Gini Dietrich

Grammar Pet Peeves

By: Gini Dietrich | February 2, 2011 | 
224

Before I get started, WE HAVE SNOW!!! And a ton of it. I’ll do the Facebook question of the week tomorrow from the great outdoors so you can see all of the glorious white stuff that is making me so happy. But…we also lost power so I’m having to write quickly to conserve battery power. I have three hours and 55 minutes left right now.

On Sunday, I was visiting Shonali Burke’s blog, Waxing Unlyrical, and her weekly recap, when I came across Jen Zingsheim, a former FH flack (me, too!) and author over at Media Bullseye.

While she doesn’t claim to be Grammar Girl (and really, who is?), she had a great piece titled, “Things That Bug Me More Than They Should.” In it she describes several things that irritate her about our use of the English language and, if you’re like me and agree, you’ll find her snarkiness very funny.

I wrote a comment with the few things that bug me and, because I’m getting close to not having any battery left and because it’s also educational, I thought I’d share my own grammar pet peeves here.

  1. Impact: You can have impacted teeth. A plane can combust on impact. But you cannot have an impact on something. Learn the difference between effect and affect and use those words instead.
  2. Over and Under: A number can not be over or under another number. It can be “more than.” It can be “less than.” But all of those billboards that are trying to save space and read, “Over six gazillion people use our service”? They’re wrong. Just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s right. Now you’re going to edit billboards in your head. Sorry.
  3. Irregardless: This just isn’t a word so stop using it. The word is regardless.
  4. Utilize: Right after I graduated from college, I had this boss who was a grammar Nazi. She used to say, “Oh you think you’re so smart? You can’t use the word “use” instead of utilize?” I loved her.
  5. Like: I had a client whose pet peeve was the word “like.” He would say, “Why can’t you say “such as” instead?” So now I cannot write, “Put comfort foods in the recipe, like chicken, beans, and potatoes.” I have to instead write, “Put comfort foods in the recipe, such as chicken, beans, and potatoes.”

What are some of your grammar pet peeves?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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224 Comments on "Grammar Pet Peeves"

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Shonali
5 years 7 months ago

You’ve lost power! Ugh. I hope it comes back soon – that was the WORST last week, when we had our big storm.

I need to go comment on jenzings ‘ great post as well, but here are a couple of my pet peeves:

1. Not knowing when to use its or it’s, your or you’re. Come ON, people.

2. “Leverage.” I am so so SO tired of this word. Leverage this, leverage that. Why not add a fulcrum while you’re about it?

Ugh. Now stay safe, Gini!

johnfalchetto
5 years 7 months ago

Learnings–
A great management power word and meeting ‘must use’ word. The corporate world seems to thrive on that buzzword. The word ‘learnings’ doesn’t exist people its lessons!!! For crying OUT LOUD!

joey_strawn
5 years 7 months ago

Affect and Effect – that one drives me nuts.
“Centered Around” – gobbledygook jargon.
Its and It’s – This was so hard for me to get straight that it makes me angry when people are lazy with it.

All the other ones are ones you mentioned. I love grammar stuff. Have you read Eats, Shoots & Leaves” about punctuation? It’s hilarious.

JamesDBurrell2
5 years 7 months ago
There is a difference between awhile and a while. You can stay for A While but you cannot stay for AWHILE. Also maybe and may be. “Jamey may be insane. Maybe I am. or maybe I’m not.” Do you understand the difference?. And clearly, folks do take note there is a quantitative difference between “ya’ll” and “all ya’ll”. Ya’ll is relatively small in quantity. For example, “Mrs. Jones, while ya’ll were vacationing at the Okefenokee Swamp, did your family get to eat any gator tail?” Whereas, all ya’ll is a greater collective. “You Auburn fans are living in blind ignorance.… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@johnfalchetto LOL! We could write another entire post on corporate BS jargon. I’m headed over to your blog in a minute.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@Shonali Right?! If you can say it is or your are, there is an apostrophe. And, like @johnfalchetto , we should write a blog post on corporate words.

jenzings
jenzings
5 years 7 months ago

Ha! Thanks for mentioning the post–it was fun to write. I’ve thought of several more, but I think homonyms and homophones seem to present issues for a lot of people. I see “pray” and “prey” mixed up more than I ever thought possible, and yesterday I saw “air” and “err” mixed up. No joke.

And irregardless sets my teeth on edge. Argh!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@joey_strawn I did read it! A few years ago. I think it’s in my bookshelf at work…I’ll have to look.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@JamesDBurrell2 Wow. And here I thought ya’ll wasn’t even a word.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@jenzings And ado and adieu! Oh this is fun!

dzikakis
dzikakis
5 years 7 months ago

Thanks, Gini. This is needed so much! Another one I’ve heard lately is “infer” instead of “imply.”

