Put an end to sloppy copy: Part 3 – Is or Are?

Part 3: Is or Are?

Two little words that we’ve use day-in, day-out since we started school – who would have thought they could ever cause confusion?

In most cases they don’t. The simple rule is this:

Are = plural
Is = singular

So…

• One rule IS simple
• Two rules ARE complex

• ARE you going on holiday?
• IS that your dinosaur?

• Brighton copywriters ARE brilliant
• Lucy IS the best

Problems tend to occur when the status of a subject, singular or plural, is less obvious. This can happen when company names are concerned:

A: Penguin Books are based in Antarctica
B: Penguin Books is based in Antarctica

B is correct – although the word ‘books’ is plural, the subject is singular (one company)

Sometimes this can sound weird. For example:

“McVities is launching a brand new biscuit, with a secret ingredient”

The temptation here is to say “McVities are…”, which would be wrong.

To make you feel more comfortable, or to double check you’ve got the grammar right, add in a bit more description:

“The company McVities is launching a brand new biscuit, with a secret ingredient”

 

Hope that helps. Now time for that chocolate digestive…

Continuing the mission to stamp out sloppy copy, look out for Part 4 in my series of grammar tips for copywriters.

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a copywriter with  a great grip on grammar? I’m here to help

Put an end to sloppy copy: part 2 – or, nor or neither?

Or, nor or neither?

Using the word ‘or’ is a no-brainer for most people. As a way of offering two alternative things, we use the word ‘or’ in everyday speech without thinking or worrying about it.

  • I can be happy or sad, depending on the weather
  • Would you prefer to ride the elephant or the rhino?

What about the word ‘nor’? It’s not quite so straight forward…  ‘Nor’ often sounds a bit formal, a bit awkward and perhaps a bit old fashioned, so many of us abandon it altogether, but when things turn negative ‘nor’ should step in:

  • I feel neither happy nor sad when it rains
  • Neither elephants nor rhinos are found in this zoo

Confused? Let’s get practical. Take a look at these sentences:

Which one is correct?

A: I’m not bored or tiered, I just can’t be bothered
B: I’m not bored nor tiered, I just can’t be bothered

Answer: B

A: There aren’t any antelopes nor any dogs here
B: There aren’t any antelopes or any dogs here

Answer: A

Hope that helps. Continuing the mission to stamp out sloppy copy, look out for my next blog on ‘IS or ARE.’

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a Brighton copywriter with a  grip on grammar? I’m here

Put an end to sloppy copy: part 1 – Me, myself and I

Bad grammar isn’t good enough.

There are plenty of super duper copywriters out there who have a great grip on grammar and can produce sparkling and creative copy that is communicated correctly. That’s what you pay us for. So why is so much online and print material poorly written, with basic grammar ignored, misunderstood or overlooked?

Whether you choose to write your own words or you hire freelance copywriters to work the magic for you, there’s no excuse for sloppy copy. Without beating around the bush: it’s bad for business.

On a mission to rid the web of grammatical hiccups, slip-ups and boo-boos, I’ll be writing an ongoing series of practical blog posts that tackle basic grammar rules, everyone can handle. Here goes:

Part 1: Me, myself and I

Me and I are two of the most commonly misused pronouns. On the whole, ‘I’ tends to be wildly overused, whilst there’s a generally lack of love for ‘ME’. Poor me 🙁

I blame school. Grammar drills which focus on ME or I have a tendency to stamp out incorrect use of ME, but fail to highlight the contexts where the use of ME is correct. Remember writing out sentences like these when you were at school:

  • My friend and me played in the park = My friend and I played in the park
  • Tom and me went for a walk = Tom and I went for a walk

As a result, many of us grew up thinking that, in formal language, ME should be substituted for I in most cases. But in fact, I should only be used when you are the speaking about yourself as the main subject of the sentence.

Confused? Let’s get practical. Take a look at these sentences:

The easiest way to check if you’re using the correct pronoun is the remove the other person in the sentence:

  • My friend and ME played in the park would become ME played in the park
  • Tom and ME went for a walk would become ME went for a walk

It should be fairly obvious that the use of ME is wrong in both sentences. I is the correct pronoun to use.

Let’s try another one

  • My boyfriend Tom and ME like eating sushi

Get rid of Tom, and we’re left with: ME like eating sushi

Sounds silly, doesn’t it. Correct it to ‘I like eating sushi’ and we’re good. (And with Tom out of the equation, there’s more sushi for me, I, me. Pass the wasabi.

So when does ME come in?

A few more examples should clear this up. Let’s use the same technique of removing the other person:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering Tom and I from head to toe in jam

Sounds ok, doesn’t it. But what happens if we rid of Tom:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering I from head to toe in jam

Sounds stupid, and rather pompous. So ME is the better fit:

  • The giant doughnut exploded, covering ME from head to toe in jam.

Got time for a few more?

  • The present was from Tom and I = The present was from I 🙁 Use ME
  • To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to do. Whilst Tom and I would love to come to your poetry reading, we had both planned to wash our hair that evening. = I would love to come to your poetry reading 🙂
  • It seemed to Tom and ME that there was little point in trying to cross the river to escape the blood thirsty monsters, as the man-eating giraffes on the other side would get us anyway. = It seemed to ME 🙂

I hope that helps. Continuing the mission to stamp out sloppy copy, look out for my next blog on ‘OR or NOR.’

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a freelance copywriter with  a great grip on grammar to write for you, or edit your existing copy? Just drop me a line