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The Bugaboo Review: A Lighthearted Guide to Exterminating Confusion about Words, Spelling, and Grammar

The Bugaboo Review: A Lighthearted Guide to Exterminating Confusion about Words, Spelling, and Grammar

by Sue Sommer

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For years, high school English teacher Sue Sommer has given her students a photocopied edition of The Bugaboo Review. Filled with fun ways to remember and correct the most common pitfalls in language, the Review is legendary at her school. Because it’s so accessible and easy to use, parents have requested copies, and the friends of parents, not to mention past


For years, high school English teacher Sue Sommer has given her students a photocopied edition of The Bugaboo Review. Filled with fun ways to remember and correct the most common pitfalls in language, the Review is legendary at her school. Because it’s so accessible and easy to use, parents have requested copies, and the friends of parents, not to mention past students who have worn out their copies but want to take the Review with them into their academic, professional, and everyday lives. With the help of cartoon characters Bug and Boo, Sommer lays out the rules and troublesome words that ?ummox our word processors and email programs. Colorful examples and artful mnemonics help readers painlessly learn and remember it all — including the pronunciation of befuddling words. This is ideal for students of all ages — and also for anyone seeking an A in all their written and oral communications.

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The Bugaboo Review

A Lighthearted Guide to Exterminating Confusion about Words, Spelling, and Grammar

By Sue Sommer

New World Library

Copyright © 2011 Sue Sommer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-027-6



Here is a quick reference guide to the parts of speech in the English language. I speak of these throughout The Bugaboo Review, so you may use this to refer to them.


Function: Indicates action or state of being.

Examples: spend, drive, see, dance, are, was, is, be, am.


Function: Names a person, place, thing, idea, or activity.

Examples: John Smith, Cher, home, church, hope, gentleness, freedom, tennis, badminton.


Function: Takes the place of a noun.

Examples: I, my, you, he, she, us, him, them, mine, myself, ours, who, your, it, they, anyone, that, which, who, any.


Function: Describes a noun or pronoun.

Examples: hungry, rich, kind, jolly, old, solid, ugly, feasible, desperate, neat, whimsical.


Function: Describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb; it tells when, how, where, why, under what conditions, and to what degree things are done.

Examples: often, quietly, too, cheerfully, really, quite, normally, rarely, oddly, very, much, lightly.


Function: Always followed by a noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition, thus forming a prepositional phrase, often with an adjective or article. The preposition shows the relation to a verb, an adjective, or another noun or pronoun in the sentence. Prepositional phrases show cause, amount, manner, place, time, and direction (CAMPTD!).

Examples of prepositions: into, from, to, against, without, with, above, at, about, around, between, beyond, onto, across, but, barring, of, after, off, during, for, up, until, over, under, beneath.

Examples of prepositional phrases: for me; to you; toward the future; behind the yellow door; by the way; off the wall; through the roof; over the red line; by the sleepy lagoon; under the dirty, greasy, oil-leaking car; by the dawn's early light.


Function: Links or joins words, phrases, or clauses.

Examples: and, but, or, after, until, however. Note that some words, such as but and until, can be both conjunctions and prepositions; a preposition, however, MUST be followed by a noun or pronoun.


Function: Shows surprise or emotion and is almost always followed by an exclamation point!

Examples: Oh! Ah! Wow! Hey! Oops! Come on! You must be kidding.




The "Worst Offenders" section includes an infestation of the errors that I see and hear most frequently, and that make me cringe or cry or sigh! These issues constantly show up on state exams and on college placement and job application tests. I put them here in the beginning of The Bugaboo Review because they lead the swarm of mistakes made by those who are unclear, and I want my students to learn them first. I encourage you to do the same.


To accept is a verb meaning "to receive"; except is usually a preposition meaning "excluding." Examples: I will accept all the boxes except that one. Students gladly accept an A because they've earned it!


Advice is a noun, something you give or take (think of vice as a noun, a thing); advise is a verb. Examples: When you're wise, you may advise. We advise you to take John's advice.


To affect is a verb meaning "to influence" or "to put on a show of"; effect is usually a noun meaning "result" or "a changed state due to action by someone or something." Less often, to effect is used as a verb meaning "to bring about." Examples: The drug did not affect the disease, and it had several adverse side effects. The principal's plan affected the students and effected great change, which was its most positive effect. (Think: the effect.)


