Lay that potato chip down

Complaining about common grammatical goofs reminds me of potato chips. It’s so hard to stop after the first one. Here are four of my least favorite common errors inflicted on our beautiful language, heard or seen recently.

Yesterday an X-ray technician began my medical appointment by instructing me to “lay” on the special table. A few minutes later, a physician’s assistant repeated the error in his examining room. These are educated people, professionals with degrees in their fields but perhaps a bit behind the curve on grammar. It’s not hard. Here’s the rule: The verb “lay” takes an object. One lays a book on a table. She laid the suitcase on the bed. One lies on an examining table. In this situation, no one is laying any objects anywhere. If there’s no object, use lie.

Everyday. Posters abound these days proclaiming things that occur everyday. No, they don’t. They occur every day. Two words, not one. What’s the difference? Everyday is an adjective. Every day is a noun. Actually, day is the noun, modified by every. When used as an adjective to modify a noun, everyday is run together as one word. Examples: everyday low prices, everyday occurrence. However, when every day is used simply as a noun, separate the words, as in: He gets up every day at 6 a.m. No adjective, two words. Write it correctly every day, and it will become an everyday occurrence.

Alot. Always two words: a. lot. Never run together as one word. Never. Easy to remember. Don’t write alittle? Good. there’s a reason. A and little are two separate words. Same with a. lot.

This brings us to alright, which is alwrong. Oops! Yes, I did that deliberately. All right is two words, every time, regardless of repeated errors we see in subtitles on foreign films. Never use alright as one word. It’s all wrong.

Once I begin this lecture, I feel once again that familiar hunger to cite even more examples of common crimes against our language, and, as we all know, there are plenty of them. They are like potato chips. Bet you can’t eat just one.

 

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