The only problem with workplace grammar Nazis is that not nearly enough of them get strung up by their dangling modifiers and are then beaten to death with a sock full of Oxford commas.
Oh, you know the type, the type that revel in revealing—loudly and publicly—the teeniest, tiniest transgression from the King’s English. The who-whomers. The pronoun-antecedent vigilantes. The double-space-after-a-period police. And of course those prickly wicklies that cling to arcane rules from high-school composition class, like never starting a sentence with a conjunction or ending it with a preposition, or any other ridiculous restraint they can think of.
See, see what we did there?
Yes, we can all agree that Dante has a separate circle in hell for these red-pen brown-shirts. But while we are business people in the casino industry and not copy editors at a publishing house, that doesn’t mean we can’t shore up our writing and speaking skills. So, with that as our charge and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, here are the top five blunders to avoid.
And if you have a favorite foible to add, do so in the comments section.
Me, Myself and I
This trips up more people—smart, educated, accomplished people—than ankle-high piano wire at a square dance. Which, when you think about it, is kind of a bad idea, but, when you think about it a bit longer, would actually be fun to watch. Nevertheless…
Refer to Strunk & White for the official do’s and don’ts, but here’s the quick and dirty dissertation: “I” starts the sentence, but it ends with “me.” I went to the cage to get the marker; or they brought the marker to me. As for “myself,” it’s usually immediately after “I” and a verb, whether passive or active. I gave myself a haircut. I am, myself, an egomaniac.
That last one was illustrative, not illuminative, by the way.
Now, these rules are pretty easy to follow when there are no other pronouns in the sentence, just as driving is pretty easy when there are no other cars on the road. But things get hairy quickly when there’s traffic, when there are other pronouns to steer around.
The trick is to forget about those hims, hers and theys, and operate per usual. She and I went to the cage to get the marker; or they brought the marker to him and me. Note the other pronoun always goes first. As for myself, it doesn’t play well with others. You’d be hard pressed to say a sentence that has a third-person pronoun and myself close to each other. She gave myself a bad review and he wanted to see myself get help are closer to gibberish than English.
The language may be dead, but its abbreviations live on. Here they are: “i.e.” (id est) means “in other words” or “that is to say,” while “e.g.” (exempli gratia) means “for example.” Used in a sentence, it could look like this: When dealing with a grammar Nazi (i.e., an SOB POS) in the workplace, feel free to get Medieval on his ass (e.g., draw and quarter, burn at the stake, pluck out fingernails).
What The H?
Let’s speak this now and forever hold our peace, not piece. The former is an advisable rule of thumb and the latter is a misdemeanor if done in public. “Height” ends with a “t” sound. They haven’t pronounced it “th” for 200 years. So unless you and Doc Brown find a DeLorean and take it back to 1721, make sure the “h” stops here.
Take a look at this list… and then immediately forget it. Because while each of these words may look like a word, they are actually not words.
- Alright (but making it two words is “all right”)
- Guys’s as the possessive plural of guy (e.g. What is your guys’s opinion of my idea?)
What Do You Mean?
Not to sound like the demon baby of Webster and Roget, but here’s a rapid-fire spray of innocent word misusage you’ve no doubt heard around the boardroom table: prodigal means wasteful, not returning; envy and jealousy are not the same thing; same goes for less and fewer, further and farther; unique means one of a kind (complimenting—not complementing, mind you—something by calling it “very unique” is on par with congratulating a woman for being “somewhat pregnant”).
And “irony” is not “coincidence,” as Weird Al Yankovic sings in “Word Crimes,” the parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”
You know what? You could have actually skipped reading this column and watched the video. It’s on YouTube, and it pretty much covers all of this in a much more entertaining manner.
Oops. Probably should have mentioned that up front.