Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Grammar and Spelling 101

Alright, pupils. Why is grammar and spelling even an issue?

The entire point of Twitter RP is to create a story. If you read a book and the majority of the words were misspelled, half of them abbreviated, and you had to spend five minutes figuring out if someone meant something as a question or statement, because of lack of punctuation - reading would be a chore.

It isn’t any different in the case of Twitter RP, except that in many cases - people just can’t be bothered to try.

Be bothered. Try. More people will want to read your work, and you’ll have RPers of a high caliber willing to participate with you. I have heard more than one person say, “If the person sounds like a texting 12 year old, I’m not going to bother.”

This may sound like nitpicking or being elitist. In many cases, however, it is simply easier to read. The written word, no matter what the language, actually evolved into a grammatical structure for that exact purpose - capitalization and punctuation were added to make things easier on everyone. When you start learning to read, your brain is actually trained to process the written word in this specific format.

Besides that - if you can show that you care enough to write in complete sentences, it shows that you may care enough to put time into character and story development as well.

From here, we’re going to be going over some of the most common words used incorrectly.

1) You’re/Your

Say hello to one of our biggest pet peeves.  It’s know as the You’re/Your case of mistaken identity.  Now, we understand that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.  The English language has more words that can carry multiple meanings or pronunciations than any other language in the world.  We get it.  Even we do it...

But I digress...

The word “your” is a form of the possessive.  Therefore, when you say “Your such a smart cookie,” you are actually saying it wrong.  The possessive word is exactly what it implies. 

That is your twitter.  I am your father.  Where is your brain?  “Your” is actually referring to something that, in a sense, belongs to you.

The word “you’re” on the other hand is a contraction for YOU ARE.  Here is a good rule of thumb when trying to figure out which word to use.  If you can say “you are” instead of “you’re” or “your,” then the correct choice would be the often forgotten “you’re.”

You’re right.  Those are your cookies.”

2) Its/It’s

The same rules apply for its/it’s as for your/you’re.  “Its” is the possessive form and “it’s” is the contraction for “it is.”

It’s time to go home.”
“That is its purpose.”

3) Too/to/two

Oh, how this disturbs us. Nearly as much as “your/you’re.” And again, we realize that this is something which people sometimes just slip up on. It happens. However, in many cases, people just aren’t making an effort to get it right. So, we’ll go over it in the hope that it will help someone make the distinction.

“Too” is a word the indicates when there is more of something, when something has been added. It is another word for “also.”  “To” is a preposition indicating direction, or the first part of the infinitive of a verb (to swim, to die, to live). “Two” is a number indicating quantity.

“I would like to go to the beach,” he said.
“I would like to go too,” his friend replied.
Two people are going to ride in the car.

4) They’re/There/Their

This is a big one for people. I am convinced some folks are only aware of “their,” and that the other two are buried like some long lost archaeological dig in Montana. Eventually, scientists will find the DNA of they’re and there in a mosquito stuck in amber and clone them. All hell will break loose. But that might be a movie...

“Their” indicates possession. That is its only use, I promise you. “There” indicates location, but it can also be used with the verb “to be” (otherwise known as is/was) to indicate that something exists, or to indicate something new. “They’re” is a contraction of the words “they” and “are.” Once again, that is its only use.

I want there to be no confusion.
They’re criminals.
They took something from the bank that was not theirs.
The police are holding them over there for questioning.

5) Accept/Except

If you’re accepting something, it means you are welcoming or approving of something, that you are saying yes to something, or that you are undertaking a duty or joining the ranks or offices of a group.

On the other hand, the most usual use for the word “except” is to indicate exclusion, or to leave something out. As a conjunction, (other conjunctions are and, but, because) it can mean “only” or “unless.”

I accept the award.
I accepted her into my home.
When he asked her to marry him, she accepted his proposal.
I accepted the administrator position.

Everyone went to the party, except for John.
We will be going to the party, except if it rains.

To tell these two apart, we only have to ask ourselves if we are trying to include something (accept) or exclude something (except).

6) Affect/Effect

This is one of the harder ones for people to deal with. Here are the basics.

Affect is generally used as a verb and means “to change or influence.” Effect is a noun and is going to be the result of that influence.

