My high school English teacher once told us how disgusted she was with a hotel for having a sign displayed using "its" when it should have been "it's." She confronted them about it. My friend leaned over and said, "Oh. My. God. Does she, like, not have a life?" Of course, I laughed and said, "Totally," but deep down I wanted to say to Mrs. Hrdlicka, "You go, sister!"
Today, I wonder what poor Mrs. H. must think about the umpteen number of grammatical errors seen every day on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention on those Someecards, which are the worst because they get shared over and over on Pinterest and Facebook. Let me say that I’m no grammar maven, but I do know a thing or two about common mistakes. It has come to my attention that poor grammar, particularly improper punctuation, has infected the masses via social media. In turn, it has confused the heck out of folks. So I want to help.
Who vs. That:
Wrong: “And your life doesn't change by the man that’s elected.” (Sorry, Avett Brothers*, I must call you out on this one).
Right: “And your life doesn't change by the man who’s elected.”
Rule: Use who when talking about a person and use that when referring to an object.
It’s vs. Its:
I feel most people are pretty up on this one, but to be clear, it’s is the contraction of it is. Without the trusty apostrophe, it becomes a possessive pronoun. “The dictionary about lost its mind after seeing such poor grammar on the Internet.”
Your vs. You’re:
There are a few Someecard writers who have restored my faith that there are in fact, others who get it. This sums it up:
Comma before a name:
Because this one example has made its rounds, I figured I’d stick with it.
Speaking directly to Grandma: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
A zombie grandchild speaking to his zombie family: “Let’s eat Grandma!”
You and I vs. You and Me:
Okay, this one can be confusing. First of all, I is the subject pronoun and me is the object pronoun. To remember this, say the sentence with just the pronoun: “Kerrie and [I/me] went to the Drunken Monkey.” So which is it? “I went to the Drunken Monkey” or “Me went to The Drunken Monkey”? (Hint ... it’s the former).
Quotation Marks and Punctuation:
The last one is probably one of the biggest grammar pet peeves I’ve got. Please listen up. The period or comma goes INSIDE the quotation. For example, “My brother called me a “Cotton-headed Ninnymuggins”. is wrong, wrong, wrong! When a teacher friend on Facebook recently put the period after the quotation marks in a status update, my proper-grammar-loving-heart cried a little. The Social Media Grammar Disease has even infected teachers?! Just remember, it’s an end quote for a reason; you END with it.
Sadly, it has also spread outside of the World Wide Web to products. You thought I was bad about Twitter, Facebook and Someecards. Imagine what I did when I saw this sign for sale in a store:
Okay, folks. Now that you've learned a few things, can you tell me what’s wrong with this? I brought this sign up to the register and told the owner why this sign should either be sent back to the company or burned out back. As my husband and son walked away, pretending not to know me, I beamed, knowing Mrs. Hrdlicka would be very proud.
* The Avett Brothers hit song, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”
April Moore is the author of Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men, which is available for sale through Amazon. When not writing, April cruises the streets of Northern Colorado looking for victims of bad grammar.