A Word on Contractions

*This post originally appeared on my previous blog on October 31, 2014

Don’t, won’t, can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, it’s (which will have a post of *its* own), and more.
I believe in high school I was told it was better to use two words than one contraction. If I remember correctly, I did not use one contraction in any of my college application essays. This practice varied throughout my college career, and while now I prefer not to use contractions, I don’t completely avoid them. Many people, if not most, use contractions when they speak and write. But is this wrong?

According to the AP Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style, contractions are acceptable when speaking and informally writing, but if you are preparing an academic paper, leave out the apostrophe and use both words. The Chicago Manual of Style also indicates that contractions are sometimes a stylistic feature, and could diminish an author’s tone or purpose if taken out during editing.
My advice: use contractions only if you can identify the words making up the contraction, and avoid them in professional or formal academic situations. Unless of course, their acceptance is made clear.

Here’s a test: Identify the two words that make up “won’t.”

Oh, and don’t use “ain’t.” The statement “ain’t ain’t a word if it ain’t in the dictionary” is negated by the fact that it is defined in some dictionaries. However, it is NOT (I’m not using the contraction here for) intelligent English, and in my opinion, should NOT be used at all. “I am not” or “they are not” are also easier to say than the weird “ai” arrangement. So do yourself a favor and avoid it at all costs.

Happy speaking!

A or An ?

Today I’m featuring another post I published on my previous blog one year ago. The post has aged, but the lesson is timeless.

*This originally appeared on my previous blog on November 5th, 2014

Today, while I was catching up on episodes of The Tonight Show (hey, I’m doing that now!) and eating lunch, I opened this game on my phone – it’s called Compulsive – and was browsing its features. I clicked on the “Awards Page” and a hover over one of the awards produced the image shown below. First of all, an app/smartphone game that gives the user an award – that cannot be put on a resume, mind you – for an hour straight?!? Yikes. But I’m not here to discuss the problems with doing that, I’m here to discuss the error that appears in the caption, which I will take a second to show you now:

Google Play - A Hour

“A hour.” I hope that when you say it out loud, it sounds odd to you. Because it is not correct.

When deciding to use “a” or “an,” take a look at your next word. Usually you can tell by looking at the first letter of the word; if it’s a vowel, use “an.” A consonant, use “a.”

EXCEPT: the rule of “a” or “an” really applies to the sound of the first letter. The above image from the seemingly popular game in Google’s Play Store is the best example of this. Although “hour” begins with a consonant, this is one of those “trickster” English words that starts with a silent letter. Since it is pronounced “our,” “an” is the correct article to use. Therefore, the above image should read: “Play for an hour…” and my recommended ending would be “…if you feel like wasting part of your day by mindlessly connecting blocks of the same color.”

Happy Birthday Choice Words!

One year ago today I debuted my Choice Words feature (on my original blog domain). Here is the sass I chose to start it off with:


*This post originally appeared on October 23rd, 2014

I was scrolling through tumblr, and I found a picture with the words “Stop correcting my grammar, this isn’t English class.” I would post it, but the image behind the text isn’t something I want on my blog, and it’s not the actual post I want to discuss anyway.
You don’t want your grammar (or spelling, punctuation, etc.) corrected because we aren’t inside a school or classroom? Girl/boy, please.
Yes, I understand you may find it annoying if you text me or post something for me and the first thing I do is notice you used the wrong “its” or “their.” I don’t mean to annoy you.
And you’re right, this isn’t English class – this is REAL LIFE. Yes, your spelling and punctuation matter in real life, just as they do in English class.
Is it silly that I get [so] worked up about incorrectly spelled words and grammatically incorrect sentences? Perhaps. Will I cut it out? No.
In no way do I think I am perfect with my grammar; if you see something wrong on my blog or when I speak, let me know! Because I’ll be sure to do the same [for you].

Aah, memories. Though I am happy to say these feelings hold true one year later.

As you know, I am working on a redesign/revamping of my blog, and a more reliable and consistent Choice Words will be a big part of that. Have any suggestions? Shoot me an email or leave a comment for what you’d like to see for advice and tips on writing clearly, speaking effectively, and working towards a heightened understanding of grammar and language.

As always, thank you for reading (and following!).

(Fun Fact: I originally published my entire blog on July 4th 2014 – what a unique date.)


Literally and Figuratively – OR – Two Words, Two Meanings

Literally: truly, actually, exactly.
Figuratively: metaphorically, not actually.

I’m getting severely concerned that “figuratively” will soon cease to exist because of society’s obsession with dramatizing and embellishing sentences, thoughts, and stories. I’m not so much concerned with individuals’ not understanding the difference between the two words at the beginning of this post; based on my experiences [with correcting people’s use of “literally”], the definitions are clearly understood. Perhaps I will never understand. Perhaps I should stop using “literally” sarcastically in order to save its f-word opposite. Perhaps…ugh. I literally can’t even.

Anyway, I’ve rounded up a couple of my favorite images/cartoons/memes that really drive home the misuse of literally, and I would be doing the word “literally” a disservice if I did not include a Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) clip from Parks and Recreation. Feast your eyes, literally.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the originator of the following two cartoons, so if you’re out there, contact me and I’ll add the appropriate attribution. Because, besides the “ANNOYING” and “WAY MORE ANNOYING” headings, these images satisfy my sarcastic mindset and frustration with the love I have for the English language.


Someecards: humoring me with the irony of the world since whenever I first discovered them.

Apostrophe S Literally

The Oatmeal publishes wonderful little nuggets, and their literally comic is no exception.

And while I’ll never get over Parks and Recreation ending, that doesn’t stop me from promoting and referencing it every chance I get. Chris Traeger is especially appropriate for this post…

Punctuation: The Difference Between…

Let’s eat grandma!
Let’s eat, grandma!

We’re going to cut and paste, kids.
We’re going to cut and paste kids.
Were going to cut and paste kids.

Your shit.
You’re shit.
(Your, You’re; They’re, Their, There)

I like eating my family and my dog.
I like eating, my family, and my dog.
We met the strippers, a frog and Channing Tatum.
We met the strippers, a frog, and Channing Tatum.
(Oxford Comma > no Oxford Comma)

Periods and question marks are probably the most well known and properly used forms of punctuation. What about the exclamation point, you ask? I didn’t include it in that sentence, because the indicator of emphasis is frequently overdone, or used inappropriately. I could have started that sentence/thought with a No! but that would have been too abrupt for my serence explanation. And please, the exclamation point is in existence to indicate an exclamatory sentence or command – just one is needed.

Commas are commonly problematic. The simple explanation is to use a comma whenever you feel the need for a pause in a sentence. But, this could be, extremely subjective, and, therefore, you fall into the trap of, comma overuse. Another comma troublemaker: the comma splice. “I like binge watching late night shows, they are on too late for me to function early the next morning. Those comma splices will severely inhibit your readers’ understanding and tolerance of you as a person.

Comma splices can, most of the time, be fixed with the comma’s close relative, the semicolon. “I like binge watching late night shows; they are on too late for me to function early the next day.” A simple way to remember when it is appropriate to use semicolons: they can replace periods in between two closely related independent clauses (like I exhibited above). However, don’t overuse them, and in many cases, those independent clauses can be connected with a coordinating conjunction or by making them two sentences.
*Semicolons should not be confused with the punctuation mark that is the colon: a list starter or a clause explainer.

Apostrophe problems baffle me to no end. Plural possessives are tricky, so I’ll excuse many people who use an apostrophe incorrectly in those situations. But seriously, an apostrophe indicates a contraction or shows possession. “The dog’s bone was buried.” “The dogs’ buried their bones.” “They’re digging up their bones.” “My mom’s patience has run out.”

I know I’m leaving out parenthesis, dashes, brackets, and more out of this explanation. They deserve credit for assisting sentences and writing, but the above are examples of what is at the core of punctuation knowledge. So get them right. On social media, in texts, emails, and correspondence; punctuation exists because it’s important.

What punctuation woes have you experienced or worked through? Share below in the comments! (!!!!!!!!!)


Word of the Day: pro rata


Happy Friday! Today ends the week of adverbs, and if I can be so bold as to say words that I probably won’t use in the future. But, they are here if I ever decide to use them I suppose. Enjoy the weekend, even if it’s going to be a rainy one. I’ll be working on my reading list, planning a new blog feature (stay tuned) and working on other projects. Stay tuned!

pro rata(pro RAY-tuh, RAH-)

adverb: proportionally
adjective: proportional

From Latin pro rata (according to the calculated share). Earliest documented use: 1575

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“The distribution would be pro rata on length of service.”
Dennis Conroy; The Cairo Connection; Trafford; 2005.