Good Grammar Costs Nothing

good grammar.indexed

2016 Update: We still stand by the advice below, but do check out our latest discussion of grammar rules you absolutely, seriously must know.

I’ve seen a lot of fun grammar roundups lately, such as The Oatmeal’s breakdown of who versus whom, and this Buzzfeed roundup of grammar jokes.  So I thought we’d have a little discussion: what are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to grammar (particularly with coworkers)? What are your best tips?  (Pictured: I own this shirt!  Good grammar costs nothing, $16 at Glarkware.)

For my $.02 — as a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern (my undergrad degree), I sat through so many lessons in copyediting that I still remember the different meanings of ordinance and ordnance, and the proper spelling of ophthalmologist.  (Ha, I kid, WordPress’s spellcheck just changed my A to an O. Fine.)  This came in handy during my Bluebook years (I went on to become executive editor of Georgetown’s law review).  Accordingly, I’m always, hugely, deeply embarrassed whenever I make a mistake!  I definitely used grammar as a gauge with coworkers (particularly subordinates).  I even remember holding my breath the first time my husband emailed me, hoping against hope that this Guy I Really Liked would not totally ruin that impression with poor spellings or some frat-brat colloquialisms (yo yo yo dawg!).  I even spent some time in my mid-20s (? the thought of having this much free time boggles my mind) making up little JPGs with lessons from When Words Collide, my favorite grammar book, which I used for my Windows screensaver for a time.  Such as this one, on the difference between bad and badly:

bad, badly

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I guess the grammar lessons that I use the most are these:

  • It’s = It Is (otherwise, its)
  • Stationery/stationary – E is for eraser, A is for action
  • That/Which — If the phrase that you want to use is an essential part of the sentence, use that.  If it could be a sentence of its own, use which.

I’ll admit that I Google a lot too, when in doubt (particularly with word choice) — but I think being a bit of a grammar nerd and knowing that, say, there’s a difference between compliment/complement, elicit/illicit, discreet/discrete, etc, is half the battle.

Readers, what are your best tips with grammar?  What gaffes drive you up the wall when you see coworkers, friends, or dates make them?  Which are your favorite books or blogs to brush up your grammar skills?

Comments

  1. I am bias.

    I see this all.the.time and it drives me nuts.

    • ugh, SECONDED.

    • +1. And “case and point” and “mute” point and these go “hand and hand” and with all “do respect.”

      Things like Oxford comma or other style choices don’t bother me, and I give people a pass in informal, personal correspondence. But in your work email, please don’t use emoticons or text speak. If you email me “R u working on that or shld i? :-) thx” I will permanently judge you as an idiot. Unfair, but true.

      • If someone emailed me that string of letters you just typed out, if I thought I could get away with it I would run to their office and go “oh you’re okay. I thought you must have had some medical emergency judging by your email. It was just a string of letters.” If I couldn’t I would email them back and say ‘excuse me?’

      • This will probably out me and it is not grammar-related, but CONVERSATE ISN’T A WORD!

        • Anonymous :

          !!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Kat – this ended up in the wrong spot. I started a new post, but it appeared under my initial reply. Also, with only 51 comments, a bunch are kicked onto the second page.

  2. Anonymous :

    This isn’t exactly incorrect grammar, it’s just not the correct (or a real) word– when people call espresso “expresso.”

    For shameeeee! Love, coffee lovers everywhere.

    • Honestly, most things that self-proclaimed grammar police like to brag on and nag on are matters of style and usage, not grammar.

      • Seattle Freeze :

        THANK you.

        • +1
          If you’re going to judge someone for making a grammar or usage error, then please make sure you know *exactly* what you are talking about.

          • I’m not sure how this relates to my comment… ???

          • @OP. Didn’t mean to offend. I was just agreeing w/ the person who said that people are correcting usage and not grammar. Separately, I pointed out that if people are going be nitpicky, then they certainly ought to know the difference b/w the two. Again, didn’t mean to offend.

