Grammar 101

By Robert Morales —

Apostrophes are used in English grammar for two reasons: (1) to show possession and (2) to form a contraction. Any other use is incorrect.

Some people wrongly assume that a word contains an apostrophe because the word ends in an s. Example: Our banker's have experience in all areas of lending. Correct: Our bankers have experience in all areas of lending.

To show possession (something belongs to another person), an apostrophe should be used like this: John's clothes were bought at an expensive store. (The clothes belong to John.)

An apostrophe is also used to form a contraction: I don't understand what she's saying. (I do not understand what she is saying.)

Whether or not: “Whether” is used to express doubt, similar to “if.” There is no reason to use “whether or not” because “whether” by itself denotes doubt.

Capitalization: Typically, the most common reasons for capitalizing a word are for: (1) the name of a person, (2) the name of a city, state or country, (3) the name of a building, (4) the name of a street. A proper noun is capitalized.

Here are some examples of wrong capitalization: The Attorney General filed a lawsuit yesterday in Hays County. Correct: The attorney general filed a lawsuit in Hays County yesterday. However, “Attorney General Jim Adams filed a lawsuit yesterday” is correct.

Incorrect: The County's equipment was used to repair the roads. Correct: The county's equipment was used to repair the roads. Incorrect: The only ones in the room were the Coach and two players. Correct: The only ones in the room were the coach and two players. However, when using the name of the coach, capitalization would be correct: The only ones in the room were Coach Nelson and two players.

The same rule applies to president. Example: The President will give a speech tomorrow at UTEP. This is incorrect. President by itself is not a proper noun. However, it is correct to capitalize “president” when using the name of the president. Example: Tomorrow, President Powers will give a speech at UTEP.”

Finally, clichés are nothing more than phrases that have been repeated until they're worn out. A colloquialism tends to be regional in its usage, and these phrases can be used for emphasis in writing to provide more realism.

You can play it safe by not using these:

*  “Everything has to be on the table.”

*  “It is what it is.”

*  “Kick the can down the road.”

*  “Having said that…”

*  “At the end of the day”

*  “You know what I mean?”

*  “Let's touch base.”

*  “Between you and I” (between is a preposition and must take the objective case, me) “Supposebly” instead of “supposedly.” “Mute” instead of “moot”


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