JamesDBurrell2
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich It’s that kind of thinking that gets you held back a grade or two. I finally learned my lesson in the fifth grade. By the time I finished my elementary school graduation exam that included sections ‘such as’ “How to field dress a buck”, “Properly removing your Camaro’s restrictor plate”, and “Is the Denim tuxedo appropriate for this occasion?” (it was a trick question. It’s always appropriate), I’d never been so relieved to get in my Chevy pickup truck and drive myself home.

Ah, gotta luv our skoolin don her in the south. I wuz lerned so much.

RebekahCrane
RebekahCrane
5 years 7 months ago

This isn’t really grammar, but I hate when people say “No problem.” The proper response is “You’re welcome.” Also… the dangling preposition. “Where you at?” There are so many things wrong with that sentence, or should I say fragment. “Who are you with?” Make the insanity stop!

JenMarsikFriess
JenMarsikFriess
5 years 7 months ago

Another former FHer weighs in! I second Shonali: I’m amazed at the rising misuse if its and it’s. Over and more than has to be one of the most common (and most painful) errors I see. You said it all with this statement: “Just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s right.”

AllieRambles
5 years 7 months ago

@RebekahCrane OH! I HATE “where you at?” Or “I don’t have nothing…” (Pull my hair out!)

bconrey
bconrey
5 years 7 months ago

@johnfalchetto Yes, “learnings” seems to be used frequently in some of my circles. How does adding an ‘s’ to the end of a verb instantly change it to a noun??

AllieRambles
5 years 7 months ago

Effect and affect get me all the time. Either I just avoid using them or I hafta (ha ha), er, need to research them again and again before I use them.
I was taught at an early age that proper writing involves no contrations. What do you think? I always correct my kids when they write reports. No on “don’t”, it is do not. In my blog I am more relaxed about my rule but if I am being graded you will find no contrations.

jenzings
jenzings
5 years 7 months ago
@JenMarsikFriess The Media Bullseye site is down right now (getting fixed as we speak) but in that post I speculated why this might be a growing problem. Other than sheer laziness and not knowing (and by the way, my husband contributed that he had seen the inexplicable its’ the other day), I’ve had Word suggest the *incorrect* version a number of times, and my Android phone also automatically has changed my correct usage to the incorrect form. It’s bad enough that actual humans don’t know the difference, but I’m particularly put out when I am prompted by a machine to… Read more »
bconrey
bconrey
5 years 7 months ago

“Got” makes me crazy, partially because I had to work hard to learn to use it less often. It’s not “We have got” – you either have or you don’t have. It’s not “We got them xxxx”, we purchased it for them, we picked it up for them, or something along those lines.

jenzings
jenzings
5 years 7 months ago

@JamesDBurrell2 @ginidietrich From what I recall, that’s referred to as “book learnin’.”

I spent nine years in mid-Missouri, and I love that you’ve included “y’all” and “all y’all” in this…

LauriRottmayer
LauriRottmayer
5 years 7 months ago

“A part” and “apart”. They are completely opposite of each other. If you want someone to be “a part” of your cause, you do not invite them to be “apart” of it. There are more, but that one is foremost on my mind. 🙂

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
5 years 7 months ago

The wrong use of the words – to, too or two

LauriRottmayer
LauriRottmayer
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich @jenzings How about dido instead of ditto? LOL!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@PattiRoseKnight Patti! That’s a good one. You’re right!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@LauriRottmayer LOL! Love that one, too.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@bconrey Oh yes! We’ve got makes me nuts. It’s we have so we’ve works just as well. Oy.

johnheaney
5 years 7 months ago

“Composed of” vs “comprise”. I even see profession journalists get this one wrong. They are NOT interchangeable and you don’t sound smarter when you substitute comprised when you mean composed.

The rule: the whole comprises the parts. The parts compose the whole.

WRONG: A deck of cards is comprised of 52 cards.

RIGHT: A deck of cards is composed of 52 cards

RIGHT: A deck of cards comprises 52 cards.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@AllieRambles I was taught the same thing and people make fun of me when I write without contraction. So, like you, I’ve tried to be more relaxed when blogging and on the social networks. We have a client, though, who refuses contractions when we write speeches for him, but he always changes it when he speaks. Hilarious.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@jenzings @JenMarsikFriess I think you’re right about the auto correct thing. Probably someone whose first language is not English programmed the phones. 🙂 Speaking of…have you seen http://damnyouautocorrect.com? You’ll lose some time in there.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@AllieRambles @RebekahCrane HAHHA! I also hate sentences that end with a preposition. HATE.

Bekah – when it stops snowing and blowing wind, can the girls go make snow angels with me?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@dzikakis Great. Now when someone says that and it grates my teeth, I’ll blame you.

theunplanner
theunplanner
5 years 7 months ago

I would like to add its and it’s. It’s is a contraction and stands for “it is.” If you cannot substitute “it is” in it’s place in the sentence, please do not use it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@LauriRottmayer @jenzings Dido?! LOL!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@johnheaney You only sound smarter if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know the difference.