Use among when referring to three or more people or things; use between for two items or people. Examples: You and Gregory discuss this between the two of you; Grant, Megan, and I will talk among ourselves.

anybody, anyone, anything everybody, everyone, everything somebody, someone, something nobody, no one, nothing

This is the issue of pronoun agreement. All these terms are singular and take a singular verb and a singular pronoun. Examples: Anybody who has done his or her (not their) laundry may leave. Haseverybody lost his or her (not their) mind? Everyone had his or her (not their) opinion. Someone drove his or her (not their) car into a ditch! (Note: If the wording seems bulky, make the subject plural: All those who have done their laundry ... People who have lost their golf clubs ... Or replace the troublesome pronoun with an article: Someone drove a car. Everyone had an opinion.)

"anyways," "anywheres," "nowheres"

These are not standard words; use anyway, anywhere, and nowhere.


As is often used as a conjunction that introduces a subordinate clause. Like is usually a preposition, but not a conjunction, and should be followed by a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, as in: "She looks like a doll." In formal writing use them correctly: "You don't know her as I do" is correct; it is not correct to say, "You don't know her like I do." Or use as if: "He looks as if (not like) he hasn't slept in a week." Of course, to like also is a verb meaning "to take pleasure in" or "to find agreeable," as in: "I like lemon gelato!" (Like is not a fill-in word! See the discussion of like as a sentence filler in the Body of the Bug that follows.)


Bad is an adjective and describes a noun or pronoun; badly is an adverb, so it modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. "I felt badly" indicates that your fingers didn't function well, as if they were frozen or numb, because badly describes the act of feeling, not you, the person (a pronoun or noun). Examples: I felt bad that Kendra had moved away. Yasmeen has done badly on her home project; paint is splattered everywhere! (Note: When in doubt, test your sentence by changing the word badly to another word, like coldly or sadly. You wouldn't say, "I felt coldly" or "I felt sadly"; these are incorrect and sound weird!)


Use bring when an object is being transported toward you; use take when it is being moved away, as in: "Please bring me some water, then take these flowers to Mrs. Lan." (Think of "take-out" food, which you "take away.") There is a small exception, however. According to the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (2005), "when the point of reference is not the place of speaking itself, either verb is possible, but the correct choice still depends on the desired perspective." So if you're speaking of an upcoming event that will take place elsewhere, you might say, "What may Ibring to the party?" The event's host might reply, "You may bring dessert." (By the way, it's never brang or brung.)

conceive, deceive, perceive, receive

(See "ei" and "ie" section on page 201.)

"could of," "may of," "might of," "must of," "should of," "would of"

Use the verb have, not the preposition of, after verbs such as could, should, would, may, might, and must. Examples: They must have (not must of) left. Imay have (not may of) said that I would go with you.

definitely, indefinitely

Fin and finite appear in both of these words; there are no a's. (Note: Your computer spell-checker may change definitely to defiantly, so don't wing it by using your computer to supply the correct spelling!)

each, either

Each is singular; so is either. Examples: Each has (not have) his or her (not their) own idea. Either of the flavors is (not are) fine with me. (If you have trouble remembering this, add a mental one: Each one has his or her passion.)


Fewer refers to items that can be counted, less to general amounts. Examples: Fewer people live in the city, but they have less space there than in the country.


Good is an adjective and describes a noun or pronoun; well is an adverb and describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, as in: "He did a good job on the relay and came out well in the standings." Good (an adjective) describes the job (a thing, a noun); well (an adverb) describes how he did (a verb, which in this case shows action).

I or me — a trick to remember when using these so you don't get stung

"Him and I went," "her and I talked," "me and Liz did it," "Juan and him ate" — and any similar example of a compound subject: these are incorrect! To check yourself, mentally remove or block out one of the subjects and hear how the sentence sounds: "him went," "her talked," me did it," "him ate." These obviously are wrong, so say instead, for example: He and I went (he went, and I went). She and I talked (she talked, and I talked). Liz and I like to dance (Liz likes to dance, and I like to dance). More examples when using I or me: "She read the map to Julio and I" or "... Julio and me"? Remove the words Julio and. Would you say: "She read the map to me" or "... to I"? Me is correct, not "Julio and I." Remember, when it's the subject of a sentence, always use I. Examples: Jo and I like to dance. Ben and I will go. He and I want to leave early.


