Sunday, December 9, 2012

You're such a hypocrite to be preaching about the use of your vs. you're!

It's a common mistake. Everyone makes it, right? Even grammar experts. Right? That's what I keep telling myself after typing (and tweeting) "your" when I meant "you're." Yep. That's right. GB, tweeting as IAMGrammarBitch nonetheless, used the wrong word. It was an honest mistake. I changed my sentence quickly, and so the word I needed to use changed as well. But I didn't change it. And then I clicked send, and a lovely word choice error went out into the black hole of Twitterdom, forever to be associated with GB's Twitter account.

So, I told myself, there's no better time to write a blog about YOUR and YOU'RE. And you, faithful readers, are the lucky recipients of my hypocritical post.

A little back story

I admit it. When people type "your" when they mean to shorten "you are," it drives me crazy. I think, if only for a second, that they need to go back to school and pick up the basics. I may even question their intelligence. I'm a grammar snob, and I know it. Yes, as I've admitted freely before, I make mistakes. And I'm open to having them pointed out and laughed at. But I never thought I'd make this one - and while sending a fun and flirty text to the one and only Nathan Fillion, aka Captain Tightpants, Malcolm, Castle, Captain Hammer, Caleb, Joey B. of the almighty Buchanan clan, @NathanFillion...Ugh!

It was my first twitter response ever, and my first as IAMGrammarBitch. So when I read my tweet after sending, I was horrified! Not only did I send out a grammatical error into cyberspace, but I sent it out to someone who comes from a family of English teachers - someone I have a serious fangirl crush on. Damn it! I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants. And then I promptly deleted the tweet.

So now, although I am obviously not the best person to be teaching you how to choose the right word, I am going to give it a shot.


It refers to something you possess. Something that is, get this, yours. You can say to someone "I love your hair" (meaning, the hair that belongs to you). And although you may just be BSing, you'll also be grammatically correct. Of course, there are times when you may need to specify "I love the hair on your head" so the guy (or gal I suppose) you're trying to impress doesn't take this as a non-Movember excuse to grow an ungodly awful mustache.

I don't need to go on too long about this one because most people get it right. If you're guessing that people make a mistake when talking about something they are (or you are) not going to believe and use the word your (a la "your not going to believe how awesome I am!"), well then, you're correct. yes, you are.


You're is a contraction for you are. You are smart should be shortened to you're smart - not "your smart". If you're stroking someone's ego on Facebook, you might be inclined to post something as mundane as "You are so right! I had no idea you were such a genius!" And because your fingers are a little lazy (or you just want to be casual), you decide to shorten the "you are" portion. And, if you're like (what seems to be) 99% of the Facebook users, you'll make the mistake of writing "Your so right! I had no idea you were such a genius!" And you'll make it clear to the people reading your post that although your friend may indeed be a genius, you, it seems, are not. At least that's what your grammar error says to the world.

You're means you are. It is not a gateway to possession. (For blogs about gateways to some things, check out

Here's a sentence that uses both correctly (although likely said by no spouse ever). "You're so lucky that your husband cooks and cleans and expects nothing in return."

Here's a quiz. Identify the sentences with "your" errors (that will, after you read this blog, hopefully not be your errors).

1. If your not going to vote in this election, don't think for a minute I'm going to listen to you kvetch for the next four years.
2. My sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend told me that your having a boob job. Can I ask you one question? Saline or silicone?....Do I want to feel them? Your serious? Uh, yeah!
3. Two words. You're amazing.
4. Your not going to believe how badly the Packers got trounced. It was in-freaking-credible, dude! The Bears will be pooping gold and green tomorrow. (If you are posting this on Facebook, you get points from many Chicagoans for at least getting part of this post right).
5. Please, I beg you, warn me before your going to release another one of those noxious farts - especially under the covers.

Answer Key:

1. Your error. (Certainly not mine).
2. Your error. (Actually, two your errors).
3. Yep. That one is correct.
4. Your error. (But extra credit can be awarded if you at least smiled).
5. Your error.

Sentences should read:

1. 1. If you're not going to vote in this election, don't think for a minute I'm going to listen to you kvetch for the next four years.
2. My sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend told me that you're recovering from a boob job. Can I ask you one question? Saline or silicone?....Do I want to feel them? You're serious? Uh, yeah!
3. Two words. You're amazing.
4. You're not going to believe how badly the Packers got trounced. It was in-freaking-credible, dude! The Bears will be pooping gold and green tomorrow. (If you are posting this on Facebook, you get points from many Chicagoans for at least getting part of this post right.)
5. Please, I beg you, warn me before you're going to release another one of those noxious farts - especially under the covers.

So that's it for now. Now go tell all your friends your going to get this right from now on. (Did you catch that one? Good. You're learning.)

All my love,
~ GB

Monday, February 7, 2011

Affect vs. effect - a quick reference for greatest effect

Most of the time knowing when to use "affect" and "effect" is pretty easy. Why? Because most of the time, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun. OK, over-achievers, I promise we'll get to the exceptions later. But for now, we'll start with an example.


The rain affected Josie's eye makeup, and the effect was quite sexy - if you like raccoons that is.

Since the rain is the subject, and it is acting upon her eye makeup, you use the verb affected. And since Josie's eye make up is the object, and it is being acted upon by the rain, you use the noun effect. 

Let's try another.

SnOMG 2011 dumped so much white stuff on Chicago February 1 and 2, that it negatively affected the travel plans of even the most well-connected Aldermen. The blizzard pummeled the city, and one effect was stranded Lake Shore Drive commuters. Many were stuck for nine hours, unable to move their vehicles. Fortunately, the ability to honk and fling obscenities remained fully intact.

In the above example, SnOMG 2011 affected (verb) travel plans, and the blizzard had an effect (noun) on LSD commuters.

Quick Tip

It may help you to think of it this way: effect, in many cases, is synonymous with a result. So if you're referring to something that happened to someone (or some thing) or something that was caused by the actions of another thing, use "effect." While affect (or affected) is synonymous with an action. So if you're referring to something one did to another (or how one acted upon another), use "affect," "affected," or "affecting."

Effect Examples:
  • Your charms have lost their effect on me; diamonds, however, have not. (Result: Charms lost out to diamonds after umpteenth empty apology).
  • The effect of gambling is almost always an empty wallet. (Result: Gambling caused empty wallet).

  • The years have not had a pleasant effect on his chins. (Result: Years caused saggy wattle).
Affect/Affected/Affecting Examples:
  • Adding sugar to coffee affects the flavor. (Action: Adding sugar makes coffee taste better).

  • Her sunny disposition is affecting my ability to wallow in much-deserved self pity after my prized Apple Pie lost out to Wilma's blueberry loaf at the Seawell County Fair. (Action: Her disposition is impeding my pity party).

  • Grandma's insistence to baby her Infiniti G35X and DWG (drive while granny) affected our arrival at the screening of "Scream 3756 - the Sequel." (Action: Grandma's "careful, defensive driving" caused us to be quite late for the newest horror film. Wait a thinks she was employing selective DWG techniques. Clever Granny - I should never underestimate you!)

  • The Chicago auto dealership's written threat to terminate Carlos should he not remove his Green Bay Packer's tie immediately affected the company's image (and business) when Carlos forwarded the offending email to the media and took a job with a competitor. (Action: Misguided team loyalty caused long-term headaches).
The Exceptions

I warned you of the exceptions, and for the sake of time and clarity, I'll only briefly cover them here. If you want to know more, you can always send me an email.

Ready? Here we go!

Affect as a Noun

Rarely, affect is used as a noun. In mental health circles, affect describes the way a person appears to be feeling. Merriam Webster defines affect (the noun) this way: "a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion"--see my source.

Example: Peter's flat affect led his psychologist to believe that he was depressed. 

Effect as a Verb

Again rarely, effect is used as a verb. It can mean: to cause something to come into being; to bring about by overcoming significant obstacles; or to accomplish.

Example: The people of Egypt hope to effect a regime change by taking to the streets and demanding true democracy.

Bravo! You've now tackled one of the most common errors in the English language! Did I have a positive effect on your grammar rule vault? Leave me a comment and let me know. Here's to hoping....

See you soon! 


With bated breath, I wait for the results, hoping I'll be able to breathe a sigh of relief

While reading a transcript of a post-State of the Union address interview between Bill Maher and Wolf Blitzer, I was reminded of one of my biggest pet peeves - when people use the words "breath" and "breathe" incorrectly.  (Shame, shame copy editor of the transcript! How much are they paying you?)

Granted, sometimes a mistake like that can be explained away as a typo. It's easy to leave the last letter off when rushing to get those words on paper (or the screen). But more often than not, people just don't know which is correct, so they just guess.

Because I care deeply about each and every one of you (is that two or three of you now?), I'm here to clear up any confusion. Let's start with definitions, courtesy of Merriam Webster. Since there are a number of definitions from which to choose, I'll just pick one for each, and we'll take it from there.

Breath - "air inhaled and exhaled in breathing" - the air is the breath.

Breathe - "to draw air into and expel it from the lungs"- the air is involved in the act of drawing breath or breathing.

At first glance, those definitions are similar, so, were I not here to clarify, you'd be at risk of falling into an even deeper state of confusion. Therefore, I have some examples:

Let's use the word BREATH in a couple of sentences.

1. After raiding the cat's litter box for an afternoon treat, my dog's breath could have sent even Oscar the Grouch running for cover.

In that sentence, the breath refers to the stinky air emitting from the dog's mouth - not to the dog's act of breathing. It's a noun in this case and most of the time.

2. Just the act of putting on high heels and short shorts for the Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial left Joan Rivers nearly out of breath, but the risky (and risqué) stunt paid off. Joan's cosmetic surgeon was so very pleased to hear that, even without beer goggles, male football fans from all over the world found her legs quite sexy. Representatives from Go Daddy have yet to comment whether that actually was Joan's body.

Now let's try BREATHE:

1. Trevor required four stitches below his eye after he leaned in to tell his wife Laura, who was in her 30th hour of labor, to "stop whining and complaining and just breathe - you know, like the Lamaze teacher taught you." 

In that sentence, breathe refers to the act of breathing. And it's a verb. It's an action verb, to be precise, and when Laura heard the verb, it most definitely encouraged action - Laura walloping Trevor square in the face. As you might have guessed, it's typically used as a verb.

2. John Boehner, our newest Speaker of the House, was so busy crying during his last speech that it's a wonder he even found the time to breathe.

Got it? Good. 

Now it's your turn. 

Try filling in the blanks with the correct word (your only choices for this quiz are "breath" and "breathe"). Don't worry - it will be over soon, and you can then breathe freely until your next grammar quiz. I know, I know! You can't wait! My blogs are like a breath of fresh, enlightening, effervescent air. What can I say? I try.

Living and Breathing Grammar - Quiz Number One

Rule Number One: No cheating! Answers supplied at the end of the blog are there for grading purposes only! Now, take a big, cleansing breath, and GO!

When I was in second grade and on a field trip, my superstitious teacher told me to hold my (1)________ as we drove past the cemetery so the free roaming evil spirits wouldn't be able to take over my body. She explained that they can get in through your mouth or nose when you (2)________. It was a huge cemetery, and looking back, I can't help but wonder whether she had confidence in my ability to go without taking a (3)________ for so long, or whether she secretly hoped I'd fail, (4)________ in the spirits, and go all Exorcist on the school bus. Come to think of it, they did serve split pea soup for lunch that afternoon. It's all coming together now. Sneaky teacher. Good thing I was a champion (5)________ holder. And also, I have the most amazing super power -- with the right dose of concentration, I can (6)________ through my feet, so regardless of my (7)________ holding ability, that slow drive past the cemetery was not as risky to me as it was to the 27 other 8-year-old classmates sharing the bus with me. So you can (8)________ a sign of relief. I was fine! Evil spirits be damned. But did I mention that Roy Wilkinson was sitting next to me? For the love of God, his (9)________ was horrendous! Even after the 15 shots of Binaca.

OK. Now you can check your answers. How did you do? If you got three right, you're probably just about average. I find that randomly chosen "statistic" utterly alarming, but I have been known to be a bit dramatic. If you happened to have answered all of the questions correctly, let me first say: I love you! I honestly love you. And I hereby knight you Sir Grammar Bitch. (As an aside, I've heard that even women can be called Sir now. In fact, during a recent trip to a drive-through of some unnamed fast food Mexican chain that may or may not offer actual meat in their beef tacos, the lovely cashier repeated my order and then said, "Thank you, Sir. Please pull forward when you can." Now, I'm an alto, but I don't think I sound like a man unless I've got the mother of all head colds, but I digress - far too often and far too far).

There. That wasn't so difficult, was it? I know it left you wanting more. And more. So come back soon, ya hear? I'll be waiting with bated breath for the moment I can breathe a sigh of relief for you've returned.


P.S. A fun story for those who have stuck around this far: When I ran this through the Microsoft Word spell check, it kept telling me to change "breath" to "breathe" and vice versa. I'm not sure whether to be glad I'm smarter than my computer or sad that the person tasked with providing a correct spell/grammar checker failed miserably!

Answer Key  

(Hey! Stop cheating! As my college Roomie #2 always said: "Cheaters never prosper!")

1. breath
2. breathe
3. breath
4. breathe
5. breath
6. breathe
7. breath
8. breathe
9. breath

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's going to be trouble if there are any more peeps from the audience

It's as common as people ordering a Big Mac, super-size fries and a diet coke. What's that, you ask? People who use the word "there's." For me, it looms high on the "oh no you didn't" scale of grammar "badness."

I had an English professor in college who just couldn't grasp the concept that when you're referring to more than one person, place or thing (for example, hundreds of revelers or fifteen minutes) and preceding it with the word "there," "there" must be followed with "are." Not is or 's or, worse, be.

Incorrect: I'm not going to wait in line for the newest Star Trek movie - there's like ten thousands nerds in Mr. Spock costumes all over the place. And they're doing something really weird with their hands.

Correct: I'm glad you're taking time to trim your toenails, but next time, please do it outside of your cubicle and dispose of the clippings elsewhere. There are four coworkers complaining to me about this practice of yours.

If you're uncertain about whether it's OK to use the contraction there's, try filling in there is where you are considering using there's.

You wouldn't say (not if you wanted to be correct) there is fifty states, so you shouldn't use there's fifty states. But you would say there is a party tonight, so it's also fine to say there's a rockin' party tonight, and I am not missing it.

That about covers it.

I think it's time I sign off. There's something else I need to be doing. In fact, there are ten (ten thousand?) things I should be doing that don't involve telling you how to speak or write.

Until next time, and with all of my love, I wish you an excellent day.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Their, they're, there, it's going to be just fine (says GB)

Never fear, Grammar B. is here, tirelessly working to save the English language. This time I'm tackling the use of their, they're and there. (Funny note for those who like to pick on people: I just had to correct my own grammar in the first sentence, but in my defense, at least I realized it prior to publishing.)

Let's get to it.


Their is a pronoun that shows possession, meaning something belongs to them.

Example 1: Sam and Lafawnda took their newly shaved pink poodle into the polling place, and that's when all hell broke loose.

Here, the newly shaved pink poodle belongs to Sam and Lafawnda (and boy, don't they know it!), so we use the word their to show that ownership. Because who else would want to stake a claim on a newly shaved pink poodle?

Example 2: The self-proclaimed teabaggers could hardly contain their excitement when Republican Scott Brown won the late Edward Kennedy's senate seat in the Massachusetts election; so they took to the streets in celebration, teabagging as only they can, waving their flags, posters, and self-righteousness. Sadly, their love was not returned in kind, as Mr. Brown politely refused to be associated with their group.

In example 2, I have stepped wholeheartedly into a heaping pile of cow dung, and I pray that any people who associate themselves with the teabaggers will forgive me for using their group's misfortune to illustrate grammar usage. Let's move on, shall we?


They're is a contraction of two words - they and are. It's a short cut for writing something like "They are planning the party of the century." You can substitute they're for they are anywhere you like if you're not afraid of a bit of informality.

Example 1: Just as Ford is beginning to make a comeback, they're celebrating an unexpected gift: a massive Toyota recall. Although it has taken Toyota a while to admit fault, they're finally doing something about it by recalling a crap load (read: I have no idea how many) of Toyotas. (Does anyone else smell a rat here?)

And finally....


There can be used in many ways and as various parts of speech (sort of like f*ck for those of you who use that word), but not to show possession or to discuss what they are doing. It can be an adverb, pronoun, noun, adjective, or interjection. For more information on the parts of speech, see "there" at

Example 1: There were thousands of movie fans blindsided by Sandra Bullock's nomination for an Oscar for best actress in a leading role. What was even more stunning was the Oscar nod for Sandra's movie The Blind Side. In her living room with friend and fellow nominee, Helen Mirren, a humbled Meryl Streep needed some reassurance. "There, there, Meryl," said Helen, "take comfort in the beautiful bronze blokes taking up residence over there on your mantle. There is always next year. You're Meryl Streep for God's sake. No one can take that away from you."

So here's the takeaway: When they're annoying the heck out of you, tell your teachers that their pompous attitude isn't helping you as they stand there in the front of the classroom preaching rather than teaching. And then be prepared with some good white out and a typewriter to change your F to a B.

Tune in next time for one of my favorites....when to use there is (or there's) and there are.

Grammar B. out!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cage Match #1 - It's vs. Its

Today, though all grammar slips make me want to hit someone over the head with a cast iron griddle, I'm picking on "it's" vs. "its." Not because it's a particularly annoying mistake, but because it's a mistake I have been known to make during a first pass when I'm not thinking.

It's an easy error to make because the "it's vs. its" debacle, well, it's counter-intuitive. Why? Because most of the time, when you're showing possession, you use an apostrophe.

Examples: Fred's dog, Sharon's glass eye, Mom's secret stash of two-bite Dove bars and Devil Dogs she stumbles to when doped up on sleeping pills, the mistress's excuses (and her obviously enhanced bosom), you get the picture.

So, it would stand to reason that when you’re referring to something that belongs to “it,” the possessive should be “it’s,” right? But it isn’t. It’s “its” – at least according to modern grammar rules. Got it? Good.

Summary (for those who are still confused):
  • It’s = “it is” or “it has” (or, more aptly, a contraction, standing for “it is” or “it has”)

    Example: It’s high time I stopped wasting precious minutes sitting in front of my computer reading this garbage when I could be watching video clips from America’s Got Talent.
  • Its = the possessive form of the pronoun “it”

    Example: The football team lost its star defensive tackle to a dog fighting sting (position title changed to protect the accused).

Just as I was ready to sign off on this note and send it into the blogosphere forever to be associated with the household name that Me Love Grammar, a.k.a. grammar b*tch©™, is sure to become, I did a Google search for “possessive of it.” And what I learned is that, prior to the 19th Century, “it’s” actually was the possessive form of the pronoun “it,” and “’tis” was used as a short form of “it is.”

I refer you to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, circa 1600, for an example:

“...To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles...”
– the late, great Bard, William Shakespeare, approximately 1564 - 1616

(See also the Web site that alerted me to the historical usage:

Whose lesson is this anyway?

So, despite the fact that the whole point of my blog is to chastise those who butcher grammar or simply minimize the importance of being correct, I will give you some advice. The next time someone like me gives you a hard time for “misusing” the word “it’s,” just say something like, “I was just going all Shakespearean on your ass, you ass, ‘tis that not OK with you, grammar czar? Yeah, that’s right. What?” *

And then come back here and tell me how it went. My comment section is always open.

Yours truly (note the lack of an “e” in that last word) and much love,

Grammar B.

* Unless you have a foolproof plan B, don't try this with your boss or anyone who, for any reason, has control of your paycheck. Yes, that includes your spouse.