Ever since I hung up my barista apron and reentered the job market, I’ve written dozens of cover letters. One thing I realized–besides don’t include completing a 12-step program on your résumé–is that my grammar has fallen apart. So, I compiled some grammatical rules for me and anyone else who wants their writing to be correct and presentable.
Who vs. That
“Who” refers to people. “That” refers to things.
Tom is someone who likes music.
Dancing is also something that Tom likes.
Their, There & They’re
“Their” denotes ownership. “There” denotes a place. “They’re” is short for “they are.”
Tom sings and dances to “Timber” in his bathrobe there by his front window.
Tom doesn’t see the boys riding by on their scooters outside.
Suddenly, Tom realizes they’re laughing and pointing at him.
Then vs. Than
“Then” situates action in time. “Than” compares two things.
The boy in the TapouT shirt calls Tom a “beyotch” and then flips him off.
Tom feels like dancing a lot less than he did a minute ago.
It’s, Its and More It’s
“It’s” is short for “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is the possessive form of “it.”
The next day it’s garbage day.
Tom finds that his garbage can doesn’t have its garbage inside.
It’s been knocked over and dumped on his lawn.
I.e. vs. E.g.
“E.g.” means “exempli gratia,” Latin for “for example.” “I.e.” means “id est,” Latin for “that is to say.”
Tom’s wife thinks an animal knocked over the garbage can, e.g. a coyote.
Tom doesn’t think it’s a coyote, i.e. it has to be those fucking kids.
Whose vs. Who’s
“Whose” is the possessive form of “who.” “Who’s” is short for “who is.”
Tom goes to the TapouT kid’s house whose lawn is never mowed.
Tom meets the kid’s father who’s also wearing a TapouT shirt.
Your vs. You’re
“Your” is the possessive form of “you.” “You’re” is short for “you are.”
Tom says, “I think your son knocked over my garbage cans.”
The father says, “You’re that beyotch who dances in his window.”
Was vs. Were
“Was” refers to something that happened. “Were” refers to something contrary to fact.
Tom could’ve explained to the father and son if it was not for their laughter drowning him out.
Tom wishes he were someone with strong character, but he’s not, so he goes home.
The Dangling Modifier
This occurs when the wording of a phrase modifies the wrong subject or object.
In a tall glass, Tom makes a gin and tonic.
The correct wording is:
Tom makes a gin and tonic in a tall glass and berates himself for being such a beyotch.
Into vs. In To
“Into” indicates movement. “In to” is two separate words, “in” and “to.”
Tom sneaks back later that night and dumps the father’s garbage into the street.
When the father emerges from the garage, where he was probably making meth or something, Tom runs, but the father jumps in to stop him.
That vs. Which
“That” introduces an essential clause. “Which” introduces a non-essential clause.
The father pummels Tom with fists, feet, knees, forehead, the boy’s scooter–items that he is deft at using.
Tom’s self-defense moves, which he learned in junior high, are useless.
Fewer vs. Less
Use “Fewer” for something that can be counted, “less” for something unquantifiable.
As Tom limps home, he sees no fewer than six coyotes knocking over his garbage can.
Later, Tom sits in his bathrobe and drinks gin until he is no less than unconscious.
Lay, Lie, Laid, More Lie and Lay Again
“Lay” means to set down. “Lie” means to be in a horizontal position. The past tense of “lay” is “laid.” The past tense of “lie” is “lay.” “Lie” also means to be deceptive.
Tom lays his hand on the snooze bar and lies in bed instead of working the next day.
Tom lies and tells his work he’s sick.
They tell him to turn in his apron, he’s fired, but Tom tells his family they laid him off.
Tom lay in bed for three more days after that.
Should’ve, Not Should Of
It sounds like “should of,” but “should’ve,” short for “should have,” is correct. Same for would’ve and could’ve.
Tom’s wife says he should’ve had a backup career plan, and maybe if he could’ve aspired to more than serving coffee at a vape shop she would’ve stayed instead of leaving him for her boss.
Lose vs. Loose
“Loose” means relaxed. “Lose” means to fail to keep.
Tom drinks more gin and almost buys a gun before going to an Indian casino that claims to have loose slots.
Tom proceeds to lose all of his savings.
Whom vs. Who
“Whom” is the object of a verb. “Who” is the subject.
After Tom gets a DUI for crashing into a church, he sits in his cell and wonders whom he can blame.
Tom has an epiphany that he is the only one who is to blame.
Since vs. Because
“Since” refers to time. “Because” refers to causation.
Since the Pechanga incident, Tom is sober and writing dozens of cover letters in hopes of landing a job to pay back his parents for his legal fees.
Through therapy, he has completely dealt with his anger and inferiority issues.
Me, Myself & I
“Me” is the object of a verb. “I” is the subject.
Well, maybe not completely, but other than the occasional vapor lounge crying sesh I’m doing pretty well, and that’s good enough for my sponsor, Miguel, and me.
In fact, any day now I’ll find a job that pays a lot and a new wife who loves me for who I am, and she and I will move somewhere without trashy fathers and sons who look like Tom Sizemore but uglier, and then you’ll all be the ones that are beyotches, and you’ll regret stepping on my feelings, you dumb fucking shits. I still love you, Sarah!!!
Next week: punctuation.
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