Its, which has no apostrophe, is a possessive pronoun showing that something owns something; it's = it is. The apostrophe in it's indicates that the letter i has been omitted; it is not an issue of possession in this case. Examples: It's time we washed our puppy; its little paws are muddy!


To lay is to place something or put something down, and it must be followed by a noun or pronoun, a thing; to lie is to recline. A lie is an untruth, and to lie also means "to tell an untruth." Examples: Lay that package on the mantel, will you please? Bridgette would like to lie in the hammock near the pool. Sometimes it's tempting to lie when you're in trouble, but a lie only makes things worse. (Hint: Lay sounds like place; lie sounds like recline. But be careful: lay is also the past tense of the verb to lie: Jay lay on the couch all day yesterday.)


Loose is an adjective that means "not securely fastened"; to lose is the verb meaning "to misplace, to rid, or not to win." Examples: If you lose weight, your clothes may be too loose. (Hint: lose] BLD and lost come from the same root, and each has four letters.)


Neither is singular, as in: "Neither (one) of the boys failed his test." None: I was taught that none is short for not one. But some contend that none usually is used with an amount that can't be counted, such as "none of it" — as in: "None of the milk was spilled" — and that if none refers to something that can be counted, then it takes a plural verb: "None of the eggs are broken." I still say, though, that none (not one) is singular, as in: "None (not one) of the eggs is broken." Also, the word neither is part of the "ei" and "ie" section at the end of the book.


Passed is the past (!) tense of the verb to pass; past, an adjective or preposition, means "belonging to a former time" or "beyond a time or place." Past can also be a noun. Examples: Mom passed the pizza while our past president spoke. The hotel is just past the fountain. His past finally caught up with him.

possessive pronouns and apostrophes

Pronouns that show ownership, called "possessive pronouns," do not have apostrophes. Examples: theirs, yours, ours, hers, his, its. This is odd because possessive nouns must have apostrophes: Bob's, the dog's, children's, parent's, parents'.


There's a rat in separate. It's not spelled "seperate."


Than is a conjunction used in comparisons; then is an adverb denoting time. Examples: This is more than I can handle now; let's stop, then talk again tomorrow. Zane is taller than I am.


Their is a possessive pronoun, as in: "It's their turn to pay." There is an adverb specifying place, or where something is located. (Hint: Here and there both speak of place, and the word here actually appears inside the word there. "Sylvia is lying there." There is also an interjection, something that shows feelings, as in: "There! Now look at what you've done!" They're is a contraction of they are, as in: "They're happy." (A contraction is a combination of words, with an apostrophe ['] in place of a missing letter or letters.) (See "ei" and "ie" section on page 201.)

there are/there's

Use are when the subject is plural; don't use "there's many." The subject and the verb must agree, as in: "There are many people who work." (Think: Many people are working.) It's not: "There's (there is) many people who work." Examples: There's a lot of mud on the road. (Mudis on the road.) There is much work to do. There are many things to do.


Threw is the past tense of the verb to throw; through is a preposition, or an adverb meaning "in at one side, end, or surface — and out the other," or "to the end." Examples: Chad threw the ball through (preposition) the window! David will see the project through (adverb) to its brilliant conclusion.


To is a preposition (always followed by a noun or pronoun) meaning "a direction toward a point"; it's also part of the infinitive, or basic form, of a verb (such as to sing, to dream, to play, to study). Too is an adverb meaning "also or in addition" or "more than is desirable." (Think: The extra o is too many!) Two is the number after one. Examples: To dance (infinitive) is fun for two to do; for some, though, it is too strenuous, so they go to a movie instead.


Who's is the contraction of who is. (A contraction is a combination of words, with an apostrophe ['] in place of a missing letter or letters.) Whose is a pronoun, the possessive (showing ownership or possession) of who used as an adjective. Examples: Who's the one who said, "Whose umbrella did I take?"


Your is a possessive pronoun; you're is a contraction of you are. (A contraction is a combination of words, with an apostrophe ['] in place of a missing letter or letters.) Examples: You're the one who is responsible for your actions.


Excerpted from The Bugaboo Review by Sue Sommer. Copyright © 2011 Sue Sommer. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Sue Sommer teaches honors English and creative writing, a course she developed for Marin School of the Arts at Novato High School. Sommer leads educational tours to Europe during summers and won the Golden Bell Award for excellence in teaching in 2004. She has worked as a magazine editor and proofreader and has served on the San Francisco Recreation and Parks commission. She lives in Corte Madera, California.

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