Tag Archives: proper English

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Had Better Grammar Tips

Does anyone even know the definition of an infinitive? It’s one of the most basic forms of a verb “to be, to have, to hold” are some examples. When a verb is accompanied by the “to” they are always supposed to be written together. Oftentimes, we separate the “to” from its verb friend “have” in a way that is incorrect. But, as the degradation of the English continues, this probably won’t be an issue in the future.

Examples:

I have to gently hold the baby. (the infinitive is being split by “gently” and is not correct)

I have to hold the baby gently. (this is correct)

Side note: This isn’t an issue in many foreign languages, such as French, Spanish, etc.,  because they use one word to express the infinitive.

French: Aller (to go)

Spanish: Hablar (to speak)

Here are two more common errors:

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Most people incorrectly pronounce these as “would of, could of, should of.” Blame Southerners.

Correct: Could have, should have, would have

If I could have seen my mom last night, I would have requested her famous pasta dish for dinner. I should have created a shopping list for her.

Who vs. That

This is simple, but is often written and spoken incorrectly. A way of remembering when to use “who” vs. “that” is to associate who with people and that with nonliving things

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Cardinal numbers versus Ordinal numbers

Did you know that cardinal numbers under 10 should be spelled out?

Spell out whole numbers up to and including nine (e.g., zero, two). Ex., “At this three-day event, you will have the opportunity to …”

The style guide also suggests spelling out ordinal numbers up to, but not including, 10:

Ordinal numbers: first, second, third … 10th

Prepositions Are Not the Enemy

I know what you’re thinking: There’s nothing Hannah’s not good at.

But, that’s not true – I ended the previous sentence with a preposition, which is a big no-no. Let me tell you a few other grammar mistakes I’m prone to. << also a preposition

I always misspell “sentance.”

  • I don’t know when to use effect versus affect
  • I used the wrong word/spelling last night (I’m in blue)

Now that it’s clear I’m not perfect, let’s dive into prepositions. I could have a series on this, but if you remember one thing, please remember to never end a sentence with a preposition:

Prepositions of Time: at, on, and in

We use at to designate specific times.
The report is due at noon.

We use on to designate days and dates.
My sister is arriving on Monday.
She’s having a party on the Thanksgiving Day.

We use in for nonspecific times during a day, a month, a season, or a year.
She likes to drink black tea  in the morning.
It’s too cold in autumnto bike on the path outside.

Prepositions of Place: at, on, and in

We use at for specific addresses.
John Smith lives at 55 Boretz Road in Durham.

We use on to designate names of streets, avenues, etc.
Her farm is on Allder School Road.

And we use in for the names of towns, counties, states, countries and continents.
She lives in Sanford, North Carolina.

The store is based in Ireland.

Ampersands — Use sparingly

Did you know this symbol has a name?

An ampersand is the informal symbol for "and."
An ampersand is the informal symbol for “and.”
It’s called an ampersand and it’s grossly over-used in business writing. Ampersands are pronounced as written: am-per-sand.

The ampersand is an over-used abbreviation for the word “and” – it really should be limited to a few situations in formal, business writing:

1.) In company names where it’s warranted (Smith & Jones Law Firm)

2.) When artistic considerations dictate; e.g., a logo

3.) In specific academic references (Grant & Smith Publishing,2001)

4.) Addressing a couple on an invitation or envelope (Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

5.) When items in a series are related, but this is bridging on unacceptable (John has experience in Marketing, Research & Design and Business Management)

In general, it is not proper grammar to simply abbreviate the word and replace it with an ampersand. Why? Because the ampersand symbol is considered more casual. If you’re working for a business-to-business or business-to-consumer company, you should not be using it. If you want to send it in a text message to your bae, however, that’s fine by me.

In conclusion, it’s not that I hate the ampersand, it’s just not correct in formal, business writing.