Thursday, February 15, 2007

Grammar bugs

So in my last post, we had a minor discussion over where it was appropriate to use the construct "my brother and I" versus "my brother and me". I've learned that I was wrong about how I used it (although I'll leave the prior post as it stands, since the comments won't make sense otherwise), and I'm happy that I've been reminded of the correct usage now. The big question of the day, however, is what sorts of grammar or spelling mistakes really bug you?

Some of my personal pet peeves include the misuse of words (look them up in the dictionary, if you don't know what they mean, people), the misuse of apostrophes, and spelling mistakes like "lose/loose". I'm tolerant of people making typos, since we're all human, and that's what copy-editors are really for in the whole grand scheme of publishing. But I seriously once had to read through an entire manuscript about poker, where the author just didn't know that when someone loses a poker game, the correct word to use is "lose". Oy.

Fire away, faithful readers: what really bugs you?


Jodi said...

Oh geeze, lose and loose, totally. I'm with you there! And apostrophe abuse is a sad, sad thing.

I'm sure that when I finally figure out the lay/lie/laid/lain thing, it will bug me to see it incorrect but for now I will assume everyone else knows what they're doing. Same with spelling, alas.

Oh, I know. Semicolons used incorrectly! It's better not to use them when you don't know how.

*develops twitch from random semicolons*

Bernita said...

I tend to make the I/me mistake in that instance, too.
Spelling of "separate" as "seperate" tends to turn my crank.
What bugs me the most is not the odd error, but the language nazi who, in his haste to slam some poor sod, fails to grasp that words may have more than one meaning.

adrienne said...

I'm also from the apostrophe camp, drives me mad. But the biggest one for me actually is the "me" "I" problem. It frustrates me so much that I wrote it into my children's novel with the goal of teaching a generation how to use them properly!

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

are/our mistakes, as well as were/where/we're.

When I worked in Texas, my principal would use the phrase, "you might could" instead of "you might be able to". Drove me nuts.

When people forget to use helping verbs and say things like, "I seen that movie."

I teach 7th grade grammar. I could go on and on.

Don said...

"Would of" in place of "would have" (or if you're replicating speech, "would've". In general it's the homophone issue. I also see "our" for "are" and vice versa. Makes me want to slap someone.

Don said...

I took a look at the previous thread to see what was said about "my brother and I/me" thinking back to fourth grade when Mrs Gibson told us to check and see how it sounds with just "I" or "me", then I saw someone's comment about using "we/us" in place of "my brother and I" and realized the pure genius of that approach as it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence (and makes it easier to see that you want to say "between you and me"). "They/them" will work for checking phrases that include "he/she" rather than "I"

Tess said...

For me, I go nuts with the whole it's vs its construct. The number of people who think the possessive form takes an apostrophe always surprises me, especially when I see it on professional signs, flyers etc. I mean, didn't anyone think to check?

cm allison said...

I can "hang in there" with bad speaking grammer, although poor grammer in the written word bothers me, BUT what really grates is all the "like" inserts in conversation now-a-days. Isn't that called "valley talk"? "What-ever" ranks right up there also. Enough! Every third word does not have to be "like" or "what-ever"!

But kudos to all the authors who have the younger generation reading again, prying them from the TV and X-box world.

James Dashner said...

My biggest pet peeve about grammar is when people have pet peeves about grammar and are all snooty about it (like our friend Jack).

I know an author who has mastered the lay/lie rules. Many people just flat out don't get it. But she's so annoying about how stupid and completely idiotic she thinks people are if they use the words incorrectly.

At a conference I once muttered that I need to go lay down for a nap, and she corrected me in front of a bunch of people. And she was serious---"James, it's I need to LIE down for a nap, not LAY down for a nap!". It bugged the crap out of me.

My biggest one has to be lose/loose. As a big sports fan, I see people misuse that ALL THE TIME on sports blogs. I just don't get that one.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

Jodi, I can help with the lay/lie problem.

