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Thursday, May 17 12:00 AM ET

5 Grammar Tips You May Not Have Known

By Brian Briggs

The growth of Internet communication like e-mail and instant messaging has exposed many new people to the joy of writing.  Some of these people probably shouldn't be writing, but if you've got a computer and a modem nothing can stop you.  This guide aims to help those people learn some of the more difficult rules of style and grammar, so the rest of us don't have to cringe every time we see an abuse of the English language.

#1 When to use ridiculous or rediculous - Use rediculous when what you're talking about is colorful (simple mnemonic REDiculous). When the item is preposterous or laughable use "ridiculous."

Yes:  The crazy clown on the bright red fire truck is wearing a rediculous outfit.
Yes:  I saw a ridiculous picture of a cat eating a cheeseburger.
No:   That colorful painting of the dogs playing poker is ridiculous.

#2 Copywrite or copyright - Use copyright when you're talking about the protection offered by law to the creator of intellectual properties. Use copywrite when you're talking about trying to cheat off the guy next to you during an exam.

Yes:  Congress will never pass copyright laws that help innovation, because they are beholden to large corporations.
Yes:  Thank goodness Tom didn't cover up his test paper, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to copywrite.
No: You don't own the copywrite to that song, so you're going to jail for 100 years.

#3 Imagine or emagine – Use imagine when talking about Steve Jobs or products from Apple.    Use "emagine" when talking about general technology items like e-mail or Emacs. 

Yes: The future that Steve Jobs imagines for us will require more color and less buttons. 
Yes: I can't emagine what she would say to me in her e-mail.
No:  I can emagine that 30" widescreen monitor on my desk, but I'm too poor to buy it.

#4 Your, you're or ur – Your is a possessive pronoun, so it should be used to imply ownership.  "You're" is a contraction of you are, so if you can't substitute you are then you're in trouble. It can be confusing, but thankfully the grammar gods have given an easy solution in the form of "ur."  Ur can substitute for either your or you're.  Problem solved.

Yes:  I can't believe you're letting your dog eat ur homework.
No: You're house is on fire.

#5 Definitely or definately – This one is difficult.  Use definitely when talking about something finite.   When talking about something with an indefinite end use definately

Yes:  I'm definitely going to eat that plate of hot dogs in under five minutes.
Yes: The digits of pi definately go on forever.
No:  The television series Lost will definately be over in 2010.

Using improper grammar on the Internet will open you up to ridicule and make you seem dumber than you really are. Memorize these tips and soon you'll be correcting others instead of being corrected urself.

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