Writer Wednesday – Meet Author Lois Winston AKA Emma Carlyle

Lois Winston has stopped by today to talk about one of her pet peeves: Grammar Crimes.

Grammar Crimes
by Lois Winston

Do you have a grammar pet peeve? I do. Actually, I have several, and it’s all the fault of an excellent junior high school English teacher who drummed the rules of grammar into me. Thanks to Peggy Riley Hughes at Burnett Jr. High, I can’t shake the good grammar habit. And because of Peggy Riley Hughes, I cringe whenever I hear or read bad grammar. I can’t help it. Those rules are ingrained in my brain. If the world had more Peggys, I’d cringe a lot less.

To boldly go where no man has gone before. Remember that opening from Star Trek? Cringe-worthy! Gene Rodenberry obviously didn’t have Peggy Riley Hughes as an English teacher. If he had, he never would have split his infinitive.

Sadly, because there are so few English teachers like Peggy Riley Hughes, the Oxford English Dictionary did the unthinkable a few years ago — they declared it okay to split infinitives. The horror! What would Peggy say?

Writers have the license to take liberties with their writing. When I write dialogue, I don’t necessarily write in perfectly formed sentences. People don’t always speak in perfectly formed sentences. We speak in sentence fragments. Style often dictates that sentence fragments also be used in narrative. And our characters rarely speak using perfect grammar. They, too, never took an English class taught by Peggy Riley Hughes. And that’s okay. We want our characters to sound real, not stilted.

But there are grammar rules that should never be broken.

The grammar error that makes me cringe the most, is the misuse of pronouns in prepositional phrases and as direct objects. For some reason, many people think substituting the nominative “I” for the objective “me” sounds more intelligent. In reality, it shows they weren’t paying attention in English class. I see this mistake made all the time. Will the OED eventually decide it’s okay to break this very basic rule of English grammar? Peggy Riley Hughes and I both hope not.

So here’s a little refresher course on proper pronoun usage:

There are 3 types of pronouns:

Nominative: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who

Possessive: my, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, and whose

Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom

The nominative form is used when the pronoun is the subject of a sentence. The objective form is used when the pronoun is the direct object of the sentence or is part of a prepositional phrase.

Wrong: He likes Mary and I.

Right: He likes Mary and me.

Wrong: He gave the papers to Mary and I.

Right: He gave the papers to Mary and me.

Wrong: The choice will be between you and I.

Right: The choice will be between you and me.

Do you have a grammar pet peeve?


A Little Bit About Lois:

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth.

Here’s an example of one of Lois’s books, written under her pen name Emma Carlyle.

Someone to Watch Over Me

by Lois Winston, writing as Emma Carlyle

Dori Johnson is in hiding from the Russian Mafia. Six years ago she committed a series of felonies in order to create new identities for herself and her younger brother and sister. They’ve kept a low profile, living in fear of their lives ever since.someone_book_cover_new_x1000

When Niles York, Dori’s boss, offers her the opportunity of a lifetime, she turns down the job, not wanting to risk discovery. However, her brother and sister convince her that after six years, she’s unrecognizable, and she can’t pass up such an opportunity. Reluctantly, Dori agrees to become the face and spokesperson for York’s new retail venture.

Jake Prentiss suspects Dori is hiding a secret, and he’s not going to let her jeopardize his friend’s business. As a former government operative, he calls in some favors and starts digging into Dori’s past. What he finds has him convinced she’s out to sabotage York Enterprises. Too bad he’s falling for her.

Dori is falling in love with Jake, but she doesn’t trust him. He works for the government, and she’s a criminal. But then her life is threatened, and she has to make a decision that could either get her killed or put her behind bars for a very long time.

 Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008QDJZN6/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008QDJZN6&linkCode=as2&tag=loiswins-20

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/someone-to-watch-over-me-emma-carlyle/1112312999?ean=2940015029765

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/someone-to-watch-over-me-1

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/someone-to-watch-over-me/id847717039?mt=11


Wow, Lois, that sounds like a plot I can really sink my teeth into. I will have to add it to my reading list.

You nailed it with this pet peeve today. I’m really having to work with my 11-year old daughter on this one, who continually and despite my best efforts starts every sentence with “Me and __________ are…”

We’re in July and I”m getting ready to send out another newsletter in a couple of weeks. Don’t forget to sign up for your copy here.

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  1. lyndilamont   •  

    Lois, I don’t mind the split infinitives, but the pronoun misuse makes me grind my teeth, too. Sadly, we hear it all the time, including on television. It’s enough to make me switch to a steady diet of PBS shows!

    Your book sounds exciting.

    • authorlois   •  

      LOL, Lyndi! I know exactly what you mean!

  2. morganmandel   •  

    I get aggravated when spellcheck doesn’t seem to know the difference between it’s and its. It tells me I’m wrong, when for sure I know I’m right.

    • Lily Bishop   •  

      I know! I think spellcheck is flagging it as a problem word, but it’s very frustrating.

    • authorlois   •  

      Morgan, I’m sure whoever invented Spellcheck never had Peggy Riley Hughes for an English teacher. :-)

  3. Evelyn Wolgin   •  

    One of my pet peeves is the expression, “first come, first serve.” No, it’s first served, unless we’re talking taking a turn at being a waitress!

