, people! Seen needs a helping word- have, has, had, etc. You saw something; you did not seen it. Remember this one, just for my sake.

4. Apostrophes

Really, there is so much I could say here. But the fact is this: apostrophes are used for two purposes: to show possession, and to create contractions. For example:

-the car belonging to Mike= Mike's car, the shirt belonging to Jane= Jane's shirt

The "apostrophe s" ('s) makes a word possessive.

-it is= it's, would not= wouldn't, they have= they've

See... apostrophes fill in the missing letters in a contraction.


"Merry Christmas- Love, the Smith's". Um, the Smith's what... the Smith's dog? Because the apostrophe and s is indicating POSSESSION of something, not PLURAL of anything.

5. Its/It's

Similar to numbers 1-2, this item of business is possibly the most abused. However, let's clear up the confusion, should there be any.

-Its is used to show possession. "The dog chased its tail."

-It's is used to form the contraction "it is". "It's very hot outside!"

If you are trying to use one of these words and can't remember the correct one, try replacing the word with "it is." If correct, you will know. If not, your sentence may sound like this: "Our car is on it is last leg." See... just taking a moment to check will prevent you from sounding stupid to anyone but yourself. Embarrassment avoided.

I promise, everyone... I'm really not trying to sound arrogant or mean or make anybody feel like a loser. But really... after teaching every one of these concepts to THIRD GRADERS (who are a mere 8 and 9 years of age), I feel like it's not really too much to ask of responsible adults. So, if you are guilty of one of these errors (and we all have been, at least once) or know some poor, unfortunate soul who is... let's stop the madness, shall we? Don't be unkind or picky, but take responsibility, at least for your own grammatical well-being.  For the love of King James, just think for a moment before you type something that indicates that you are, in fact, not an educated American.

Your third grade teacher will thank you.



  1. I laughed the whole way through this. Glad I'm not the only one that feels so strongly about grammar! :)

  2. Ashley
    I seen you're blog and its amazing! You right good.
    You're new friends,
    The Friedleins's

    1. Okay, it took me a second but I just about woke Jonathan up laughing when I got what you were doing. I'm a little slow tonight... I'l blame my fake concussion from the jet ski incident! =)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Well, we had some trouble finding your blog at first. Initially, Google sent us here: http://alittledashofash.blogspot.com/
      and then here: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/05/police_make_10_arrests_for_ill.html
      where we definitely thought we'd found the "real" Ashley McNeese :) I told you I'm not very good with computers! :)

    4. Bahaha I thought I'd had that picture removed from the Internet... Yikes! Lol.. Too funny.

  3. How about when your iPhone "corrects" you when you type "its" to "it's" and you really meant it without the apostrophe?! I hate that...I look like a dummy and it's my phone's fault.

    And how about, since I used 362 quotations in my comment, when people misuse quotes? That irks me.

  4. Being a new blogger, I would like to tell you that you have given me much knowledge about it. Thanks for everything.
    English Class in Skype

  5. Useful information like this one must be kept and maintained so I will put this one on my twitter list! Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this! I have also taking classes of spoken course in pune by iteducationcetre. They also teach each details clear.


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