Have vs. Of: Should you, could you, would you get this correct?


When I moved to Florida from Chicago o-so-many-years-ago, I heard a lot of, “My ears don’t hear as fast as you talk.  Would you say that again?”  A funny and very tactful way people down here told me I spoke too fast.  Over the years, though, I’ve learned to slow myself down and only need a gentle reminder to here and there after a too-long phone call with the folks or a visit back home.  That reminder, by the way, generally takes the form of a blank stare from a cashier at the grocery store I frequent on my way home from the airport.

After a recent post, Michael Evans of Jacksonville, Florida, reminded me that those of us from the northern and eastern regions of the country aren’t the only people who speak too fast.  If you listen closely, you’ll hear that most people mash words together as they speak, which is fine . . . until they try to write what they’ve just said.

Now, for Michael, his hackles get raised when he hears people say of rather than have, as in “I should of known I sound like a fool when I talk like this.”  To be fair, I doubt anyone actually means to say of.  It just sounds like they do, because they’re nearly strangling off the breathy h from have as words tumble out of their mouths.

The problem with speaking this way, especially for new and young writers, is that people can – and do –  write the sound of speech rather than the words of speech.

What We Hear          What We Write          What We Should Write

Could’f or Could’v          Could of                            Could have or Could’ve

For writers, I suggest you do two things before you turn in any manuscript:

1.  Start from the end of your article or chapter, and read it backwards.  You’ll pick up loads of errors as your eyes stutter across the words and phrases.

2.  Read the entire piece out loud as though you’re teaching a class.  This forces you to think about what you’re trying to convey.   You’ll soon find that repetitive and incorrect words and phrases will begin jump out at you.

*Neal Wilmore passed on this advice to me and hundreds of other students through Alfrava Latham’s Refresher Grammar course at Charlotte High School back in Michigan.

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