Everyone has that little thing that gets under their skin. I hate styrofoam, I can’t stand it when someone is constantly clearing his or her throat, and I hate hate hate when people have poor grammar. I try not to be a grammar tyrant. I get that the English language is difficult and complicated. I also understand that as humans, we are not perfect, blah blah blah. But seriously. When educated adults use words incorrectly, my inner etymologist dies a little inside. When those said educated adults use poor grammar, I have to remind myself not to correct them (though I usually do end up correcting them).
I’m obviously not perfect here, but we aren’t talking about me here! 🙂 So here are my top 5 grammar/word pet peeves in no particular order:
It’s so simple. As Ross said to Rachel after reading her seventeen page letter, y-o-u-apostrophe-r-e means ‘you are.’ Y-O-U-R means your! It’s so simple! This was one that we used to harp on all the time at my college newspaper and as a teacher I would hound my students about it. It’s simple. Are you really saying ‘you are’? If that’s the case, put an apostrophe in that sucker. You’re! You’re! You’re! And if you’re talking about something that belongs to you (your Mac, your boyfriend, your dog) it’s YOUR.
2. Could care less vs. Couldn’t care less
This is misused all the time and yes, I notice every single time. I think it’s mostly because when we speak we like to shorten things, so we just knocked the ‘n’t’ of couldn’t so we have ‘I could care less.’ It’s incorrect, especially because the phrase ‘I couldn’t care less’ is sarcastic in meaning. Saying I could care less is illogical and implies that you could actually care less about it, but you don’t, so it’s therefore important and you’re not really being sarcastic and the phrase loses it’s meaning.
I saw this one a lot when I was teaching junior high, which makes sense. You’re still developing your spelling skills at this point in life. I helped my students by giving them a visual. Kids love that. Lose is a verb (lose the game, lose your phone). I said loose was used to describe something like ‘these pants are loose’ and to imagine each ‘o’ as a butt cheek. Lo and behold, the number of lose/loose errors dropped dramatically. It’s all about knowing your audience.
4. Then vs than
Ah, again we have a pet peeve from being a junior high teacher. Then is for time and sequence. Than is for comparisons. Never interchange them. Ever.
I have to admit, sometimes I am guilty of this, only because of my tendency to be slightly melodramatic and speak in hyperbole. When Chris Traeger does it on Parks and Rec, it is sort of funny, only because you can tell that the writers are being cheeky about the misuse of the word. I have to say though, I sometimes get frustrated with it. If you are literally doing something, you are actually doing it. If you’re not, then you’re speaking figuratively.
There are tons more I could put on this list, then their/there/they’re, but I figure I would let the lovely readers comment. Which grammar errors drive you nuts? Are you guilty of any on the list? Which ones trip you up? For me, it’s lay vs. lie. One day I will conquer that white whale. Until then (or Friday, actually), I’m out. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @EmHof and Goodreads.