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Gini Dietrich

Grammar Pet Peeves

By: Gini Dietrich | February 2, 2011 | 
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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, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

211 comments
diana
diana

*kill your darlings* - Stephen King

Some of my darlings used to manifest themselves the form of unnecessarily ridiculously addictive adverbs which I used freely and ubiquitously and sensuously and at times, illegally.

My other darlings showed their troll-like little faces in the passive. They would be highlighted by me and I would be enchanted by them. I told them that they were not permitted. No. I told them I would not allow them. I got active. So there, little trolls.

Then there were the ones I killed before they were born. Those ugly little *it's* thingies that took the place of pretty *its* thingies when I would talk about *it* in the possessive. It's a smart cookie that can separate its possessives from its contractions.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Can anyone tell me why Weird is an exception I before E? It really pisses me off.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Dear everyone. Don't hold back. Seriously. Let it all out. It is ok. You are safe here among friends.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Yes! Numbers 2, 3, and 5 are at the top of my list, too! I knew I liked you, Gini. Anyone who lists grammar pet peeves is aces in my book ;-)

Oh, the one I'll share is "spayed". When you have a female dog fixed, she is "spayed". Not spade or spayeded. Females are spayed and males are neutered. Don't make me send Bob Barker to your home to teach you the difference!

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

Did someone mention "enamored with" vs "enamored of?" I HATE that one. It's "enamored of." That's your only option.

And using "like" as a comma. As in "I was like SO tired! And she was like SO tired too!" Please. Were you tired or not?? Or using it in place of speaking verbs. As in "And I was like 'when are you coming over?' and she was like 'about 11:00.'" Yikes.

bdorman264
bdorman264

Whoa, way too deep; ok, I'll give you irregardless. What I'm fixin' to tell ya'll is down heah in the south just give me a general picture and I'll know what you are talking about.......doesn't need to be perfect.

I find malopropisms are the ones that have me shaking my head; and of course I'm the polite guy that doesn't correct somebody. It's humorous when people do it trying to sound intelligent and it comes out just the opposite.

Only Yogi Berra can do it w/ style..................Deja Vu all over again............
B

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Uhm I wasn't their a post on Madagascar or Egypt or something yesterday? Anyhoot use knows the only ways to have good gramma on and spellin on the Livefur is if they adds some spellin check feature or a re-ediit option. Just sayin.

cvharquail
cvharquail

As a writer and a prescriptive grammarian, I must gently take issue with your assertion about the correctness of the phrase "have an impact on". That phrase is, in fact, grammatically correct.

http://languageandgrammar.com/2008/02/13/more-on-impact/
http://languageandgrammar.com/2008/01/18/impact-does-not-mean-to-affect/

There are many ways to misuse the word impact, either as a noun or as a verb. One might even misuse the phrase "have an impact on" -- for example, meaning "influence" instead of "strike forcefully".

I'm off to patrol for the phrase "between you and I". ;-)

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

Compound modifiers. Give those bad boys a hyphen, please. it's a clear-cut grammar rule, people! :)

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

I have a pet peeve - it's people who pick on other people's grammar. Which I say with all due respect, and stick with me -

Language is an evolving thing, which means grammar evolves, as well. Some people are prescriptive grammarians - they want rules, etc. I'm a descriptive grammarian. Language evolves. Usage changes.

Please understand, I was an English major, I'm a communications person, AND a hardcore poetry reader, so I notice when someone is "doing it wrong." It sticks out to me. But I also believe what I wrote above, that language evolves, and if enough people take language in that direction, the "rules" change.

NOW, another pet peeve I hate what the business world has done to language. Businesspeople pimp the words out without understanding what they mean. "Impact" "irregardless" and "utilize" are such words, to me. "Leverage synergies" hell, "leverage" anything. The entire point of business jargon is to confuse and inflate, NOT communicate. It sickens me. This is one evolution of language I will fight forever. So, I contradict myself!

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

Has anyone weighed in on e.g. vs i.e. confusion yet?

WalkerLucas
WalkerLucas

The grammar mistakes I hate the most, are the ones that I make myself. There is nothing worse than rereading something that I've written and then realizing that I made a "I should know better than that" mistake.

GripCommPR
GripCommPR

1. Incent - it was a while ago, but I once had to sit through a multi-day business retreat where a guy from Tulsa who was with our parent company kept talking (in a well-honed drawl) about how the company was looking for new ways to incent us to be more productive. My ears bled.

2. "Her and I", "Me and her" as in "Her and I went to the store yesterday."

3. Go/goes - So she goes, "Why can't you be more like him?" and I go, "What does THAT mean?"

4. Verses - This is a growing favorite among grade school kids, though I believe I've succeeded in eradicating it from under my roof. It grew out of the term "versus" as in "Ali versus (or vs.) Frazier." The kids have twisted it and made it into a conjugated verb as in, "Yesterday we versed the Colts in baseball. Next week we're versing the Bluejays. But we've never versed the Reds before."

5. Stint vs. stent - unfortunately, this one has come to light mostly because of issues close to home, but my ER nurse sister and I, her somewhat wordwise brother, repeatedly bristled at my dad's use of the former in place of the latter to describe the small apparatus that will soon be inserted to improve his circulation. He was, sadly, not alone in his misuse of the term.

Well, my kids just walked through the door so I must end my post here and see if I can incent them to finish their homework. It's always difficult versing their desires to play when they still have work to do.

sarabroderick
sarabroderick

Great post. I agree on all five. My top two grammar pet peeves are probably "over" v. "more than" and "effect/affect." (Helpful tip is that "effect" is typically a noun.)

