Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's All Right, Say My Grammar Peeves

What's your pet grammar peeve?

by Rebecca Cantrell

I’ve mellowed in my old age. I pick my battles now. Sure, I correct street signs, printed newspapers, books I read, cereal boxes, but mostly only in my head. Except for it’s. This one is wrong so often that I just can’t stand by and let it go.

It’s is a contraction of it is. It’s easy to see why it has an apostrophe. It’s a contraction. The apostrophe pulls together those two words. The It’s-It ice cream sandwich gets it right. It IS it. It’s it. Got it?

Its is possessive. Now don’t tell that you get confused because an apostrophe can indicate possessive (as in, Rebecca’s pet peeve is stupid). Nobody ever tries to sneak an apostrophe into hers (her’s?) or his (hi’s?), but little its is often torn asunder by an apostrophe. It is not its fault.

All right as one word (alright) also bothers me, but not as much. I’ve always learned it’s two words. Most major dictionaries and Grammar Girl agree with me. But that one seems like it’s on a slow downward slide into acceptance. I still mark it on stuff I’m given to edit, but I just sigh when I see it in a magazine. “It’s all right,” I tell myself. “The world won’t stop spinning on its axis.”

But I still feel a flush of self righteous annoyance. And, really, isn’t that what grammar peeves are all about?


Joshua Corin said...

Alas, my students at GPC *often* try to sneak an apostrophe into "hers." If I had a nickel for every instance I've come across a "her's," I'd be able to nickel-plate a Buick.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiy - that is the sound of me screaming Becky - you have hit on one of my top-5 grammar peeves - alright - what an abomination!!!! Gah. The day that some of the top publishing houses started letting that bastard word through the gates was a very sad day indeed. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. All right. I feel that every editor should be made to write it a thousand times on the blackboard.

Gretchen said...

I do that one all the time even though I know it's wrong. It's automatic, like looping my t's and crossing my l's. I think it's due to some kind of third grade contraction trauma.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Egads! They even hyphenate hers? Clearly the battle lines have crossed behind me with my line its flag. *sigh*

Sophie: see, I knew there was a reason we got along! I always thought it was personal, but now I know it's personal AND grammatical! Basis for a sound friendship.

Gretchen: fight the reflex!

Joshua Corin said...

But Sophie & Becky, how do you feel about "alot?"

That drives me even battier.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Alot is anabomination. But it doesn't bug me as much as it's/is and all right (I couldn't even bring myself to type it the wrong way, but you know what I mean).

Jen Forbus said...

"Possessive personal pronouns do not use apostrophes!" One of my cooperating teachers during my college teaching experiences had a banner in her room with that on it. It's/Its bugs me, too. However, I have to watch myself because if I'm typing without much thought, I can often sneak an apostrophe in where it doesn't belong, even when I know better.

The all right/alright issue doesn't bother me, though, and the reason is because language evolves and changes and grows and all that stuff. (Sorry, I think it comes from my linguistics studies.) Anyway, alright IS actually in many dictionaries and they specify how it evolved. The American English, especially, is such an amazing accumulation of words that didn't exist even 75 years ago. That's what's so incredibly cool about it.

Hmmm, this has now put Tim McGraw's song "Back When" squarely in my head. Guess I know what I'll be humming all day!