Just the Facts, Ma’am

Just the Facts, Ma'amI recently discovered a misconception regarding members of the Grammar Police that I feel compelled to correct. The Grammar Police are people who are passionate about grammar. They are not snarky, snippy know-it-alls who want to make you look bad in front of other people. I point this out for members of the Grammar Police as well. If you’re not showing tact when correcting people’s grammar, you might want to step back and reassess why you became a Grammar Policeperson in the first place.

First of all, it’s because of a love of grammar. Second, it’s based on a love for the person speaking or writing. In the event that you don’t have good feelings toward the person whose grammar is in need of correction, refer back to the first point or keep your mouth shut. Remember: there is a time and a place to correct grammar. Choose both wisely.

For those not of the Grammar Police, keep in mind that our passion for grammar does not mean that we are above correction ourselves. Any Grammar Policeperson who believes this to be so needs to turn in his or her badge immediately. Correction is where learning takes place, and who doesn’t want to learn correct grammar?

Two of my favorite grammar websites are Grammarist and Grammar Girl. Between these two, I keep quite a few mistakes out of my speech and writing. Of course, that’s not to say I haven’t made some doozies in both. No, you don’t get to know the details.

How Reading Taught Me to Misspell Words

How Reading Taught Me To Misspell WordsI’ve read so many books during my life that I’ve started to misspell words. I’ll give you a minute to think about that.

I didn’t pay attention to which books were written by English authors and which by American authors. There must have been a time when my selections were top heavy with Brits because I started dropping a U into words that Microsoft Word kept underling, claiming that a U didn’t belong in said word. When it happened with the word color, well, that one seemed rather obvious.

Then came a day when Word underlined realise. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I kept re-reading the sentence for grammar and content to make sure it wasn’t a fragment, etc., etc. But wait, the underline was red, squiggly, and mocking. What in the world was wrong with this word?

I deleted it, retyped it, and again the ugly red squiggles popped up. It was time to resort to the good ole Google search bar. When the first article to pop up was titled Realise vs. Realize, I had a sneaky suspicion of the mistake I’d made. I was having my own private British Invasion.

According to Grammarist.com:

Realise and realize are different spellings of the same word, and both are used to varying degrees throughout the English-speaking world. Realize is the preferred spelling in American and Canadian English, and realise is preferred outside North America. The spelling distinction extends to all derivatives of the verb, including realised/realized, realising/realizing, and realisation/realization.

None of this may seem relevant to a writer, but on the off chance your writing includes a letter composed by someone born and raised outside of North America, think how smart you’ll look to your editor when you spell realize with an S.

Three’s a Crowd

Three's a CrowdTwo words that are similar are enough to drive this writer crazy, but when there are three that actually give me pause concerning spelling, definition, and usage, well, that’s when the ole Google search bar gets quite a workout on my laptop. Today’s The Weight of Words focuses on eminent vs. imminent vs. immanent.

And by the way, I don’t really use my Google search bar to look up words. That’s what Grammarist is for. Per the website:

Someone or something that is eminent is of high rank, noteworthy, distinguished, or prominent. An accomplished world leader and a respected intellectual, for instance, are eminent.

Something that is imminent is (1) very near or (2) impending. For example, when the weather forecast calls for a 100% chance of thunderstorms, we might say that storms are imminent.

Something that is immanent exists within or is inherent to something else. The word is often used in reference to spiritual or otherwise nonmaterial things. For example, a spiritual person might say that God’s power is immanent to the natural world.

Though the three adjectives are not exact homophones, they are similar enough to engender occasional confusion. Immanent in particular is very often used in place of imminent in popular usage, and imminent and eminent are also frequently mixed up.

Clear as mud? Now go forth and use them!

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