How to Look Smarter on Facebook and Twitter: Part Two

You may recall the first instalment of “How to Look Smarter” in which a few common spelling and/or grammatical mistakes were outlined. Well, you didn’t think I’d stop there did you? There’s no shortage of stupidity on the internet, and while that may be attributed to a lack of proper education as previously discussed, it just can’t always be the case. With all the hustle and bustle of today’s demanding, multifaceted life, learning proper English sometimes takes a back seat. While some users have a natural linguistic ability, it’s blatantly obvious that others are either unaware, or just don’t care. It’s not uncommon to stumble upon a person with 1000 friends or 10 000 followers who is still incapable of distinguishing some of the more common homonyms.

A recent study run by shows that 41% of Americans log in to Facebook every day, and 27% log in to Twitter. With an average of 400 friends And 200 followers, wouldn’t one want to at least appear like they know some of the basics of the English language? So if you are one of the many who are in dire need of a crash course lesson, then here are some more simple guidelines:

Not only is this another tricky homonym, but it also contains one of those sneaky contractions. ‘Your’ and ‘you’re’ are swapped so frequently that English professors across the world have lost faith in humanity. The key in discerning the difference is by remembering that ‘you’re’ is actually ‘you are’, and ‘your’ is possessive. Actually, according to William Strunk and E.B. White, the authors of the Elements of Style, it’s much easier to just avoid contractions all together. There, you’ve now eliminated a homophone.

What not to say: “I’m sick of you’re loud music, I can’t see myself think!”

What to say: “If you’re a fan of the like button, click like!”

Time. Our lives revolve around it. From time stems hours, days, months and so on. Because we humans are so resourceful, we’ve devised a way to organize this complicated concept into a small piece of paper or digital device. That’s right, I’m talking about calendars. But is this oft used device usually spelled correctly? Methinks not.

What not to say: “My calender is so busy this month with those extra jazzercise classes I’m taking.”

What to say: “My Christmas advent calendar has never made it alive past the first week.”

All right, let’s kick this into second gear. Can you guess which part of that sentence is normally misused? If you said ‘all right’ then there’s still hope (fingers crossed). For some reason, maybe because English is a lazy language, ‘all right’ was mashed together over the years to create the loathsome hybrid popularly known as ‘alright’.

What not to say: “I just finished watching Battlefield Earth… I think I’ll be alright eventually.”

What to say: “All right, let’s get this straight. Who the hell is Ezperanza Spalding and how did she steal the Grammy for Best New Artist?”

I will personally admit that I didn’t know this one until Grade 12 when I realized I didn’t actually know the difference. While writing my (absolutely terrible) Magnum Opus in my creative writing course, I hurdled past my pride and begrudgingly asked the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’. It still hurts me to this day, but all you have to know is that one should only use ‘than’ in a comparison. For everything else there’s Mastercard… I mean ‘then’.

What not to say: “My elementary school basketball team was better then the Raptors.”

What to say: “Crosby is better than Ovechkin, no doubt!”

If you’ve made it this far, kudos to you for finding the strength to change! Let’s take another fun field trip back to the good ole days of grade school. One might think that the difference between ‘a’ and ‘an’ is not very important, but that’s because you were too busy thinking about your first crush to listen to your teacher. ‘An’ always comes before a word that begins with a vowel or an ‘h’, and ‘a’ always comes before a word that begins with a consonant or a ’y’ sound.

What not to say: “Sunday morning is good for two reasons: cooking a egg and watching cartoons.”

What to say: “Harry Potter is an awesome read, if only J.K. Rowling would write eighty more :(“

Wow, it’s now period six, my final lesson of the day. This is by far the biggest offence to the English language, barely edging out the daily slaughter of the word ‘definitely’. Everyone has this friend on Facebook, the one who insists…… on talking…….. like this……… Now hold onto your seatbelt annoying period user, because this ride is about to get wild. Using more than one period in a row is called an ellipsis, and is a delicate literary tool. It’s generally used for emotional effect, and is always, and I mean ALWAYS, three periods. Never more. Period…

What not to say: “No way….. I like totally can’t believe Bieber didn’t win best new artist……”

What to say: “When Adam Sandler stops making movies my world is over…”

“Obviously the significance of proper spelling on social networks is not so great, is it? (…) As long as the people using it can understand each other, it seems that it is all that is necessary, not unlike any specialized language or dialect,” – Wise words from Nipissing University’s Grammar Granny Georgia Lyons.

However, while many people may understand and accept this simplified version of English, these spelling and grammatical skills can transcend into other areas of your life. Social networks have become a major influence for millions, enough so that the misuse of the English language could have a serious effect elsewhere in areas that matter. Appearing smarter online is a small start, but it is well worth it. I don’t care if you say ‘r’ instead of ‘are’ or ‘u’ instead of ‘you’, just remember the difference between ‘than’ and ‘then’. Being lazy is different than being ignorant. Purifying English may have a one in a million chance, but in the words of Lloyd Christmas, “there’s still a chance.”

By: Kyle Larkin

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