Brenda Hill 

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Author * Editor * Writing Coach

Grammar Hints

Word Choices: 


The following is an exercise to help you select the right words. If you're not sure, you're not alone. Even experienced writers stress about them. I keep a 'cheat-sheet' by my computer to make sure of my choices.  

a) If you could invite anyone, WHO would you invite?

or,



b) If you could invite anyone, WHOM would you invite?



ANSWER:



It's whom. Think of who/whom as the same as he/him. Then try turning the sentence around into a declarative:



I would invite __________.



a. he - who

b. him - whom



Since the answer would be "him," you'd use "whom."



Another troublemaker: LIE or LAY.



a) No matter how many times I chase my dog, Sparky, off the furniture, he loves to LAY on the sofa.

or



b) No matter how many times I chase my dog, Sparky, off the furniture, he loves to LIE on the sofa.



ANSWER:



It's lie. When your character, human or pet, reclines, it lies. Shanna was lying on the sleigh bed.



To place something, i.e., silverware on the table, you lay it. The hen laid the golden egg, because she placed it somewhere.



lay laid laying: 

I'll lay the silverware on the table. I laid the silverware. I am laying the silverware.



lie lain lying: 

I want to lie down. She has lain there since early this morning. She is lying on the new sleigh bed.



Capitalization, from:



http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.shtml



"Get in here, Miss Saunders." Capitalized because it's the title of a specific woman whose last name is Saunders.



"Get in here, Missy." Capitalized because it identifies a specific person whose nickname is Missy and whose last name is Saunders.



"Get in here, missy." Not capitalized because it is a generic nickname (like buddy) for an unidentified person whose name or nickname is not known to the person who is speaking.



"Get in here, missy." Not capitalized because it is a generic nickname (like buddy) for a person whose name, although it is known to the person who is speaking, is not used because the person speaking chooses to call Miss Saunders "missy" instead of calling her by her first name, AND "Missy" is not her nickname.