Grammar Basics to Never Forget

January 25, 2012

I’ve diligently covered such topics as the negative consequences of impulsive social media posts, pondered religion’s place on Facebook and Twitter and stressed the importance of continuity in branding; I even drew a comparison between Ernest Hemingway’s rules for writing concisely and advertising copy. But I have yet to write about two topics that are near and dear to my heart: grammar and punctuation!

It’s time to refresh you on the basics you learned in fifth grade—a few grammatical musts and never-evers that you may kind-of remember but have been hesitant to use due to uncertainty.

For starters, there is the good old lay versus lie issue. Lay requires a direct object and lie does not (translation: You lie down on the bed (no direct object) but you lay the keys on the table (the keys are the direct object).
I am so glad to have gotten that off my chest. Moving forward.

The preposition nonsense: it’s an antiquated rule. Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition. There, I said it! It’s 2012 and no one says, “On what did you step?” We say, “What did you step on?” Rearranging a sentence so that it does not end with a preposition is glaringly obvious and downright unnecessary.

A big, huge, major exception to everything I just wrote: at. Don’t ever, ever, ever ask, “Where you at?” or “Where’s it at?” or anything remotely similar. This doesn’t work because if you drop the “at,” the sentence still makes sense. Where are you? Where is it?

Finally, we come to hyphens and ages. When the age is an adjective that precedes a noun and modifies the noun or when the age is a noun, hyphenate. (Translation/example: My twelve-year-old brother plays lacrosse. Or: That 10-year-old-dog with the green collar loves to frolic with puppies.)

When the age is part of the adjective phrase after the noun, don’t hyphenate.

I am 29 years old.

Her godson is nearly two years old.

If you have any grammar or punctuations questions, don’t be shy. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. (Well, yes there is, but we’re here to help!)


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