Archive for the ‘Writing – Grammar’ Category

Someone over on my WanaTribe recently asked what the difference was between Who’s and Whose, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to all those common and annoying little grammar mistakes that spell-check isn’t so good at spotting.

Like with all my posts, I like to make these explanations as simple a possible without resorting to the use of crayons and picture books, which I regularly use 🙂

So, without further ado, lets start with the one that brought us here…

Who’s vs Whose:

Who’s is an abbreviate and used in place of ‘who is’, or ‘who has’.  Example – Who’s going to the party? Who’s this? It would also work at Who is going to the party? and Who is this?

Whose is the possessive of who.  Example – Whose book is this? Whose side are you on?

Basically, if ‘who is or who has’ does not fit the sentence, then use ‘whose’.

Who vs Whom:

Who, like I, he, or she, is a subject and is the person performing the action. Example – This is who gave it to me.  Is Paul the one who wants to know?

Whom, like me, him, and her, is an object. It is the person to whom the action is being done. Example – To whom do I send this letter? This is the man whom I told you about.

Basically, who and whom is the same difference as I and me. Try re-writing the sentence and change who or whom with another pronoun. So,

This is who gave it to me — He/she gave it to me – OR –  Him/her gave it to me? She how he/she sounds correct, so ‘who’ would be used.
This is the man whom I told you about. — I told you about him/her – OR – I told you about she/he. In this instance him/her is correct so whom would be used.
To whom do I send this letter? – Do I send this letter to he/she? – OR – Do I send this letter to him/her? Again, the latter him/her is correct and whom is used.

Which vs That:

That is used in a restrictive sentence. Example – “Cars that are red are more sexy”. You are restricting the sentence by saying that only red cars are sexy.

Which is used in a non-restrictive sentence. Example – The red cars, which went on sale yesterday, are now half price. If you omitted which went on sale yesterday it wouldn’t actually change what you want to say, which is that red cars are now half price.

All Right vs Alright:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, alright is a frequent spelling of all right. Now, although the dictionary lists the word ‘alright’, you be hard pushed to find somewhere that agrees with the spelling ‘alright’.

What should you do? Although the ‘alright’ usage is growing, it’s probably best to stick to ‘all right’.

Like vs Such As:

Like is used when you are comparing. For example – Can you take me somewhere nice like Paris or Rome? Here, the person is not asking to go to Paris or Rome, but somewhere like it.

Such As is used when you are including. For example – Can you take me somewhere nice such as Paris or Rome? Now they are making it clear they want to go to either Paris or Rome.

One vs You:

Using either one or you is classed as grammatically correct.

One, however, is often used when one is being more formal. It gives the impression of a higher standing. For example – One has to conduct oneself in a certain manner. However, you would not use ‘one’ when you are the object. For example – The maid lay the blanket over one’s lap, and one thanked her. This just sounds awkward.

You is much more relaxed. For example – You have to conduct yourself in a certain manner. See how the same sentence holds a different weight? It’s not as formal. Basically, using you is more acceptable in the world today.

So, what version of words do you get stuck with? What are your pet hates. Let me know…. Don’t be shy 🙂

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The above isn’t that far from the truth.

Colon’s and semi-colons definitely deluded me during my early days as a writer. So, I’m going to try and simplify it – and you all know how much I love SIMPLE.

Lets start with the colon first.

The colon :

Not much to look at, is it. Two little dots. Or, two eyes if you’re on twitter and want to add a smiley face at the end of your 140 characters.

One interesting fact: UK users nearly always follow a colon with a lower-case letter, whereas US users nearly always follow with a capital letter.

Right. So what does the colon do? What is it’s meaning?

First up is “The List”:

The colon is used when the writer wishes to introduce a list of items. Here’s an example:

Before I begin writing, I will need: a writing pad, a pen, a dictionary, some chocolate, and a laptop.

See how the sentence has been split into two sections. The first part says that you need some items. Then, after the colon, it lists what those items are.

Now for the “Definition”:

Donna Newton: a writer, author, screenwriter, runner & one crazy, talkative, adrenaline seeking lass.

Here, the sentence starts with Me and goes on to define who I am….. yes, a complete nutter 🙂

And finally, the “Explanation”:

Mae West had one golden rule for handling men: “Tell the pretty ones they’re smart and tell the smart ones they’re pretty.”

The first part tells us Mae has a golden rule for handling men and the second part explains what that rule is. The above example also shows a colon is useful before a “quote”.

So, to summarise: a colon is used before a list, a definition, and an explanation (or quote).

Is your head spinning yet? No? Well….. let’s press on.

The Semi-Colon ; (or the winking eye).

How is this different to the colon?

A semi-colon must always follow and precede a sentence. Always! (Well apart from one special rule that we will get to later).

So, why not just type two sentences then?

Whey. Slow down and I’ll explain.

The “Relationship Sentences”:

A semi-colon can be used to split two sentences which have a relationship.


Okay. Look at the following sentence.

John lives in a blue house. Kerry lives in a yellow house.

Now, these are two perfectly normal sentences and sound fine on their own. But, what if we did this:

John lives in a blue house; Kerry lives in a yellow house.

Now it shows that we, the writer, are suggesting there is some kind of a relationship between the sentences.

But, remember that two sentence rule? You can only use the semi-colon where there are two sentences. Just look at the wrong way:

After working endlessly for little money; Dean chucked in his job.

This example calls for a comma instead of a colon.

The “Transition”:

Semi-colons can also be used to join two sentences using a transition such as however, therefore, on the other hand, hence, consequently, nevertheless and meanwhile, and thusBut note: it cannot be used for sentences joined by and, or, but, yet or while.

Jane cannot swim; however, she loves the ocean.

You should always be polite; otherwise, you may get into trouble.

The lifts have been broken for weeks; therefore, people are having to use the stairs.

The above examples show how the semi-colon works when two sentences  are ‘joined’ together.

The “comma over-use”

Arghhh! Some sentences just carry too many commas. So, here is one special rule where a semi-colon does NOT have to follow or precede a complete sentence.

In my house, where the heating is always on full blast, a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air, so the living room, where I have a dodgy television set, is always cold.

How confusing and mind-boggling is that? It’s hard for a reader to catch breath, let alone follow – and we want our readers alive so they can follow. Don’t we?

So, a semi-colon could be inserted to make it easier on our lovely reader.

In my house, where the heating is always on full blast, a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air; so the living room, where I have a dodgy television set, is always cold.

This breaks up the use of commas, gives your reader time to catch a breath, and makes the sentence much more readable. Or, you could think about rewording your sentence.

The heating is always on full blast in my house. But a broken window pane, which my son broke while playing football, lets in an enormous amount of cold air. Hence the livingroom, where I have a dodgy television, is always cold.

See, no semi colon and a severely reduced amount of commas.

Right, think you understand? I found a great test. Take it and let me know how you scored.

So, how do you find your colons and semi-colons? Do you use them, or avoid them like the plague? Like always, let me know.

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