Gertrude Stein on words:
“I really don’t know anything that is more exciting than diagramming sentences.”
A new year begins …a new opportunity to refresh our goals and our business communications skills. Here is this month’s mini grammar and usage guide, with some useful quick tips:
Using ‘i.e.’ vs. ‘e.g.’ – If you thought both mean ‘for example’, you are not alone. They are frequently used incorrectly and interchangeably as if they have same or similar meanings. Both often appear in business presentations and other documents and communications, so knowing when to use which one is important. Simply put:
|i.e.||id est||in other words||The club is private (i.e., members and guests only)|
|e.g.||exempli gratia||for example||I like world music (e.g., Brazilian, African)|
Tip: If you introduce a list with e.g., as in the second example above, do not add ‘etc.’ to indicate more items. The abbreviation ‘e.g.’ already implies there may be more items on the list.
Irregular Verbs: These are the rule-breakers, most visible in their past-tense versions. The quickest way to show the difference is to compare a regular verb like ‘play’ with an irregular one like ‘pay’. The past tense of ‘play’ is ‘played’, while the past tense of ‘pay’ is ‘paid’. Another example is ‘bring’. The past tense is not ‘bringed’, but ‘brought’. An irregular verb totally ignores the rule of adding ‘ed’ to the past tense. The audacity!
Irregular verbs are often speed bumps for people learning English but also sometimes trip up business communicators. So, it’s important to have a good sense of which verbs are irregular, and what those forms are in different tenses. Often just a central vowel changes in the past and past participle tenses, as in drink/drank/drunk and begin/began/begun, but other types of irregular verbs can be tricky. According to usingenglish.com, there are 620 irregular verbs in the English language! Too many to cover, but they offer a list of 211 commonly used ones here, showing base form, past simple, past participle (as in have x), third person singular, and present participle/gerund.
Some irregular verbs have two equally acceptable past tenses. Note: Often one is an archaic form. Some dual past tense examples are: burnt/burned, clad/clothed, dived/dove, dreamt/dreamed, forbade/forbad, hung/hanged, and examples used commonly in business are fit/fitted, input/inputted, sped/speeded, learnt/learned, rid/ridded, span/spun, and strode/strided.
p.s. This is a big topic, so look for more on irregular verbs at a later date!
Pet Peeve Grammar Fails: Everyone has these. They are slips that can irk and make anyone look unprofessional. I have a long list, but this month, let’s review this one:
- ‘Should of”…instead of ‘should have’, as in “He should of told us about the meeting.” I think this is most commonly found in speech rather than writing, and typically spoken in haste by someone who knows better, but to me, it always makes the speaker sound lazy and unprofessional. In business it’s really important to avoid lazy speech, and to enunciate properly, even in casual conversation.
Share your Pet Peeve Grammar Fails! What errors make you cringe?
Send them in and I’ll cover them in a future edition of OnWords.