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Grammar and Writing Tips

Should Numbers be Followed by (Numerals)?

That is, do you say you want to order five (5) of something, or just five or just 5? Depends on who you ask. Grammar Girl, of whom I am a great fan, says it is “a relic of legal writing.” FumbleFingers says, “Have people already forgotten how to write cheques?”  (FumbleFingers must be British.) And others throw in examples of why it is/is not needed.

i.e. vs e.g.

i.e. (you will rarely if ever see this capitalized) is Latin for id est, or that is, as in that is to say…  Or – you know what’s coming – in other words…  It gives more information on what you were just talking about.  “We’ll go on the first day of the sale, i.e., tomorrow.”  If you don’t already know when the sale is, the first part of the sentence does not tell you when you’ll be going.  The i.e. clears that up, so you now know you’ll be going tomorrow.

Making Plurals into Possessives

It’s all about the esses.  You’ll see this most with proper names.  That is Tom Maxwell’s.  Easy enough.  But what if it belongs to the whole Maxwell family?  That is the Maxwells’s.  Nope.  It makes sense, but no.  The correct way to make a plural possessive is to simply add an apostrophe after the s. That is the Maxwells’.  And that’s how it is pronounced, too.

That vs Which

Does it matter?  Can’t you use them interchangeably?  Yes, it does and no, you can’t.  Most grammar sources will tell you that is used in restrictive clauses and  which is reserved for non-restrictive clauses, which is great if you know what restrictive and non-restrictive clauses are.

Literally … NOT!

There was a car commercial several years ago that had people talking about looking at cars online. They were saying it was just like actually being in the dealership. One person said you “can literally take a test drive.” No, you can’t.

Revert Back

It can’t be done. This is in the same category as continue on: It’s redundant.  You can only revert back. You can’t revert in any other direction because revert means return to, as in a previous state, condition, practice, whatever. So, if you revert back, you go back back to a whatever. If you revert forward, well, let me know how you managed that.

Apostrophes and Numbers

In elementary school, I was taught that to make a number plural, you use ‘s, not just s. So, if you talk about a particular decade, for instance, you would call them the 80’s. This rule also applied if, say, you wanted to talk about the Four W’s. (It’s a journalism term.)

Your vs You’re

These terms are not interchangeable. People often use them that way, but they’re not. One is a possessive pronoun, the other is a contraction of a pronoun and a verb. You don’t need to know that, just remember what an apostrophe is for.

It’s vs Its

This is a tricky one. Sometimes the correct usage contradicts the rules of grammar.  (Doncha just love the English language.)  The rule is that possessives get an apostrophe before the s.  Charlie’s hat… Your cat’s collar… The article’s tone…  There is one word that rule does not hold true for, and it is – you guessed it – it. The only time the s in its gets an apostrophe is when it is a contraction of it is. “It’s time to go… It’s a good idea… It’s true that…