Other pet peeves:

Because v. since
People use "since" to provide rationale. For example, "Since it snowed, I am going to shovel." The correct way is "Because it snowed, I am going to shovel." "Since" should only be used when referring to time. "Since it started snowing, I have shoveled three times."

Dangling participle
A dangling participle modifies an incorrect subject or noun. Here's an example, "Skiing down the mountain, the snow-covered trees looked beautiful." The correct structure might be, "Skiing down the mountain, we saw beautiful snow-covered trees."

bricefaubel
bricefaubel

I could probably comment for days, but here are 2 hot buttons for me:

1: "a whole nother..." Come on, idiots, the correct phrase is "a whole other." Learn it.
2. the use of "bandwidth" as a term to represent availability - makes me want to smack someone. (feel free to include the latter in the Marketing Speak follow-up post)

Oh, and the excuses that we are becoming more casual as professionals or that we are emailing on our phones or texting should never be accepted.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@jelenawoehr Thanks for fighting the good fight with me! Goes to show how much work there is to be done to educate people about pet overpopulation if they don't even know how to spell the freakin' word, right? Glad to meet someone else who knows the difference and is calling out the offenders ;-)

jelenawoehr
jelenawoehr

@WordsDoneWrite I keep seeing "spaded!" Oddly enough they don't appreciate me asking if that means their dog passed on and was buried with a garden spade... but I bet they'll remember "spayed" next time. The things I do for grammar.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@ginidietrich You seriously thought he was dead? No, not at all. He just retired, that's all. He was here in LA a few months ago to dedicate a building that he had built for PETA. He's a true friend to all animals, wild and domestic.

Ok, off my soap box now and back to grammar ;-) #SemicolonsRule

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@WordsDoneWrite I'm well aware of his work on having your pets taken care of, but I thought he was dead. I mean, Drew Carey hosts the show now. And does Drew Carey do the same for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society?

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@ginidietrichI'm going to pretend you didn't say that because I like you. :-) Yes, Bob Barker is alive and very involved in promoting animal issues. From about.com:

"In 2010, Barker donated $5 million to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to fight whaling, as well as $1 million to SHARK to fight pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania.
Barker has also donated $2 million to his alma mater, Drury University, to establish the Dorothy Jo Barker Endowed Professorship of Animal Rights and to establish an animal ethics course at Drury. Barker has also made several million-dollar donations to law schools such as the University of Virginia, Columbia Law School, and Stanford Law School, for the establishment of animal law programs."

Bob Barker is an amazing philanthropist. See, now aren't you glad you asked if he was still alive?

bdorman264
bdorman264

@cmjohns @ginidietrich See, I said I don't need to get too deep on this..........y'all; ya'll; hey you; knucklehead; I just need to get the gist of where you are taking me, I'm not looking for perfection. However, you will never see me misspell y'all again...............:). I was impressed I even remembered an apostrophe.............

cmjohns
cmjohns

@ginidietrich @bdorman264 It's y'all. :)

I have to say the grammar pet peeve that drives me crazy is that nobody knows that CANNOT is ONE WORD.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Oops it would be yesterday's correct instead of yesterdays right?

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

BTW if this was yesterdays post does that mean I have to come back here again today for today's post?

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

@ginidietrich I am totally agreeing and disagreeing with you! Is that okay? We can do that, we're fellow English majors (psyched to read this).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jennwhinnem So let me get this straight. You're disagreeing with me, but also agreeing with me?! I agree the language evolves, but the constant butchering of our vocabulary AND the business language drive me nuts. It's not like me writing a blog post is going to change anything. But the next time you see a billboard that says "over," you're going to think, "IT IS MORE THAN, YOU MORONS!"

Oh...and...you ARE an English major. And I am too. #justsayin

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

@FollowtheLawyer
Or are they just the apes laughing at the one who just started walking upright? I think grammar griefers miss out. They spend their time making fun of people, instead of exploring the wonderful world of language. I'm going to refer to someone else's TED Talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/erin_mckean_redefines_the_dictionary.html Like her, I want to be a deep sea fisherman, NOT a traffic cop.

That said, people's inability to grasp the rules gives me a job. For that I am grateful.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

@barryrsilver I agree that a shared set of rules makes communication not only easier, but possible. I highly doubt however that some of the people who break into hives over basic grammar, spelling, and homonym errors are not really having trouble understanding someone else's meaning, they're just irritated. If you can find me an example of someone making such egregious errors that another cannot easily understand them, I'd like to see it. As for mixed metaphors - now you're speaking my music!

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

@jennwhinnem Yes, language evolves, and that means that variants and mutations have to be strong enough to assert themselves. Grammar griefers play an important and necessary role in that evolutionary struggle for meaningful expression.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@jennwhinnem I am all for colorful phraseology, use a lot of different vernacular in my language choices. Evolution is one thing but corruption, dumbing down quite another. MMV. I've posted it before, you gotta know the rules to know how to break them. I am totally with you on the pointless jargon hence my links to @unsuckit and now @businessbarf .

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

@jennwhinnem I agree with your opening premise except the onus is on the presenter of the communique to make sure that the message is received and understood. This means making sure grammar is clear so that the trees don't block the forest. How are you on mixed metaphors?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@GripCommPR It was everything I could do not to tweet you this morning and use the word incent.

LauriRottmayer
LauriRottmayer

@bricefaubel Or another whole. Oy. That one makes me crazy, too, and you can hear newscasters using that phrase!

GripCommPR
GripCommPR

@bricefaubel a whole nother - Thank you! That was the one I was thinking of but could not remember.

Trackbacks

  1. […] have any grammatical pet peeves?  I do, and I thought I was the only one, but when I read the Spin Sucks Social Media Blog  post today on Grammar Pet Peeves, I was happy to see I have company.  English is my second […]

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