    • Lily Bishop   •  

      Good one. I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about it.

      • authorlois   •  

        That’s because you never had Peggy Riley Hughes for English, Lily. She had a way of drumming these things into you.

    • authorlois   •  

      I can’t say I’ve ever heard that error, Evelyn, but another of mine is when people say, “Try and do…” You can’t “try and” do something. You “try to” do something.

  4. Susan Van Kirk   •  

    Hi, Lois,

    My pet peeve is when people use “fun” as an adjective. “We had a fun time “

    • authorlois   •  

      Yes, that can be annoying, Susan.

  5. raynegolay   •  

    When I was young and learned about writing good English, it was drummed into me we use “that” only for objects. For a person, it should be “who.” “The person who knows,” not “the person that knows.” When I read or hear “he that” I want to scream.

    • authorlois   •  

      Technically a person can be either a “who” or a “that,” Rayne, but a thing is always a that. When it comes to animals, if the animal is anonymous, it’s a “that,” but if it’s got a name, it’s a “who.”

  6. Jane Leopold Quinn   •  

    The mistake that is so common that I’m afraid it’ll become the new standard is “Me and my brother went to the concert.” That type of sentence. There’s an insurance commercial on TV and the voice over says “Me and my baby…” ME DOESN’T GO FIRST! Sorry, for yelling. ;-) My husband’s peeve is apostrophes in plurals.

    • Lily Bishop   •  

      That’s the one my daughter does. Me and Cecilie did this or Me and Ceciloe want to… I refuse to acknowledge her.

    • authorlois   •  

      More importantly, Jane, “me” is NEVER used as the subject in a sentence. “Me” is objective. Subjects must be nominative. The sentence should read: “My brother and I went to the concert.”

  7. Maya Corrigan   •  

    The use of “whom” when “who” is correct drives me crazy. The misuse often occurs when “who” comes after “is” or “are” which requires the nominative case (not the object case, “whom”). Changing a statement to a question doesn’t change which form to use; “Who am I to judge?” is correct. We learn to say “to whom” because the objective case follows a preposition, but when a whole clause is the object of the preposition, the proper form of who/whom depends on whether the word is the subject or object in the clause. “Give this money to whoever needs it” is correct because “whoever” is the subject of the verb “needs.” But “Give this money to whomever you choose” is correct because “you” is the subject of the verb “choose” and “whomever” is the object. No wonder people find this confusing and decide to use “whom” for all purposes!

    • authorlois   •  

      Maya, I wonder if the distinction between “who” and “whom” is even being taught in schools these days. Too much of grammar isn’t. And therein lies the problem.

  8. Margaret Fieland   •  

    Lois, my father was a real grammar queen, and as a result, misused prepositions really bug me. He would repeat the whole rule and its explanation every time I came home and announced, “it’s me.”

    I once made the mistake of noting that “c’est moi” is correct in French. Dad then explained the difference — and repeated the explanation of the French rule — in French. I can still repeat the whole blasted thing in both languages.

    I learned far, far more from my father than I ever learned in English class.

    • authorlois   •  

      Margaret, this speaks to what I just posted to Maya. It’s one thing to learn and forget or ignore; it’s another never to have been taught correctly. And please note, I didn’t split my infinitive. ;-D

  9. Sandra   •  

    Splitting infinitives in English is fine by me – the “rule” was created to (supposedly) parallel the fact that Latin didn’t split infinitives, so English shouldn’t either. Trouble is, in Latin the infinitive of a verb CAN’T be split, because it’s a single word; English infinitives use “to,” so they have two words to split.

    I learned in the case of pronouns that if you can’t tell which to use, leave out the “other person.” You wouldn’t say “he gave it to I” or “me went to the store.”

  10. Gary T. Bank   •  

    I have several grammar pet peeves, perhaps mainly oral,.
    Improper use of ‘so’ (I’m not sure what part of speech that is, and I’m probably equally as guilty as those who miss use it) “This coffee is so good.” . . . ‘so good that what ?

    Different “Different flowers will go well here.” I’d suggest “Various flowers . . . ”
    I’m probably also guilty of this in some cases,

    This is a good read – read is a verb, not a noun, This is a good book.
    Message me. Now we have a noun used as a verb.
    There are a few others which don’t come to mind at the time.

    ‘Hugely’ doesn’t huge describe a noun, and isn’t an “ly” ending indicative of an adjective modifying the way some verb acts? Perhaps I’m mistake on this.

    Thank You
    Gary T. Bank

    • authorlois   •  

      Gary, over the last few years we’ve seen many changes creep into the English language. More and more nouns are becoming verbs and verbs becoming nouns. Google is a perfect example. Google is a proper noun, the name of a company. Yet we’re all googling nowadays, just as we xerox to make a copy. Xerox has tried very hard to discourage the use of their trademark as a generic verb in order to protect that trademark. Once upon a time aspirin was trademarked, but the trademark was lost when the prevalence to take an aspirin grew to encompass all such analgesics. I haven’t noticed any efforts on Google’s part to dissuade the use of googling, though.

      Adding “ly” to a word makes it an adverb, not an adjective. Adverbs are used to modify verbs.They can also be used to modify adjectives and other adverbs.

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