Monday, April 04, 2005

Pet Peeve #71:

People who can't handle homophones. There/their/they're and all that stuff. I mean, I realize this makes me sound a hell of a lot like the English teacher I'm afraid of becoming, but I'm also a copy editor at the moment and I'm in a writing class with a lot of peer critiques, and it's driving me nuts. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, sure, but when a senior and English major messes up "your" and "you're" five times in as many pages, it kind of jumps out at me. I plan to put together a list of common mistakes in writing I've found as a copy editor and have it distributed to all CT staff, and all this stuff will be on the top of the list.

"their" = "of or belonging to them"
"there" = "in that location"
"they're" = "they are"

"your" = "of or belonging to you"
"you're" = "you are"

"its" = "of or belonging to it"
"it's" = "it is"

"were" = past tense of the verb "to be"
"we're" = "we are"
"where" = auxiliary adverb, "at/in/of/from what place"

"to" = preposition expressing a relationship of change or motion in the direction of its subject
"two" = the number between one and three
"too" = "also, as well, very"

"whose" = possessive participle thingy. Usage: "whose ball gag is this?"
"who's" = "who is" or "who has"

"rein" = the things that you use to control a horse you're riding, or used figuratively, anything used to directly control something.
"reign" = the role or job a king fulfills. "Reign" is to "king" as "presidency" is to "president."
Therefore, when you surrender control of something, you give it "free rein," NOT "free reign." When I see people spell it the second way I'm tempted to say "fuck popular usage," but a quick Google shows that "free reign" is even slightly more common and is becoming accepted as horses become so archaic they're almost alien to some people. However, "reigns of power," another usage that has been seen here and there, is gibberish and I'm sticking to that.

This is high school English, people. People for whom English is a second language, people who don't like to write and try to avoid it - fine. But what is wrong with English majors and people who've made a hobby of writing for the school newspaper when they can't figure this basic stuff out?

Edit on 4-13-05: I've been going back and adding in homophones as I see them in stories. When I do make that guide - I'm hoping for Friday, if I remember and get around to it and stuff - this will probably make up a good half of it.

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