      • Even in cases when something is patently incorrect, I just don’t think there’s a gracious way to correct, complain later behind the person’s back, or hold oneself out as a grammarian in general. To me, this t-shirt says “I am better than you!” Also, learning disabilities and dyslexia are more common than many people realize, including among high achieving professionals. You never know when you’re shaming someone for doing her best.

        I get annoyed too, but I see it as my problem unless it’s on work product associated with me. In those cases, it’s either an opportunity for reminders or a basic copy-editing task for someone who can do it well.

        • Maddie Ross :

          I agree with this. I will change things that are incorrect in work product with which I am associated. I will ding people in an interview for errors in a resume or writing sample. But I will grin and bear it when someone sends me an email or says something to me in conversation. I may silently judge, but I will not correct. As Monday states, I’m not sure there’s a gracious way to do it.

        • Anonymous :

          Agreed. Also, English is some people’s second, third, fourth… language. Unless the self-appointed-grammar-police can speak an equal number of languages as fluently, judgment is unjustified. Most polyglots appreciate polite and constructive corrections, but never judgment.

    • I got called out on this once at a coffee shop. “what’s expresso?” I thought it was tacky.

    • Anonymous :

      I think it’s very snobby to correct people on espresso vs expresso. The only reason you do that is to make someone else feel stupid.

      • I never said I corrected anyone on this, it just irritates me. Is that not allowed? I thought that was the purpose of this thread! Sheesh!

      • Its like correcting people on bruschetta, mozzarella, gnocchi or any of the many many other Italian words that have become part of English parlance but are frequently mispronounced.

        (And if you do this, you best be ordering your pad thai, pho, bahn mi, enchiladas, or whatever with perfect accents. Just saying.)

      • I think you are absolutely correct. Slate just had a great article on this “Stop being a grammar bully”– Correcting people’s grammar, pronunciation, word usage (with the exception of the work product) is simply a way for smart people to bully. There is no polite way to do it, and I doubt the person even cares about being polite. They are clearly saying “I am better and smarter than you. You are an idiot.”

  3. I am a banana. :

    This is my favorite grammar post of all time. I like it alot.
    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

  4. mintberrycrunch :

    It drives me crazy when people say “I could care less.” No, you mean that you COULDN’T care less….

  5. Paraprofessional :

    “If you have any questions, please speak to Jim or myself.”

    • YES!

    • Aaaaagh! I hate when people use myself when they mean me!!

    • God yes. Especially because it’s usually misused by people who aren’t very bright but think that saying “myself” sounds high class.

      • soul of a grammarian :

        Even worse: “… please speak to Jim or I.” I actually prefer honest mistakes in grammar (“Sammy and me are going to the store” to instances of using “I” in the accusative or dative case for the purpose of sounding correcter. I would never correct anyone out loud – except perhaps my children – but I do admit to judging in silence.

  6. Ha, love the oxford comma joke in buzzfeed.

  7. Anonymous :

    “Myself” instead of “me”. Nails on a chalkboard.

  8. Your/you’re
    There/they’re/their
    To/too
    Who’s/whose

    …I can forgive a who/whom error, but these drive me insane.

    • Sad Runner :

      Even as someone who usually extra-aware of these, I will occasionally make one of the above mistakes. When I catch it, I am always surprised with myself because I know those rules very well.

      So, if someone I know makes the mistake, I generally try to give them the benefit of the doubt. But if I’m in a bad mood or otherwise suspect that they don’t know that they’re applying the rule incorrectly, I just feel bad that they didn’t learn one of the most basic grammar rules.

  9. I have different approaches for different settings. I hold myself to a higher standard for written work product/correspondence with superiors and clients, and hold those my subordinates to those same standards. I try to reserve judgment, though, as mistakes are inevitable. In more casual settings, I try to let everything slide unless clarity is an issue. I used to be quite a pill about grammar and spelling. Whenever I feel those old irritable waves coursing in, I remind myself that English common nouns lost their capitalization because Alexander Pope fancied Italian typefaces (or so the story goes). That being said, I can’t help but see red when I read a sign that says “insure” when it means “ensure.”