Lay is to put or place. It follows the same spelling pattern as say.
Lay, laying, laid, have/has/had laid

Lie is to recline or be spread out on (like "Lie down for a nap"). Its past form is lay (which accounts for the confusion).
lie, lying, lay, have/has/had lain

Remember, you lay with your hand and lie with your butt.

December Quinn said...

Lose/loose bugs me. I agree about apostrophe abuse, that drives me crazy!!

I think my biggest pet peeves, though, are people who refer to their fiance/e as their "finace". Or women who get "pregnate". Ugh.

katiesandwich said...

Well, I use "would've" in my writing, and I'm not sorry about it. It's a real word. But that's okay. I can accept the fact that I'm on someone's pet peeve list. My husband is on mine! He writes plays, and he once wrote this stage direction: "He stairs at Bob." Argh! He's a wizz at math, but man, it's hell to edit his stuff.

I agree with this, though: "My biggest pet peeve about grammar is when people have pet peeves about grammar and are all snooty about it." I remember on Kristin Nelson's blog recently, someone who had a problem with Kristin jumped all over her because she made a grammar mistake in her post. I was like (eek, someone else's pet peeve!), "Grow up, people." It's fine to have pet peeves, but don't be bitchy about them. (And I don't think anyone here has been bitchy, BTW. I'm just making this point for what I've seen in general.)

Carl Frederick said...

'Founder' vs. 'Flounder'.
(both are correct but the meanings differ: lie heavy in the water or sink vs. flop around)

'Nuclear' vs. 'Nucular' (presidential usage notwithstanding)

I loathe the word acclimatize (as opposed to acclimate [accent on second syllable, long-i])

'Discrete' vs. 'Discreet' (again, both are correct but with different meanings)

'Like' where one should use 'as if'.
(I really don't like this)

I must admit to often confusing 'Affect' with 'effect'.

Joshua Minton said...

I can't stand it when people put a comma before the final item in a list. I know it's nitpicky but it grates nonetheless.

Glenda P said...

My biggest gripe is people who go around pointing out grammar and spelling mistakes. If I see a few mistakes, I attribute them to typos and brain farts. If I see numerous mistakes, I take away a bad impression of that person. But I don't mention them unless asked.

There/their/they're, your/you're, who's/whose, it's/its, loose/lose, all ready/already, and sight/site/cite (usually preceded by "web") are among my pet peeves. There are probably more in this category that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

I suppose some of those are considered apostrophe abuse, but the one that really sets my teeth on edge is the use of apostrophes to form plurals. "Put three book's on each table." WTF?

I can explain the grammar of lie/lay/laid/lain. But what I can't do is use it correctly without stopping to think. I think my comma usage is decent enough, but I know there are a few aspects I haven't fully grasped. I struggle with when to use "which" and when to use "that".

I'm fairly tolerant of spelling mistakes, although I don't consider using the wrong word to be a spelling mistake. There are several words I can't seem to learn to spell correctly. Bernita's "separate" is one of them. So is "occasional". On the other hand, I don't think there's much excuse these days for not spellchecking.

(1st anon from the other thread)

Anonymous said...

When people spell grammar, grammer.

Irina said...

Punctuation. Specifically, a surfeit of punctuation. I edit a club magazine and most contributors give me unlimited freedom to fix their mistakes, except *one* person, and of course *he* is the one who ends every other sentence with ...!!. (yes, that is an ellipsis, two exclamation marks and a full stop).

Anonymous said...

My pet grammar peeve is ending a sentence with a preposition (or a clause with a preposition). Makes me nuts, but I never correct anyone. I just hear it like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard, then I breathe deeply and move on.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Schoolmarm, you're my hero! Thank you!

December Quinn said...

My pet grammar peeve is ending a sentence with a preposition (or a clause with a preposition). Makes me nuts, but I never correct anyone. I just hear it like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard, then I breathe deeply and move on.

As Winston Churchill said, "That is the sort of English up with which I will not put."


kiwi said...

I'm with James. Aren’t these sorts of discussions a little pedantic and small minded? I mean, ewes peoples must, like really hate Shakespeare, and anyone who wrote before the standardisation of the Queens English (and yes, it’s a (s) in the queen’s tongue).

However, if pushed, I really loathe the Americanisation of the English language. I find it lazy. Catalog, is frigging catalogue, behavior is behaviour and so on ... . And the insistence need to roll your s’s … damn, has someone just put fingernails to chalk board?

Oh, I forgot; this !!.

snarkfodder said...

I'm super sensitive about overused commas, or a parenthetical comma without a partner. This is subjective, I know, because commas don't have to be grammatically incorrect to be out of place. They just have to interrupt the narrative flow.

For example: "So in my last post, we had a minor discussion over where it was appropriate to use..."

Now, technically, a comma could have gone after "So," because "in my last post" is a parenthetical interjection. However, I would instead take OUT the comma after "post," as it doesn't contribute anything but a pause, which isn't necessary.

Example: "... my personal pet peeves include the misuse of words (look them up in the dictionary, if you don't know what they mean, people)..."

The comma after "dictionary" makes me feel like I've stubbed my toe.

Sorry to use your words as an example! It's my comma compulsion, I'm very sick. One of my friends uses at least nine in every sentence and it drives me batty.

Mr Frederick: You have to memorize which is the noun (effect) and which is the verb (affect). Just think of a movie's "special effects." Noun.

kiwi said...

... agree with december quinn, too. If we do not laugh about these things, then what else is there to do.

Jenny Rappaport said...

snarkfodder, it's not a problem at all for you to use my own words as an example. =) In regards to my use of commas, I use them in different ways, depending on the context. When I write this blog, I use the commas as if I was speaking to you; imagine me talking out loud, and that's why the commas are in there--it's where my natural pauses would be. In a formal essay, however, I would use commas in a more consistent manner with the formal rules of grammar.

There's a great book, the title of which I forget right now, which explains the evolution of languages and why there's a distinct difference between spoken and written languages, especially in regards to grammar (and also how writing on the internet is different from formal writing). Now I have to go figure out which book it is, since it's going to drive me crazy until I do.

cm allison said...

sorry anon 12:17, writing at work and sneaking peeks at blogs while acting like working. Didn't go back and visually spell check as a dictionary and accounting don't go together

Demon Hunter said...

I talked about this very same thing in my post last Friday. People using the wrong words all together. Words that are not similar in the least.

Heather Janes said...

It's vs. its and would of in place of would have drive me bonkers. Were, where, we're.... they don't even sound alike, not really! Drive me crazy.

KingM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KingM said...

Here's what really bugs me, the construction that sounds wrong, but isn't. For example, "Everyone should put on his or her coat." Only people say, "Everyone should put on their coats."

So when the snippet of dialogue comes, do I use the gramatically incorrect, but common version, or do I choose the correct usage, but have my characters sound stilted?"

Answer, neither. I am forced to reword the sentence to avoid the construction. Blech.

BuffySquirrel said...

Too many to list. Probably the homophone errors are the most annoying, as they reveal that the person is relying too heavily on their spellcheck. Then again, I annoy people by suggesting they learn the language instead of trying to rationalise it. So it's turnabout.

chisem said...

You rear humans and raise animals, but the younger generation doesn't seem to know the difference, especially those editing major magazines or newspapers.

Yahtzee said...

"Everyone should get their coats" is fine by me. It was considered correct English usage for centuries until there was an effort to stamp it out, starting in the 1800s. That effort never took. People naturally prefer a gender-neutral pronoun, but as English only offers the impersonal "it," we tend to use the plural. Why bow to the artificial rule?

Don't get me wrong -- I love rules that work for us. I will fight for "whom" in its rightful place forever. But obeying rules that work against us, that no longer reflect how people actually use and understand language (or never did reflect it) too easily becomes pedantry.

Anonymous said...

Every time I drive to the library, I'm forced to see a sign across the street that says "Condo's for sale." Every single time, I ask myself "Condo's what for sale? Dishwashers? Front doors? Staircases?"