Sorry, I Miswrote

by Cherie Tucker

August 2016

Children often mistake words they hear in songs. They think it’s “Round John Virgin” or “sleep in heavenly peas.” These mistakes can be charming, but many times when people are speaking, they shorten or garble or mispronounce words, so their listeners can hear things wrong, as well. One such mangled expression that happens frequently is “gonna.” Yet even though people say it all the time, we still write “going to.” We know what “gonna” stands for and generally would only spell “going to” as “gonna” intentionally in a friendly note or a quick message. You would never spell it that way in a business letter or on your resume.

With the word “try,” on the other hand, we say, “We’ll try ‘n get that for you,” or “I’ll try ‘n call you,” not realizing we’ve made a mistake beyond just pronunciation. Then we write it the way we said it, not the way it actually should be. Many people aren’t aware that the expression actually is “try to,” not “try and.”

What we mean to say about trying is that we will try TO DO something, not try and do something. It isn’t the compound verb “try and do.” You aren’t going to try and then do something. When we speak it, however, it does sound like “try and,” because that is what people have come to believe they are saying. Beware of this mistake when you are writing. The “’n” in “try ‘n do something” is spelled “to” not “and.”

You can avoid this mistake altogether if you heed the advice of Yoda: “There is no ‘try,’ only ‘do.’”

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.

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