The doctor examined the affected area. (He examined the changed area.)
The explosion affected a two mile radius. (The explosion changed a two mile radius.)
Her snotty attitude only affects you if you let it. (Her attitude only influences you if you let it.)

She was cured after two weeks of medication; the effect was astonishing. (The result of the medication was astonishing.)
Scientists scoured the area with tools, measuring the effect of the devastation. (The scientists were looking for the result of the devastation.)
I can see the effect of her harsh words on your mood. (I can see the result of her harsh words.)

7) Past/Passed

These words are both usually used to talk about distance and time, but in different ways.“Past” is used as noun, adjective, or adverb. It is never used as a verb. “Passed” is always used as a verb.

Distance: Robin Sparkles drove past the mall.
Time: Robin Scherbatsky could not erase her past as Robin Sparkles.

Distance: Barney Stinson passed by the woman several times to get a good look at her ass.
Time: Many years passed until Ted Mosby finally found the woman he was going to marry.

People also used “passed” as an expression for dying: He passed away last month.

I guarantee you, you have never “past the time” doing anything and no one has who has died in your family has “past on.”

8) Than/Then
"Than" is used to compare things, to suggest quantity, and to state preference. 
"Then" is used to to indicate a time other now, stating something is next, and also in if/then statements.
Sam is taller than Dean.
While playing pool, Dean won more money than Sam.
Becky wants Sam more than Dean.
Before then or after then - it didn't matter, they were still brothers.
Damon drank deep of her blood and had his way with her, then gave her a scarf in the morning to hide the punctures. (Damon gives out a lot of friggin' scarves.)
If you think you can predict what is going to happen next season, then you're wrong.

We could go on and on with examples of words that people have trouble with. Perhaps we’ll add more as we go. However, the above seven are some of the most common, and some of the most distracting.

Just one more pet peeve....
"Cannon" is heavy artillery, usually used on a ship at sea.

"Canon" is what we use when we're referring to binding laws and/or an officially recognized set of books. In fandom, this means we're talking about what we recognize as truly part of the history of the show, the rules that we've been given from the mythologies we're presented with. When we're talking about fandom, we're always going to be saying canon or non-canon.


Every sentence should start with it. Proper nouns should use it (names of people, countries, significant objects).

Please do not capitalize the first letter of a word as a substitute for italics. (IE: “I have to tell you This, because it is Important!”)  Some people use /this/, -this-, ~this~, or THIS. Only capitalizing the first letter confuses it with pronouns. It also, at least to me, makes you seem like you are reciting bad poetry, arm waving at all. (eg: The Acting School of Jared Padaleski: “If there is a Key, there must be Lock!”)

Unless your character is yelling, there is no reason to use caps lock for more than one word.


No sentence should end without it.

If a character is asking a question, please - for the love of all that is sacred, end it with a question mark.

You do not need more than two exclamation points. The great satirist Terry Pratchett once wrote, 'And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.'

When it comes to commas, we are not going to fuss with people on twitter RP. Do we want you to remember they exist? Yes. However, we would much rather you focus on every other single thing we’ve talked about in this lesson so far, than worry about your comma usage. 


All of the above comes down to this.

No one expects you to be perfect. No one expects you to have obtained degrees in Linguistics and English. No one is grading your RP, although sometimes everyone feels that way (including us).

What we do expect is that you abide by the rules and structure of the language you are working within, so that your fellow RPers can understand what you’re trying to convey through your character.

What we do expect is that you try.

Say you like baking, say you love it. Say you got asked to bake with a group of people. The group of people was composed of a couple of people who actually owned their own bakeries, to people who had never baked a day in their lives, and in fact - may have trouble telling you which dial turned the oven on.

No matter where you fall in that group, if you show up time after time and do the sloppiest job, people aren’t going to want to bake with you. If you see people around you pre-heating the oven, learn to pre-heat your oven. If you see them greasing the pans, grease your freaking pans. There are enough examples of usage of the language out there on your timeline that you can improve your own. This goes for everyone. There is always going to be someone better, someone who can challenge you. We don’t pretend to be above reproach here. This isn’t about singling anyone out. It’s about raising the bar for everyone. Including us.

Grammar and spelling are the bare essentials, but the first ingredients needed in successful roleplay. The others we’ll be getting to in the weeks to come.

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