  10. Not a grammar mistake, but the use of ‘irregardless’ drives me up the wall.

    • Miss Behaved :

      Yup. When I moved to Providence, my co-workers had particularly bad grammar. I used to send an email to my friend with a weekly tally.

      One of the managers in my department at the time used “supposably” on a daily basis.

    • What about “with regards to —-“? I have a friend who gripes about this one all the time because court reporters will frequently write that in the transcript as something she said when she says “With regard to X argument…” or what have you.

      • Brooklyn Paralegal :

        My fiance still doesn’t let me live down two-month period in which I used “with regard to” with appalling frequency because I had just finished reading Infinite Jest.

      • They were helping :

        Sometimes there is just no winning though…

        http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/regard-versus-regards?page=all

    • Me, too. My dislike of “irregardless” is so well known that the engineers I work with will use it on purpose just to make me sputter.

  11. Not a grammar issue, but I can’t stand it when people use the term “a fraction” to mean a small percentage of the whole. A fraction can be 99/100! 3/4! 4/5! None of those amounts are that much smaller than the whole. Doesn’t everyone learn what a fraction is in grade school? Why is this term so mis-used? I suspect I am the only person this has ever bothered, but I figure this is the place to air small grievances….

    • Fraxtious :

      fraction [ˈfrækʃən]
      n
      1. (Mathematics) Maths
      a. a ratio of two expressions or numbers other than zero
      b. any rational number that is not an integer
      2. any part or subdivision a substantial fraction of the nation
      3. a small piece; fragment

      • anonymama :

        Yes, I think the third definition is actually pretty common, standard, accepted usage. (e.g., “the top brands at a fraction of the cost!”)

  12. “(Ha, I kid, WordPress’s spellcheck just change my A to an O. Fine.)”

    I believe you mean “just changed.”

    MEDILL F

  13. Actually, knowing is half the battle. The other two fourths are red lasers and blue lasers, respectively.

  14. Calibrachoa :

    “Could of”

    Drives me up the wall every time.

  15. “The thing is is that . . .” I don’t even understand where the two is thing means. Who started that???

    • Oh, for the love. I changed my sentence to avoid it ending in a preposition (because of the topic) and thereby inserted a typo. Good riddance.

  16. ms. pacific :

    Awesome devastating breakup threadjack – how do you tell the people in your very collegial, warm, and friendly office that you have broken up with your long term partner? Everyone knows and likes him, and this was unexpected. Not sure I can talk about it without getting upset, but surprise inquiries as to how he’s doing are going to result in straight up ugly-crying, so I’d like to pre-empt.

    • I don’t have experience to back this up, but my suggestion is to tell your closest work friend/colleague and ask him/her to please spread the word for you.

      • this. and share with someone you know will gossip. also, follow up an awkward convo with someone with a quick e-mail, call, or visit to their office/cubicle to say–look, I appreciated your asking how such and such and I are doing, but I wanted to let you know that he and I are going through a break up right now, and I was not sure how to address it. and who knows, perhaps that person can sympathize and share their own experience with a break up.

      • This is good advice. I never thought about it, but one could use that for other tough situations (divorce, death, illness). Just make sure this close friend can be discrete (used that spelling in the spirit of the topic!).
        But really, that is good advice.

        • I will always love my best friend for shooting an email to all of our friends when someone close to me died. I got comforting text messages throughout the day without having to repeat the news endlessly.

    • Anonymous :

      Hug’s to you. When I broke up with Alan, Ibrought hummus in and told everybody right away. With the right food, they will want to eat, but not commizzerate. Do that and you’ll be fine!

      The judge LOVED my outfit and I won ALL OF my motion’s!!!! YAY!!!!

    • I like anon’s suggestion about having one trusted colleague quietly spread the word. I am so sorry. I know this is a really tough time for you. We have a smaller community of women on facebook who discuss dating and relationships. I know we would love to be a source of support for you if you’re interested in joining. Sometimes it is easier to talk things through with strangers…

      • ms. pacific :

        Thanks all. Operation “tell the talkative person” successfully executed. And offer of support gratefully accepted – where does one find this smaller community?

        • Email zoradances at gmail dot com :) [Zora, hope it is okay to invite people to our group!]

          • Heck to the yeah!! Email me and I’ll send an invite to the fb group. A LOT of us have been through breakups recently, so we are totally there for venting and moral support for anyone who needs it. It really sucks. :o( HUGS!

    • Carrie Preston :

      Oh I’m sorry. I just went through this myself & have a similar office. I just told people individually & it was surprisingly nice – people were supportive & really nice. I’m also comfortable enough with them that tearing up in front of them didn’t bother me so much. I personally preferred telling myself rather than asking someone to do it for me because it made things more comfortable going forward – no one was in that awkward place of having to say “I heard, are you okay” or pretending that they didn’t know because I hadn’t said, or not asking about him, etc. Hugs to you.

  17. “Would of” instead of “would have” or “would’ve” drives me absolutely batty.

  18. I hate it when people use “I” when they should use “me.” Someone went overboard on correcting people who used “me” when they should have used “I” and now people have no idea how to use either one!

    • Yes, thank you! I’ve had clients insist that it should be “Mr. Smith told my lawyer and I that …” when it should be “me”, and I have had awkward conversations where I had to explain that no, I am right.

  19. “Vise-a versa.” nails. on. a chalkboard.

  20. “Can you email that to John and I?” Or any preposition “and I.” Kills me, especially because people think they’re saying something smart when they use “I” instead of “me.”

    “Feel badly” gets me, too. I think that’s another one that makes people think they’re being smart.

    I also wish everyone could learn the difference between something that is a coincidence, something that is unfortunate, and something that is “ironic.”

  21. not grammar related, but I just spotted the item that might break my vacation budget. http://www1.bloomingdales.com/shop/product/coach-legacy-leather-chelsea-carryall?ID=772537&CategoryID=1000358&PageID=21533*1*24*-1*-1*1

    *i die*

  22. Oh, where to begin!? (I’m a copy editor in a creative field.)
    I drive “real” fast
    Irregardless
    Using quotes inside punctuation when they should be outside, “Like so,” not “like so”.
    Your/you’re errors
    All intensive purposes

    • Veronique :

      Ugh, the last one is the absolute worst!!! Though irregardless drives me crazy as well. The punctuation/quotes issue varies by country, so it may be more of a cultural issue than a grammatical issue.

      • I think the quotes thing got worse after everyone read Eats, Shoots and Leaves because she’s British and therefore was talking about British usage. (Fun fact: Jeopardy! put the quotes inside periods, etc. I actually wrote to them, since I have nothing better to do, and they wrote back to say that it was their “house style,” but thanks for the email.)

  23. Miss Behaved :

    I also hate when people use “that” when they mean “who”

  24. The incorrect use of contractions drives me batty…

    Also, I love the grammar ‘joke’:

    “Let’s eat Grandma! vs. Let’s eat, Grandma!” — Punctuation saves lives.

    • Calibrachoa :

      It is certainly a more appropriate than the one with helping your Uncle Jack dismount…

    • Brooklyn Paralegal :

      During a freshman year debate about the necessity/meaning of punctuation (I went to a strange liberal arts college, enough said) our professor wrote this on the board and I still guffaw every time I see it.

  25. SoCalAtty :

    It’s a MOOT point. Not a mute point. Your point is not unable to speak.

    Various permutations of “errands.” I’ve seen errans, erins, errunds….

    • Joey Tribbiani :

      It’s a moo point. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

    • Useless fun fact: moot technically means the opposite of what people think it means. The actual definition is subject to debate, discussion or uncertainty. This is why “moot court” makes sense. But, of course, most people use it to mean “something that no longer matters.” I guess it’s like nauseated vs. nauseous — if enough people use the word a certain way, it evolves to have that definition.

      • Lyra Silvertongue :

        I just saw a 2L on an episode of What Not to Wear this morning say she was wearing an outfit under discussion to her “mute court.” o.o

      • anon-oh-no :

        youre correct AIMS re the definition — and its relation to moot court — but the more common usage i believe comes from “courts” as well, and not just usage evolution. That is, the legal use of the word — an issue or point or controversy is moot, as opposed to ripe, when it no longer matters, or more specificlaly, is no longer subject to debate, discussion, or uncertainty. I suspect it evolved from the idea of moot court (i.e., because the issue was no longer ripe, consideration by the court would be like a moot court), but have no idea.

      • Yes, language evolves or becomes acceptable. I see a lot of “try and [do something]” instead of try to [do something].” I think the former has become acceptable. And what about a person “resonating” instead of the subject resonating with a person?

  26. springtime :

    Related point- does anyone else find “thx” sort of, almost…rude? I feel like it always comes across as dismissive, like you really don’t mean it, or that you’re trying to hide your annoyance. I would not use it in work emails, but I see it quite often.

    • Veronique :

      I think it’s fine with friends/family or even over IM for work (we use abbreviations all the time at my company, such as yw for you’re welcome), but I would never use it in a work email.

  27. True Story. I once had some reputable consultants send me a report. On the executive summary, they used the term “wha-la” complete with a hyphen. I nearly died – in what universe is that a professional word, and how do you not at least google the correct spelling???

    • Veronique :

      That drives me crazy! I’ve seen so many variations on that word, including wala, walla, wahla, etc.

      It’s also annoying when people type “word (sp)” when they’re not sure how to spell a word. Less than a minute of googling or spell check and you have the right spelling!

  28. Sydney Bristow :

    I’m sure I drive everyone crazy! I never learned a lot of the rules of grammar. I do look things up though and think I’ve finally cemented the its versus it’s rule. I still get mixed up on when to use me, myself, or I but after reading the comments I think I probably do ok with that since the examples seem clearly wrong to me.

    I do rock at the to/too/two and their/they’re distinctions and can cite check a legal brief like nobody’s business. Trying to focus on the positive!

    I’d love to hear the little rules or rhymes people learned to deal with common grammar issues.

    • Veronique :

      For me, myself and I, read the sentence in the singular, without the other name(s).

      Examples:
      “Liz and myself are going to the store.” Once you remove Liz and say “Myself is going to the store,” you know that it should be “Liz and I are going to the store” because in the singular you would say “I am going to the store.”

      “Are you coming with Ann and I?” becomes “Are you coming with I?” becomes “Are you coming with me?” becomes “Are you coming with Ann and me?”

    • I posted this below but the me vs. I rule is really simple when you think of it without the other person involved. E.g., “John and I are going to dinner” is right because it would also be “I am going to dinner.” But “Sally and me went to the park” is incorrect because you would never say “me went to the park.” Myself is basically the same as me so if you can’t use me, you shouldn’t use myself. Almost all of these rules tend to make sense if you just think about them logically so for me sometimes the most helpful thing is to look up an explanation once or just reason it through. I am a big fan of the grammar girl website for this sort of background and helpful little rhymes.

    • A Nonny Moose :

      I follow grammar girl on Facebook. She often posts very helpful tips and they always have mnemonics for remembering.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Thanks guys! I guess I naturally use it correctly when it is near the beginning of the sentence. I get mixed up when it’s at the end. I’ll try using your suggestion when that comes up!

  29. Baconpancakes :

    “Nauseous” when you mean “nauseated.”

    Your nausea doesn’t make you nauseous until you lose your lunch, at which point I become nauseated at the sight of you being nauseous.

    But it’s so obscure at this point, I accept that the common usage of nauseous is “to feel like throwing up” and don’t bother correcting anyone.

    • oh there is something similar with the word evacuated…”Evacuate the building” means that people left the building. “Evacuate the employees” means something very different.

  30. Anonymous :

    This might be regional, but I can’t stand when people say “a whole nother” as in “well that’s a whole nother thing…”

    Another or a whole other thing!

    • anonymama :

      Huh, I always think of this rather fondly as a standard colloquialism. But to me it is not really a direct substitute for “another” or “a whole other thing” (The former doesn’t really express the correct emphasis, and the latter sounds really awkward), but rather “an entirely separate matter.” I am somewhat of a stickler for grammar but even more interested in the nuance of language, which is, and always has been, a fertile ground for growth and change.

  31. I enjoyed this article.

    http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1003885/17-phrases-youre-probably-saying-wrong

    • When I first saw this list, I thought it had to be a joke. I can’t imagine these mistakes being common ones! But then, I had no idea about “another thinK” coming. In fact, I’m still skeptical about that one!

      • It’s because the whole idiom is “If you think that, you’ve got another think coming.” The problem is that most people have dropped the first half, so the second half doesn’t make as much sense.

  32. Actually, the that/which divide is restrictive vs. non-restrictive. “This is a car, which has four wheels” vs. “This is the car that I drove to work today.”

  33. Traditionalist :

    I hate when someone is going to “try and be there” or “try and finish it by 5.” They’re not two separate things… you’re not first going to try, then finish it by 5. They are related! You’re going to try to finish it by 5.

    I also hate when someone says “I forgot it at home,” as opposed to “I forgot it” or “I left it at home.” Although, if I really think about it… home is technically where she was when she forgot the item, so maybe that gets a pass?

  34. it peeves me when people ‘learn’ the hyphenation rule for phrases used as adjectives… and then suddenly start overusing it like crazy! hyphens everywhere, nonstop… yes congrats on the new trick. ha!

    overuse of ellipses tends to peeve me, too, though clearly you can’t tell from this particular comment!

  35. Not grammar, but spelling:

    – affect vs. effect. So many people get this wrong, and it really isn’t that difficult.

    – deliberate spelling errors, e.g. Kat’s Kozy Korner. Urgh. I will never patronize a business that does this. I just can’t take it.

    • A Nonny Moose :

      Especially because the misspelling seems to always be with Ks, making the abbreviation KKK…

  36. I hate it when people think “fulsome” means “fully explained, very detailed analysis.”

  37. Anonymous :

    Definitely “fewer” v. “less.” This one is like nails on a chalkboard, and it’s everywhere!

    • This was in an amazing bit by a British comedian I heard recently “There are lots of things I think should be illegal: school children on buses. Supermarket signs that say 15 items or less, it’s 15 items or FEWER. The entire cast of Made in Chelsea” … I guess you had to be there but it cracks me up every.single.time.

  38. Anonymous :

    I really don’t have any grammer pet peeves and I find most people that are grammer sticklers to be obnoxious. Like fine, correct it in your head, but when you point it out it embarasses the other person. This may also be because I live in a modest-income area of a city so if I can UNDERSTAND the other person’s version of english I’m having a good day. I get more bugged by people who slur their words and can’t speak properly than anyone who uses slightly incorrect grammer.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Exactly. My biggest grammar pet peeve is bragging about one’s grammar or usage prowess. The point of language is to convey an idea. We all know what someone means when she says “myself” instead of “I”. I understand dinging a person on a writing sample for consistently poor grammar because it might mean the person has poor attention to detail or doesn’t understand the basic rules. However, there is enough in this world to get worked up about, why let who vs. whom in a conversation raise your blood pressure?

    • I agree, for the most part. In all things except formal work product, grammar and spelling and punctuation can be subjugated to communication itself. If a person’s idea is clear, then a typo or a dropped comma is not fatal. However . . . HOWEVER . . . I get very frustrated when I have to read and re-read something that should be simple – like a facebook post or an email – in order to decipher the writer’s message. (Cue the folks who want to give me grief about improper usage of ellipses.)

