Grammar Pet Peeves, Part 2
By Jordan Ardoin
This small series of blog posts is to help you get your book published. By going back and proofreading your work before submitting it, you are able to turn in a nice, polished copy of your manuscript. It helps the publishers and, if your book is accepted, the editors deal with a few less things during the editing process.
So, let’s get started.
The Oxford Comma.
The Oxford comma is my favorite thing in the entire English language! And, in most writing styles, it is correct to use it. From experience, not using the Oxford comma can make your point muddled and
confuse your readers. One of the most common examples is a direct quote from The Times: “…highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year- old demigod and a dildo collector.”
If you weren’t able to tell, this sentence makes it seem like Nelson Mandela is an 800-year- old demigod as well as a dildo collector. Probably, not the idea you were going for. Adding the Oxford comma showsseparation between the people:
Correct: “…highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod, and a dildo collector.”
Here’s another example to further my point of how amazing the Oxford comma is.
Example: I like cooking my family and my pets.
Without the commas, this sentence is saying that the speaker likes cooking their family and their pets.
Let’s not be cannibalistic psychos and use some commas, shall we?
Correct: I like cooking, my family, and my pets.
With the commas, the speaker is listing what their likes are, not planning what they are having for dinner. Make sense?
So, please, just use the Oxford comma and give us all a piece of mind.
If I was vs. If I were
You’ve heard of Justin Bieber’s song “Boyfriend,” right? You have if you’ve listened to pop radio over the past couple years. Did you know that, grammatically, his song is wrong? He sings, “If I was your
boyfriend…” which is incorrect. Grammatically, the correct way to say it, “If I were your boyfriend…”
Now, Beyoncé has a similar song, “If I Were a Boy.” Yet, this song is actually correct. How so?
It all boils down to some of the nitty-gritty parts of grammar: subjunctive mood. What is subjunctive mood? Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, subjunctive is defined as relating to or denoting a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible. Both Beyoncé and Bieber are wishing or imagining something. Therefore, were needed to be used.
Now, if Bieber was speaking in past tense and explaining that he was once this girl’s boyfriend, then his statement of “If I was your boyfriend…” would be correct. Since he is not implying that, then his song is incorrect.
One Space After Punctuation
When typing, some people were taught to leave two spaces after a sentence because of the how typewriters use to be set up. The font they used required two spaces so the words of the end of the previous sentence would not run into the words at the beginning of the next.
With typewriters being outdated and not as commonly used, the two-space rule has been changed. Current fonts that are being used on laptops and tablets do not require two spaces, only one. Double spacing after sentences now, makes the text look odd and slightly off.
While the double space isn’t necessarily wrong, it is most likely to be changed to one space during the editing process. Removing the space yourself will help the editing process go a little smoother and give your editor one less thing to worry about.