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{Lifestyle} Grammar Quiz

Ashley Jones - June 27, 2011

Pop quiz:

Which one is correct: nuclear or nucular? I bet you’ve heard both versions, but nuclear is the winner in this case.

In my public relations program at BYU, every student had to write for BYU’s newspaper, The Daily Universe. I was pretty proud of my writing skills, and the trust I gained with my editor, when one of my articles ran on the paper’s front page. Topic: the use of correct grammar. I picked up a fresh copy and everything looked great, but then I started getting emails. “You wrote an article on grammar and you spelled it ‘grammer?’” “Um, you might want to use spell check the next time you write an article on grammar.” I was horrified, and as normal when I get embarrassed, my face was flushed red. Did I really spell “grammar” incorrectly? I grabbed a print copy and sure enough, in bold letters above the graphic, the letters g-r-a-m-m-e-r were striking their poses. I ran straight to my editor who had already seen the error and who was quick to reassure me it wasn’t my fault – neither he nor I had anything to do with the words connected to the pictures. It didn’t matter. The copies were made and the best they could do for my name was make the spelling correction online. The emails kept coming, and to this day, I always double check my spelling of “grammar.”

It got me thinking, however, of how many people spell that word, and a number of others, incorrectly. How many people know the difference between you’re and your? Effect and affect? (Effect and affect still get me, to be honest. I try to avoid them if possible.) Here are a list of important, some hilarious, and common mistakes we make in speaking and writing:

Escape – commonly pronounced “ecscape.” (Ek-scape)

Especially – commonly prounounced “ecspecially.” (Ek-specially)

Etcetera – commonly pronounced “ecsetera.” (Ek-cetera) Now we know why we abbreviate it to “etc.”

Across – commonly pronounced “accrost.”

Another – commonly pronounced “nother.” (“I want a whole nother apple.”) Nope, sorry. How about, “I want another whole apple.” Nother doesn’t exist in the dictionary. At least to date it doesn’t.

“I could care less.” I think what you mean to say is, “I couldn’t care less.”

I’ll be the first one to admit to using “nother,” but a few of these others are like nails on a chalkboard for me. What are some words and sayings I’ve missed? I know there are plenty of them floating out there!

Ashley Jones practices public relations for Deseret Book. She loves writing, emailing her missionary sister, and making/ eating home-made popcorn.

© LDS Living 2011.
Tags: Lifestyle
Comments 1 comments

sryoung said...

10:47 AM
on Jun 27, 2011

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Dear Ashley, This post reflects a pretty prevalent mindset in the world--that some language is right, and other language is wrong. As an editing minor at BYU, one of the first classes you take is called "American Usage." You spend half of the semester scouring usage dictionaries, grammar books, and style guides for "standard" English. (These usage dictionaries are really fun and pertinent to the exact conversation you've started here--check one out; I really like them, and you might too!) But before our professor let us loose to get the knowledge to become a grammar stickler, she spent the first half of the semester teaching tolerance and different English dialects. We learned that language evolves--and that's healthy. Different dialects speak differently, and there's nothing better about using "you" to address a large number of people than "y'all", because everyone knows exactly what y'all means. Language is meant to express ideas and allow those ideas to be understood. It's a different mindset between two camps: prescriptive and descriptive linguistics. Many people prefer prescriptive because it is more educated and that's what the grammarians make their living off of. (Yes, there are actual people that make a living setting rules about English. And yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition--that is one grammar error up with which we will not put!) I prefer descriptive because it is more accurate and inclusive to diverse geographic groups. To each their own (or his or her own, if you like), but I'd suggest everyone who strives to use language correctly look into both camps before becoming too much of a prescriptive pro. Very few people appreciate being corrected or criticized on their grammar skills--and no one wants to be the person that doesn't receive e-mails because people are too scared to make mistakes. In careers like PR, Journalism, business, publishing, law, etc. grammar and spelling in "standard" English are important. That's why we still have editors, right? So I didn't mean to be critical of the post--just that when it comes to conversations we have every day, maybe we should opt a lot more for tolerance and a lot less for criticism. Language isn't static, and that's what makes it so interesting!!
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