Many years ago, I was an English teacher doing my country service in a beautiful little town in Far North Queensland. On the whole, the teachers were a good bunch, and a lot of us socialised together on weekends.
One of the big events of the year was a race day that was held in an even tinier country town than the one in which I was living. People came from miles around for this; it was a must-do on the social calendar of everyone in the region.
I was invited to go with a large group of people who had made it a tradition to attend. To commemorate the event, each year they designed new t-shirts which every member was expected to wear.
This particular year, the P.E. Teacher was in charge of creating it, and he put a lot of time, thought and effort into coming up with a design and a slogan. When the final product was finished and orders placed for everyone, he unveiled his creation. The front looked good – it was a little wacky, had a nice mix of colours and suited the event. Then he turned it around to reveal the slogan on the back.
My smile froze, and my English teacher's brain started scrambling.
The slogan read: ‘It took alot of work to look this good.’
Alot. Alot is not a word! A lot is two separate words! We were teachers. I was an English teacher. I had to tell him.
The poor bloke was mortified, but it was too late to change it; the t-shirts had been printed.
Not to be a wet blanket, I had to suck it up and wear the shirt, despite inwardly cringing the entire time. Well, at least until the third wine kicked in, lol.
Now I guess a P.E. Teacher is not likely to know every nuance of language, just as every business owner is not expected to, but there are a few basic things that it pays to know when writing anything that will be in the public eye.
Here are some of the most common mistakes and how to remedy them.
A LOT and ALLOT
A lot is two words.
I gave him a lot of money.
Allot is a word. It means to give someone a portion of something.
I allot my share to my brother.
Alot is NEVER a word. Never.
AFFECT and EFFECT
Affect is a verb, a doing word.
Drugs can affect you. The misspelling on the t-shirt affected me.
Effect is (usually) the noun, the thing.
The effect it had on me was to make me embarrassed.
ACCEPT and EXCEPT
Accept – to receive, agree or consent to something. You accept a marriage proposal. You accept change.
Except means something is excluded or absent.
I like all the desserts except ice-cream.
You accept all the rules except the one that tells you to accept all the rules.
THAT and WHO
While it's not strictly wrong to use that when referring to a human, it sounds better as a who.
Teachers who can't spell shouldn’t teach
sounds better than
Teachers that can't spell shouldn’t teach.
Jane, who is known for her excellent work ethic... is good.
Jane, that is known for her excellent work ethic... is bad.
Who relates to humans with names. That relates to inanimate objects or animals without names and can relate to people as a group. (Stay with me here, it's not as complicated as it sounds.)
The rabbit that ate my carrot... is correct
The rabbit who ate my carrot... is not so correct.
IT'S, ITS or its'.
This really isn't hard. It's is a contraction – it is short for 'it is' or 'it has'.
Its is used when referring to something owned by someone or something else. It's one of the few times possession isn't indicated by an apostrophe. So, a dog and its pups is correct, while a dog and it's pups, or a dog and its' pups is not correct.
Its' is never correct.
e.g. and i.e.
Quite simply, e.g. means ‘for example’.
She liked sweet things e.g. cakes, lollies and biscuits.
i.e. means that is.
He wanted to wear his favourite shirt, i.e. the one he wore when he went to the Mt Garnett races.