Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Grammar Blind Spots

photo courtesy Pixabay.com

"I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it." --Carl Sandburg

I have grammar blind spots. They shouldn't surprise me--no one is the perfect grammarian, right? not even Mr. Sandburg it would seem--but still when they're pointed out, I tend to go, what?? How could I have missed that?

Except when I'm in the dark and the mistake jumps out of the blue. Whoa, I didn't even realize. Thankfully my beautiful friends and writer critique buddies are smart, kind, and...well...non-critical. Helpful. Encouraging. Did I say smart? Thanks, Lanita and Connie.

We were working on potential short submissions this month, and, following our monthly meeting where we talked about them, I emailed my revisions for their final perusal. Lanita pointed out the use of a word she had already mentioned at our meeting--and, it turns out, a correction I had promptly forgotten. This time she sent me a link asking if I thought its explanation might help.

My usage? "I can still see myself pouring over vocabulary lists..."

Her thought? "I think 'poring' is the word you need."

And of course she was right.

In gently leading me to the correct choice of words, she also steered me to a website I had never visited, but now count as one of great value: vocabulary. com. Here the pouring/poring issue is made clear:

"A pore is a small opening in a surface that lets stuff through. To pour, on the other hand, means to flow continuously and rapidly...As a verb (though), to pore is used with through or over and means that you are absorbed in the study of something or that you are reading something intensely." Hence: "I can still see myself poring over vocabulary lists."

Ah, the light bulb goes off. The understanding soaks in. The appreciation builds.

I'll be visiting vocabulary.com more often, starting with another troublesome combination for me: farther vs. further. I always have trouble with their correct usage, too. Why do I have such a blind spot when it comes to some of these words? Oh, the life of the writer--where there's always room to learn something new!

What grammar issues play in your blind spot? Any favorite grammar resources that you might recommend?



  1. The one that makes me curious is "homing in" versus "honing in." I don't know the answer. Do you?

  2. Something to check on, Cathy--thanks :-) I'll look into it and get back with you!

    1. Cathy, I found the answer and it was surprising to me, maybe to you, too :-)

      vocabulary.com: "'Home in on' (with an 'm') means to move toward an object or goal, like a missile zooming towards a target...To 'hone' is to sharpen a knife or perfect a skill. 'Hone in' or 'hone in on' (with an 'n') is an eggcorn (eggcorn??? ever heard of that?) for 'home in on.' An eggcorn is a word accidently used for another word that sounds similar, like saying eggcorn instead of acorn...The only reason people get hone confused with home is when hone horns in on home in."

      So the correct answer is 'homing in on,' not 'honing in on.'

      Source: www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/hone-home/

    2. Wow. Thanks, Kenda. No, I'd never heard of an eggcorn. But I will remember "Homing in" --That's excellent to learn. One less mistake to make. ;0

  3. The lie, lay, etc one I can never keep straight and sometimes use other words in order to avoid it. :-)

  4. Barbara, I have trouble with those, too, especially the past tense forms. Oh, for a better memory! Thanks for dropping in. Have a great rest of the week :-)

  5. Even though I've looked it up multiple times, I continue to check myself on "a while" versus "awhile." Just can't seem to keep them straight.

    1. Okay, friend, this is what I found: "A while is a NOUN meaning 'a length of time.' e.g. I slept for a while. Awhile is an ADVERB, meaning 'for a time,' or literally 'for a while.' e.g. 'I slept awhile before dinner (compare with 'I slept deeply before dinner'). ..the words can be used almost interchangeably in some cases--but a while needs to be accompanied by a preposition such as 'for' ( 'I slept for a while' or 'ago' ('I left work a while ago'). Awhile always means 'for a while.'" Source: www.dailywritingtips.com/a-while-vs-awhile/

      Whew, does that make it any more clear? I'm not sure now myself!

    2. It's pretty much the same stuff I've found. (Thank you, Grammar Girl.) But I will never get it in my head. Guess I'm hoping for my very own editor to point out those errors to me. :-)

    3. lovely, just lovely! Nice to know, seriously!!!

  6. :) I had a grammar question in Spanish this week at school! We were hunting for an answer between the usage of the impersonal and passive 'se'. Fun fun. Like my boss said, grammar is like a big puzzle of pieces coming together!