(Okay, Language Arts for junior high school kids, but the age range is appropriate).
People of America:
I have detected a widespread error in English usage that should be addressed forthwith. Actually a lot of them (Look, spelling really DOES count. Don’t rely on Spellcheck or auto correct. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND HOMONYMS). It is time to reclaim our intelligence and coherent communications. Break out the composition books, because class is in session .
(Great Britain? You’re lovely just as you are. You guys have your own spelling issues, such as an excessive fondness for “u” : flavour, etc. And there’s that whole “aluminium” thing. We Yanks may be brusque, but we don’t dally with excess letters)
Not only did I teach Language Arts, I’m an author (buy my books. See the link at the top of the page). While I enjoy the democratization of technology where anyone can now publish a book, the downside is there is an ever-increasing amount of material out there where the content may be great, but the execution is sub-standard. I belong to a lot of author groups on Facebook and some of the spelling/grammar errors I see in posts have been carried into the stories written by the authors.
First of all, if you are an author, Yea! (That is the correct spelling, not “yay.”) Word of advice: make sure your editor knows as much about spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence construction as you do, if not more. You are painting with words and while it may be acceptable for one of your characters to screw up language (in dialogue), it is not acceptable for the author to do so. You don’t have to be an Oxford don, but you do need to know and understand the rules before you break them.
Easy starter here: Whatever THIS woman does, language-wise? Do the opposite and you’ll be correct.
LIE v. LAY
This is my pet peeve du jour because I see “lay” misused EVERYWHERE. “I’m going to go lay down.” WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!
If you are moving yourself from a vertical (up and down) position to horizontal (side to side) position, e.g. taking a nap, you are LYING down. If you are placing an object (such as one of my books. Really, go buy them, they’re great) on a surface, you are LAYING down the object.
Thus, the act of lovemaking, when someone puts you on a bed (don’t nitpick here, I’m trying to make a point), YOU are the object and YOU are getting LAID.
See how that works?
Of course, the past tense of lie is lay, but just keep that handy-dandy chart around and refer to it often.
LIE = Recline, LAY = put or place
“Lay down your weapons” (Put or place your guns down)
“I’m going to lie down from this migraine you kids have given me. I can’t wait until school starts again.” (Recline in a dark, quiet room and prayer for the school board to approve year round sessions)
Understand: I’m blaming word processing programs. They’ve been programmed to help us out but binary code is not artificial intelligence. They haven’t advanced enough to pick up on bad grammar or improper usage. We humans know ALL the rules for proper writing and sentence construction. Microsoft Word is still a few sandwiches short of a picnic in this regard. DON’T rely on SpellCheck, I beg you. Get a dictionary. Or pay to use Grammarly.
LIGHTNING v. LIGHTENING
One is a natural phenomenon seen in thunderstorms and volcanos.
And the other is an alternative term for bleached hair
(God forgive me for using a Whoredashian to make a point)
The confusion has become so widespread that when I went to look for images of “lightening” in Google Images, most of the first hits were pictures of lightning.
Again, they are both actual words, but word processing programs cannot deduce from the context which one is appropriate (I will be sending invitations to a “there,” “their,” and “they’re” seminar). It is up to YOU, the actual human being whom an over-stressed, underpaid teacher attempted to guide through this minefield, to know the difference. If you graduated sixth grade, there is no excuse for screwing up vocabulary and spelling like this.
Of course, if you’ve read all this, shrugged, and said, “Meh. Doesn’t matter”, this is what you’ll become:
Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
(That’s a different English course. English lit. “Macbeth”).
One final shot to drive the point home:
July 17 PS: As of July 16, 2014, Weird Al Yankovic agrees with me: