In honor of the 101st anniversary of Johnnie Mae Brown’s birth, which is today, November 18th. She was a highly revered, student-centric high school teacher of the English language, particularly the use of proper grammar. Even as a young child, I became a student.
Given my inherited bent for the proper use of English grammar, some of my mother’s teaching are remembered here:
Not Veteran’s or Veterans’ Day.
The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one or multiple veterans, which an apostrophe implies.
Affect or effect:
Affect is usually used as a verb. Effect as a noun.
Affect – to act upon, alter, express an action
Effect – the outcome, the end result
Alumnus, alumna, alumnae, alumni,:
Alumnus – used of a man in the singular
Alumna – used of a woman in the singular
Alumnae – used of women in the plural
Alumni – used of men in the plural; and male and female in the plural
That or which:
That introduces an essential phrase, not offset by commas.
Which introduces a non-essential phrase that is set off by commas.
Accept or except:
Accept is a verb meaning to take or receive.
Except is a preposition meaning to exclude or leave out.
Ensure, insure, and assure:
No one can ensure the contract is binding.
We insure our valuable assets.
I can assure you of her sincerity.
Counsel refers to advice or guidance.
A council refers to an assembly for discussion.
Compliment or complement:
A Compliment is a statement of praise.
To complement means to go well with, complete, or perfect
Allusion or illusion:
An allusion is an indirect reference.
An illusion is a fantasy, a dream, or a misconception.
Principle or principal:
A principle is a rule or standard.
A principal is a person serving in an important role.
Elicit or illicit:
Elicit brings out or evokes.
Illicit is illegal.
Emigrant or immigrant:
An emigrant is one who leaves his native country to settle in another.
An immigrant is one who enters and settles in a new country.
Lie or lay:
Lie means to recline on a surface; its principal parts are lie, lay and lain.
Lay means to place or put; its principal parts are lay and laid.
Desert or dessert:
Desert means to abandon or dry area.
Dessert is sweet food.
Discreet or discrete:
Discreet is hush-hush, private.
Discrete is separate, divided or distinct.
Site or cite:
Site is a location or place.
Cite is to quote or reference something else.
Stationary or stationery:
Stationary is immovable.
Stationery is paper used for writing.
Fewer or less:
If you can count it, use fewer if “you have fewer than ten items,” not “less than ten items.”
Commas and periods are placed inside quotation marks. Question marks are as well when ending a sentence.
Not a word, but a portmanteau of regardless and irrespective. Regardless of how you feel, such is objectively the wrong decision. Everyone gets a vote, irrespective, regardless of their position.
HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOTHER.
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