We love feedback. We’re posting this extra, special edition to highlight three grammar issues suggested by OnWords reader and Executive Speech Coach, George Torok. Thank you, George! Send in your topic ideas and we’ll cover those too.
Speaking of irregular verbs, as we were in the latest edition of OnWords, George suggested we cover the difference in usage of lay and lie:
Lay vs. Lie – These two simple words are considered among some grammarians to be the most commonly confused verbs. One writer, Jon Gingerich, who wrote ’20 Common Grammar Mistakes that (Almost) Everyone Makes’, calls it “the crown jewel of all grammatical errors.” ‘Lay’ is one of those unusual verbs irregular in spelling, like pay/paid – but not in pronunciation. The most important tip to remember is that ‘lay’ is a transitive verb, and as such, requires an object, as in “I’ll lay the book on the table.” ‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb and does not require an object. Example: “The town lies at the foot of the mountain.”
One of the most common errors occurs when ‘lay’ is used instead of ‘lie’, as in “I’m going to lay down now.” There needs to be an object – you must always ‘lay’ something somewhere.
Pet Peeve Grammar Fails: These are the errors that make you cringe every time you see them. Here are two submitted by reader George Torok:
- Anyway/anyways – ‘anyways’ should never appear anywhere in speech or writing. Just as it is incorrect to add an ‘s’ to ‘toward’, it is similarly incorrect to do so to ‘anyway’. ‘Anyway’ is an adverb, meaning ‘in any event’ or ‘regardless’, and is most often used in speech. While ‘anyway’ is not incorrect in certain instances, there is usually a better way to express the same idea. Some people use the much worse “That said,….” in place of ‘anyway’, to mean regardless, before summing up. The horror!
- Absolutely – George also wonders why say ‘absolutely’ when you mean ‘yes.’ Exactly. When I first started hearing this (particularly in restaurants), I appreciated the enthusiasm of the response. Then it became annoying, and now it is so overused. George, The Globe and Mail shares our view and covered this topic very well in an article by contributor Russell Smith, titled, “Is ‘yes’ an underused word? Absolutely!”
Send in your ‘pet peeve grammar fails’ or general topic suggestions on grammar, usage, and related business communications issues, for inclusion in a future edition of OnWords.