A Rant about Grammar

We are "outside" today -- sign in front of store, Albany, NY

Let's review a few basic rules of English grammar.

Basic Grammar

Its and It's

Its is possessive. [The cat hurt its paw.]
It's is a contraction. [It's a mistake.]

Your and You're

Your is possessive. [Your experiment went awry.]
You're is a contraction. [You're wrong.]

Whose and Who's

Whose is possessive. [Whose shoes are these?]
Who's is a contraction. [Who's at the door?]

Quotation marks

Quotation marks are used to indicate that somebody said something. They are not used to add emphasis.


We are "outside" today.

Simple rule: restrict use of quotes to something spoken.

Advanced Bonus round: Try and

It's common in English to use try and instead of try to. An example is I'm going to try and eat an entire dog.. This implies two separate actions: trying and eating. What our speaker has literally said is redundant:

  1. She is going to try [to eat an entire dog, we presume];
  2. She is going to eat an entire dog.

So there's really no reason for her to try: she said she is going to eat an entire dog. What our speaker really means is that she is going to try to eat an entire dog.

Grammar as it Should Be

I disagree with some of the rules of grammar. This is the section in which I tilt with windmills.

Punctuating Quotations

English has some very stupid grammar rules regarding punctuating quotations. The oddest has to be its rule of punctuating a quotation at the end of a sentence. Logically, the punctuation of the quotation and the quoting sentence itself may differ, but they are squashed together in English:

Hip said, "Sit quite still, Gerry."

This doesn't make sense. The enclosing sentence above ends; it should be followed immediately by a period, to mark that it too has ended:

Hip said, "Sit quite still, Gerry.".

The accepted rule is to move the punctuation inside the quotes if it's not an exclamation point or question mark. Is this better or worse than always punctuating both the enclosed and enclosing sentences?

-ical Adjectives

Adjectives can be made out of nouns by adding the ending "ic". Here are some examples:

  • graphic
  • economic
  • grammatic

It's the fashion of the time to create new adjectives by adding "al" to the end of familiar words. Here are some examples:

  • graphical
  • economical
  • grammatical

If you've been paying attention, you will realize that we just made adjectives out of adjectives. These adjectives are redundant. So let's replace "graphical user interface" with "graphic user interface" and "grammatical error" with "grammatic error".

Judge for yourself: look at the big list of words ending in "ical".

Last updated 2 June 2000
All contents ©1996-2002 Mark L. Irons

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