Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

August 17, 2012  7:15 PM

Another take on “try and” vs. “try to”

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
Formal vs. informal writing, Recommended grammar blogs

I love the Motivated Grammar blog. (Motto: Prescriptivism must die!)  If you’re ever looking for a contrary opinion on a grammatical issue, and especially a well-argued and research-supported contrary opinion, blogger Gabe Doyle is your boy.

I wasn’t particularly looking for a contrary opinion yesterday, when I was writing about “try and” vs. “try to.” As a matter of fact, when I found the post discussing “try and,” I noted it and then mostly ignored it. But I returned to it today and want to share it with you. The post is entitled “If everyone says it, it can’t be wrong.

Doyle quotes Erin Brenner:

The problem I have with Walsh’s reasoning is that try and is an idiom. There’s no point in trying to make sense of an idiom’s grammar; an idiom has its own unique (‘peculiar,’ says the American Heritage Dictionary) grammar. It doesn’t have to make literal sense.”

And goes on to say:

I agree with Brenner here. Sure, try and X doesn’t seem to make much sense.* But it doesn’t matter if it makes sense; if we’re trying to study language, we don’t get to say “I don’t understand this data” and throw it away. We’re stuck with the fact that people say and write try and X (the OED even offers an example from Paradise Regained, and Google Books has one from 1603) and it feels natural to most people.

Doyle says the same holds true for “I could care less,” another phrase that drives a lot of people around the bend. Funnily enough, my mom just cited it today as one of her pet peeves. Doyle points out that people know that people mean they don’t care when they say it, so it’s not worth getting worked up about.

I kind of like “I could care less,” although I may never have actually said it. I always hear it as an ironic statement, so actually emphasizing the total lack of caring rather than implying that there is some minimal amount of caring going on.

My stand on both phrases is that you should avoid them in any kind of formal writing. For casual writing, though, or in speech — well, I could care less. (And I know you know what I mean!)

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar



August 16, 2012  6:31 PM

“Try and” vs. “try to”

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
CIO, common grammar errors, common writing errors, grammar, Rock and roll grammar test

Which is correct?
When I ______ print from the Web, my laptop reboots.
a. try and
b. try to
Continued »

August 15, 2012  5:35 PM

Diffuse and defuse — homophones or homonyms?

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
commonly confused words, commonly misspelled words, compound words, homonyms, homophones

Which is correct?
Diffuse and defuse are often confused because they’re ________: words that sound the same but mean different things.
a. homophones
b. homonyms
Continued »

August 14, 2012  11:46 AM

Convince vs. persuade

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
commonly confused words, commonly misused words, ESL, word meanings

Which is correct?
It’s typically difficult to _______ programmers to document their code, even though it makes it easier to work with in the future.
a. convince
b. persuade
Continued »

August 13, 2012  5:39 PM

Me or I and the problem of overcorrection

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
CIO, incorrection, me/myself/I, overcorrection, personal pronouns

Which is correct?
Would you like Joe and _______ to attend the Tweetup in New York next week?
a. me
b. myself
c. I

Continued »

August 10, 2012  12:24 PM

Can you use “between” when you’re talking about more than two things?

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
between or among, CIO, grammar, grammar myths

Which is correct?
Instead of choosing _______ Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud, people often use more than one cloud storage service.
a. between
b. among

Continued »

August 9, 2012  12:57 PM

Blatant vs. flagrant

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
commonly confused words, word meanings

Which is correct?
The ad was a ________ attempt to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about the competitor’s product.
a. blatant
b. flagrant
Continued »

August 8, 2012  1:25 PM

What’s the difference between software, programs and applications?

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
CIO, confusing words, tech writing, technology, word meanings

Which is correct?
An operating system (OS) is the ________ that, after being initially loaded into the computer by a boot program, manages all the other programs in a computer.
a. program
b. software
c. application

Continued »

August 7, 2012  1:06 PM

Graciously accept or graciously decline? You may do either — but can you say you’re doing so?

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
commonly confused words, ESL, word meanings

Which is correct?
I have already committed to two holiday parties on that evening, so I’m going to have to _________ decline your invitation.
a. graciously
b. gratefully

Continued »

August 6, 2012  12:29 PM

Compound possessives

Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
compound possessives, possessive pronouns

Which is correct?
______________ computers both really need to be defragged.
a. Bill and my
b. Bill’s and my
c. Mine and Bill’s

Continued »

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: