Common Usage

Do you wonder when it’s common usage mistakes or just someone being picky? I’m a writer and I have above average grammar skills. I know a few grammarians who still correct a few things about my usage (like ending sentences with prepositions) that may be part of common speech patterns, especially in my geographical area, but overall I can construct decent sentences and I use the proper word.

Some words are more difficult to use properly than others. Is it picky to make certain you use the proper form of lie or lay? How about your and you’re (and yore)? Their, there, and they’re? It’s and its? Affect and effect?

Do you wonder how long it will be before these words are indistinguishable?

Is it really that difficult to know which word you’re supposed to use? Does it matter?

From’s entry for “your”:

—Usage note
In American English the pronoun you has been supplemented by additional forms to make clear the distinction between singular andplural. You-all, often pronounced as one syllable, is a widespread spoken form in the South Midland and Southern United States. Its possessive is often you-all’s rather than your. You-uns (from you + ones ) is a South Midland form most often found in uneducated speech; it is being replaced by you-all. Youse  ( you  + the plural -s ending of nouns), probably of Irish-American origin, is most common in the North, especially in urban centers like Boston, New York, and Chicago. It is rare in educated speech. You guys  is a common informal expression among younger speakers; it can include persons of both sexes or even a group of women only. See also

This doesn’t even count the random variations like my mother-in-law’s “youze guys”. She wasn’t Irish, I swear.

So when the dictionary says “it’s rare in education speech,” they’re not counting anything on Facebook, right? And while it’s terribly rude to tell someone about those typos – deliberate or not – it sets teeth on edge for those of us who use the words properly.

And even some of us who don’t.

Do you ever wonder what the words you use say about you? They can tell where you’re from, how much education you have, and quite a bit more that I don’t recall off the top of my head. It’s one reason speech writers have jobs – to give public figures the words they need to get a point across without sounding like their normal selves. Interesting, huh?

Luckily, I’m a fiction writer, so I get to plop all kinds of words into character’s mouths to make them sound like the real people they are, or whatever other point I’m attempting to make at the time.