Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback

The Black Friday sales flyers yielded no typos of interest – or maybe I simply lost interest, because I find the whole Black Friday thing totally inane anyway.  Nothing says "the holidays" like fistfights over children's toys at 3:00 a.m. or flattening someone else's tires in a mall parking dispute.

But I digress…

These tidbits all come to us courtesy of my favorite local TV news station's web site, which has already supplied plenty of fodder for this blog.

1.  Regarding the theft of a purse from a vehicle:

"Police believe the victim's purse, left on the seat, lured them to break-in."

I'm starting to see more and more instances of hyphens inserted where they don't belong, and I find the trend most annoying!  In this instance, "break in" is a verb (i.e. "to break in") and should not be hyphenated.  The crime itself is a (hyphenated) "break-in."

2.  Isn't it bad enough that a family was displaced by a house fire over the weekend, and that they lost their family pets in the fire?  The poorly written story covering the incident just adds to the injustice.  Here are select excerpts (underlines are mine):

  • "No one was inside the home, except their two dogs." - As written, this sentence says that a person named "No one" owned the dogs.  Well, isn't that an interesting name!
  • "The homeowner's are being helped by the red cross." - Apostrophes are not necessary for a simple plural – it should be "homeowners."  And "red cross" is a proper name that should be capitalized: "Red Cross."
  • "The red cross is helping the family." - This was the last sentence in the story.  Guess the writer forgot he/she had already mentioned that fact…and forgot to capitalize "Red Cross" yet again!
    3.  On the recent accidental death of a beloved giraffe at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, a reporter writes:

    "A 20-year-old giraffe named Uhura fell and died within it's exhibit on Friday…"

    The misuses of "its" and "it's" is one of the more common typos I see.  Many are simple brain-to-hand goofs, but the difference between the two forms can be confusing.  In most cases, possessiveness is indicated by an apostrophe followed by an 's,' as in "the farmer's dog" or "the car's leather interior."

    However, adding an apostrophe and an 's' to "it" indicates a conjunction, replacing "it is."  "Its" without the apostrophe indicates the possessive case.  Here are some examples of correct usage:

    It's a beautiful day outside.  (Replace "it's" with "it is" and the meaning remains the same.)

    The bird explored its new cage.  (This "its" cannot be replaced with "it is" and still make any sense.)

    Go forth, my fellow word warriors, and be grammatically correct in all that you do.


    1. Maybe all this would be easier if the English language hadn't spent so many years hitting other languages over the head and riffling through their pockets looking for loose grammar... and generally only taking the most confusing bits. :) Its and It's drive me nuts because I always type the wrong one first and have to correct. Sadly I actually learned this one long after English grammar classes. I suspect my teachers just ignored this one as too confusing to bother... or maybe I just ignored them when it came time to talk about it.

    2. Wow - you can actually remember your English grammar classes? All I recall is that infernal diagramming - not how to diagram, because I couldn't diagram my way out of a wet paper bag now! - but rather the fact that I hated diagramming with a passion usually reserved for liver and onions. :-)

      I've not had much of a problem typing the incorrect its/it's until recently, but I mostly chalk that up to mental overload, haste and lack of focus...

      What were we discussing?