Inkpop Blog

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Get your grammar good

Posted by inkpop on October 31, 2009

inktip #5: Grammar Girl spreads language-loving gospel GrammarDevotional

What are the differences between affect and effect, lay and lie, and who and whom?

Do grammar rules like these cause you to squirm anxiously, or do they inspire you to shout eagerly, “I know!”? Whether you’re an anti-grammarian or a language lover, Mignon Fogarty teaches the world to communicate clearly with the Grammar Girl series of podcasts, daily e-newsletters, and books.

Her new guidebook, The Grammar Devotional, uses alliteration, humorous tricks, and cartoon characters (like Squiggly and Aardvark) to help readers remember 365 tips for successful writing.

Concerning yourself with correct grammar isn’t so much about the obsession of minutial details; it’s often critical for communicating thoughts effectively. Fogarty says that a great message or story can easily be overlooked if a reader is distracted by errors. “Often we’re ‘meeting’ people in writing these days, so people will judge you by how you use the language,” Fogarty says. “If you want to be taken seriously, use care with your language. I bet many inkpop readers would be surprised by how many people pay attention to comma usage, subject-verb agreement, and word choices.”

Though Fogarty hasn’t always considered herself a “grammar girl,” her love of writing and reading blossomed during high school. “I took my position as editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper quite seriously, worked on the annual staff, and haunted the photography darkrooms,” she says. “I wrote song lyrics and would get so absorbed into novels that I wouldn’t hear people calling my name.”

So what’s it like to be a grammar expert? “It’s a wonderful, extraordinary, and occasionally frustrating life,” Fogarty says. “I find language rules and the history of English fascinating, so I feel lucky to be able to read and write about them every day.”

Mignon Fogarty(credit_Sarah_Shatz)

Mignon Fogarty (photo by Sarah Shatz)

Do you know the differences in meaning between the words listed in the blog’s opening line? Here are Grammar Girl’s quick and dirty tips to help you remember …

The difference between affect and effect:

In most cases, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. You can remember the saying “affect verb, effect noun,” which starts with the letters a-v-e-n, by thinking of the words raven and avenue. Another way to remember is that affect is an action, and both of those words start with an a.

The difference between lay and lie:

In the present tense, people lie down or lay something down (lay needs an object). You can remember that the Eric Clapton song “Lay Down Sally” is wrong. To say “lay down Sally” would imply that someone should grab Sally and lay her down. If he wanted Sally to rest in his arms on her own, the correct line would be “lie down Sally.”

The difference between who and whom:

Whom refers to the object in a sentence, and who refers to the subject in a sentence. It’s correct to ask “Whom does Sarah love?” (whom is the object of Sarah’s love) and “Who loves Sarah?” (who is the subject of the sentence, the one doing the loving). If you can hypothetically answer the question with “him,” the correct choice is whom (and both him and whom end with m). It can also help to remember that the Rolling Stones’ song “Who Do You Love?” is wrong.

inkpop Forums topic: What are your grammar pet peeves?

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One Response to “Get your grammar good

  1. Hattie said

    Ah, I loved this article! I am definitely going to keep and eye out for that book and go check out the site!

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