LouBortone
LouBortone
5 years 7 months ago

Hi Gini:

I love this post! Aint words great?

However, I have to disagree with number three. As a Boston native, I am ethically and contractually required to use Irregardless. Maybe it’s a local dialect thing – I’ll have to check with Ben Affleck. Irregardless, I agree with everything else in your list…

johnheaney
5 years 7 months ago

The misuse of “compliment” when the writer really means “complement”.

Although the words are pronounced the same, they have very different meanings. When you compliment someone, you are giving them praise; while complement represents completing or making something perfect. You can remember this by the word with the “e” also means complete. Complement = complete. Here are a few examples:

I complimented her on her beautiful gown.
Her gown complemented her earrings perfectly.
The dancer received many compliments for her beauty and grace on stage.
The music was a perfect complement to her dancing style.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@LouBortone LOL! Well, Ben Affleck is hot, if nothing else, so I’d go with his opinion on it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 7 months ago

@johnheaney Oh! And stationary and stationery.

noovai
noovai
5 years 7 months ago

I love every comment that improves the way people use language! English is not my mother tongue so I must ask: my actions can _have_ an impact, and I can _make_ an impact, but are you saying I cannot _have_ an impact on something? (See http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/impact_1, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impact).

Examples – and corrections – of misspelling that drive me nuts: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

daniellemkelly
daniellemkelly
5 years 7 months ago

Great post! I really enjoyed reading it. I would saw then vs than is a pet peeve of mine. It’s and Its are a close second. I agree with Noovai, I love The Oatmeal post about misspelling. It makes me laugh when I am having a bad day. You should check out their post about the use of the semicolon too, equally funny stuff.

lisagerber
lisagerber
5 years 7 months ago

And another thing!! Orientate, and disorientated, are NOT WORDS!

barryrsilver
5 years 7 months ago

Nothing like a post that hits home. As far as pet peeves, misspelled words make me nuts. With all the tools available, there is no reason to misspell a word. The rules of grammar are malleable. Growing up “ain’t” wasn’t a word (OK acceptable contraction). I have been told that “ain’t” is no longer merely slang. So what was once poor grammar is no longer poor grammar.

lisagerber
lisagerber
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich @johnfalchetto oh oh oh i love making fun of corporate jargon. we used to play corporate jargon bingo in meetings which is stupid because I’d bust out laughing when someone says “low hanging fruit” and “at the end of the day” . It was really unprofessional when I stood up and shouted BINGO! when someone said “helicoptor up to 30,000 feet”

jenzings
jenzings
5 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich @LauriRottmayer Oh, God–this takes the cake for homophones. From a post on a large blog: “The CSR, [redacted], was able to see the credit (not a poultry sum coming in at $385.04) but told me it was placed “on hold.”

A poultry sum? REALLY?

We need to keep a list of these…

RandomShelly
5 years 7 months ago
Hmmm… People use the word Ironic incorrectly. I HATE “I don’t_____ nothing” My 5 year old has been saying liberry because that is how he hears it at school (IRKS ME) – so I make him practice liBRary (I know it is speech and not grammar, but that came to mind.) I have, like, totally tried to irradicate ‘like’ from my vocabulary. prepositions at the end of a sentence… enough said. and the all time favorites, too to, your you’re… Irregardless, I think I can utilize this comment box and put lots of stuff, like over 100 comments, would that… Read more »
RandomShelly
5 years 7 months ago

@JamesDBurrell2 @ginidietrich I’m from the south – so grew up using Y’all – spelled that way.. I can live with ridicule on that but, seriously, you also have to pick on my team?? 🙂

PatKentSays
5 years 7 months ago

Glad you’re enjoying the snowpocalypse too… Though i guess today its starting to turn into the ice capades today. As for my grammer pet peeve it would have to be people that use “your” when trying to shorten “you are”. Come on its “you’re”!

PatKentSays
5 years 7 months ago

Glad you’re enjoying the snowpocalypse too… Though i guess today its starting to turn into the ice capades. As for my grammer pet peeve it would have to be people that use “your” when trying to shorten “you are”. Come on its “you’re”!

DannyBrown
5 years 7 months ago

All I have to say is this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StJ-OK4jiSY

Additionally, while not a grammar peeve per se, I get really antsy over blog posts where the formatting jumps between normal font and bold or large, with no rhyme or reason why it does. 😉

mikecollado
mikecollado
5 years 7 months ago
When I first started working, I was shocked to read memos and emails from the CEO and other executives that were filled with grammatical errors and other misused words. I thought, “How in the world did these people get these jobs when they butcher the English language?” (Spoken like an English major!) For context, most were technologists. I’m more numb to it but I still zero-in on these things… Misused words pet peeve: “there” vs. “their” vs. “they’re.” Didn’t we get taught that in, say, fourth grade? Ugh! Corporate BS jargon pet peeve: “a leading provider of…” Seems like EVERY… Read more »
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