Posts tagged ‘Spelling’

The English Language

Of all the beautiful languages spoken on earth, English is perhaps one of the most complex and confusing. It may seem difficult to pinpoint exactly where the English language came from, but the answer is simple: everywhere. A friend of mine, Ian Hall (author of the Jamie Leith Chronicles), shared this entertaining video on twitter. This video is an excellent portrayal of where English originated and implications of how it will continue to evolve.

As we can see, the English language is clearly the melting pot of many other languages. This can sometimes make things like spelling very difficult to comprehend. The following image is a popular depiction of just how convoluted actual spelling versus phonetics can be.

Of course, the sounds that the letter combinations “gh” and “ti” create above typically only do so in the middle of words, not at the beginning or end. Perhaps a more accurate phonetic spelling of “fish” would be “phoche.”

Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the English language is one of the most interesting and flexible languages in the world. It certainly has both pros and cons, just like every other language out there. For instance, English words created from Greek or Latin stems are easy to understand, while Russian is known for its extensive and detailed vocabulary and German is built on cases that offer more syntax opportunities.

In short, knowing the limitations and strengths of a language is an invaluable skill for writers of any kind. Communication comes with responsibility; what you say can affect people’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Learning how to effectively communicate is one of the most powerful things people of all races, genders, backgrounds, and fields of study can do.

What will you do with your language?

Top 10 Most Annoying Grammar and Speech Violations

1. Their, there, they’re: The incorrect usage of the word “there” is a common mistake, especially for those who read less than average. The same mistake goes for words like “two, to, and too,” as well as “then and than.”

“Their” is the possessive form of “they.”
Example: Making the Pizza was their responsibility.

“There” refers to where something is located.
Example: The library is over there.

“They’re” is a conjunction of the phrase “they are.”
Example: They’re leaving. 

2. Run-ons and fragments: People tend to write the way they think, whether it be in a thought pattern that just goes on and on or one that doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all. This results in run-ons and sentence fragments.

Run-on: There were only five mirrors but I bought them anyway because we have enough money even though we just paid rent because the landlord wanted it early. 

Fragment: The bird sang happily while.

3. Incomplete adverbs: Especially in Utah, many people tend to drop the “ly” when using adverbs. Adverbs are words that describe the manner in which something is done. Some examples are quickly, carefully, happily, and angrily.

-Correct: The movie was really good.
-Incorrect: The movie was real good.

4. Tense confusion: Tense confusion is most often displayed with the word “seen.” For instance, people say, “I seen that movie.” This seems to be an incomplete use of the English past perfect tense. The correct usage is listed below, as well as another tense option that would make the sentence correct:

Past Perfect: I had seen that movie.
Narrative Past: I saw that movie.

5. Texting shorthand in prose: Although shortening words and using clever abbreviations is highly useful when texting or chatting online, using them when writing academically is completely inappropriate. Some of the most common examples are:

– 2 (to)
– 4 (for)
– @ (at)
– ppl (people)
– lol
– U (you)

6. Wrong vocabulary: Like using the wrong “to,” people frequently throw in a lot of impressive words to make their writing or speech seem richer and more intelligent. This only works if that word is appropriate for the context of how it is being used. If you’re not sure if the word fits,  look up the dictionary definition and examples or ask a friend how it sounds. Using a lot of big words incorrectly just makes a person look stupid. One way to avoid this is by writing a simple, straightforward version first, then later exploring more interesting vocabulary.

7. “Like”: The word “like” is commonly used to introduce an example or fill the place of a sentence where a writer or speaker is unsure of what to say. Instead of using “like,” one can say “for example.” Rewording sentences and putting more thought behind them can prevent one from having to use “like” as a filler word.

8. Mispronunciation: Hearing someone mispronounce words can be very distracting and annoying. Here are some of the most common with examples of proper pronunciation:

– Feel (FEE-l)                                                 don’t say: fill
– Crayon (crAY-on)                                     don’t  say: cran, crown
– Pillow (PI-low)                                          don’t say: pellow
– Real (REE-ul)                                             don’t say: rill
– Nuclear (new-KLEE- ur)                       don’t say: nucular
– Often (off-TEN)                                         don’t say: offen
 Picture (PIC-chur)                                    don’t say: pitcher

9. Double negatives: The most commonly used double negative is “irregardless.” The correct form is simply “regardless,” which means “despite the prevailing circumstances.” By adding the prefix “ir,” one is ultimately saying the exact opposite of what he or she is trying to say.

10. Apostrophe errors: Apostrophes are used only to show ownership or to make conjunctions. If a word is plural or simply ends in an “s,” no apostrophe is needed. If a word ends in an “s” and shows ownership, the apostrophe goes at the end of the word.

Correct: The Jones’ family is visiting tomorrow.
Correct: The teacher graded Jessica’s term paper.
Incorrect: Her eye’s are beautiful.

Note: Although most of the world considers the apostrophe at the end of a possessive “s” word correct, Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition has changed the rules. Now, all you have to do is add “es” (I refuse to abide by this rule because it is ridiculous).