Pet hate • 16 November 2011 • The SnowBlog
I'm not a grammar Nazi. I don't much care if you deploy the subjunctive cackhandedly or you use 'less' with count nouns. As far as I'm concerned, infinitives shall be split according to taste. And prepositions can bring up the rear if they wish. I'm aware of solid historical reasons why you might think 'you was there' is entirely grammatical. And I believe that if the majority of speakers think a word means something - even if older versions of the dictionary disagree - well, now it does mean that, because language is a democracy, whether we like it or not (and I happen to like it). But I do draw the line when it comes to professional writing - by which I mean the output of journalists, authors, editors, copywriters, spokespeople and those intending their words to reach large numbers of people. Unless you have a good reason - like you're writing in your local dialect or being edgy, urban and slangy - then I'd rather you stick to the rules they taught you in school. And in a pinch, if you can't remember anything else, if you get your homonyms muddled and switch randomly between "their", "they're" and "there", could you please, just for my sake, get your mind around "its" and "it's"? I don't know if it helps anyone, but I periodically wheel out this picture wot I did to help people get clear on which of the two possibilities you should plump for (click on the thumbnail for a slightly larger version). The gist is that you might want to picture the apostrophe in "it's" as a tiny "i" to remind you that it stands for "it is". And you might want to consider "his" and "hers" when you wonder whether "its" should really have an apostrophe in it because it's possessive.
Some previous grammar posts of mine:
* Reading books so you don't have to
* Consider Language
* Listen! Do you smell that? It's language.
* Syntax as a tool of The Man