  39. S in Chicago :

    For the love of all things holy, please get rid of the “s” on “towards.”

    • Ack. I screw this one up all the time.

      I also get the lay/lie wrong – I say it and then realize I used the wrong one. Only happens when I talk bc I don’t have time to google-check, spellcheck, or grammarcheck before it comes out of my mouth.

    • +1,000

      A TA once “corrected” my paper by adding an “s” to “toward” for me.

      Ummmmm… No.

  40. One of my colleagues says pitcher when he means picture. I know it’s not grammatical. But it makes me laugh.

    • Orangerie :

      I had a high school math teacher who did this. She also said “bolth” instead of both. Drove me NUTS.

    • Baconpancakes :

      My mother comes to visit me in Warshingtin. I always feel like banging my head on a wall at this.

      • Does she tell you to warsh your hands as well? My grandmother spoke like that…she was raised in W. Virginia/Maryland.

        • Gail the Goldfish :

          My father pronounces water “worter.” It’s a southern dialect thing.

        • Baconpancakes :

          Yes, and we use a warshing machine. She was raised in the southernish midwest though – not sure where my family got it from.

  41. 1) “I wish I would of” or “I wish I would’ve” — it’s “I wish I had” which is actually much shorter!

    2) Misuse of “lay”, as in “I just want to go home and lay on my bed.” You want to go lay WHAT on your bed? Or do you mean you want to go home and LIE on your bed?

    3) Second everyone who said “myself.” Really annoying and really common.

    4) More spelling than grammar, but misspelling of colloquialisms, e.g., it’s “yeah” not “yah,” “psyched” not “siked” or even “syked”.

  42. A few comments…

    (1) I have an ex who ALWAYS confused your/you’re and to/too and its/it’s in text messages. I never found a good way to tell him he was getting it wrong — is there ever a good way to tell someone that? He was otherwise intelligent but just couldn’t seem to get it. The worst were the really, really sweet messages he would send that would end with asking if “your around later.” Totally ruined the moment.

    (2) In my okcupid profile there’s a sentence where I should properly use “whom” instead of “who” but I’m worried that if I do it will seem overly pretentious/etc., so now it says (incorrectly) “who.” Do it or leave it as is?

    (3) The over-correction for “I” vs. “me” bothers me more than anything else, b/c it’s usually from people who are trying to appear smart… Seems especially prevalent on episodes of the bachelor (which I am embarrassingly addicted to). “There is such an amazing connection between Sean and I.” Nails on a chalkboard.

    • I would have corrected the ex and probably told him some helpful little rules to remember, but that’s just me. If you do it casually and lightly, I don’t see why it should be uncomfortable. It bothered you and would have continued to bother you if you stayed together, it’s not much different than if you hated his cologne or thought that he should stop wearing socks with sandals. I also believe in the campsite rule, i.e., that you should leave people after a relationship in a better condition than when you found them. So while I wouldn’t say it on a first date, if you’re seriously dating, I’d do it.

      For no. 2, I’d probably just change the sentence. This way you don’t sound pretentious and you don’t risk alienating some fellow grammar nerd love of your life.

      Agree on 3. That does make it worse.

      • This says a lot about me, but I could not foresee a future with someone that didn’t know the difference (and was unwilling to be corrected). I’m overly snobby about grammar. I’d rather date a smoker than someone who was told again and again the difference between “less” and “fewer” but refuses to try and change.

        • AnonInfinity :

          Why?

          I’m just curious. Of course it’s your prerogative to date anyone you want and decide what criteria you have for significant others, but I am curious why you would not eliminate someone who literally endangers the health of himself and others but would eliminate someone who confuses words.

          • Anonymous :

            Not trying to speak for Brant, but for me it comes down to this: I really love words and language and someone who didn’t care about those things would probably not care about a lot of the other things I care about. I wouldn’t write-off a guy just because he didn’t know certain words or was not the greatest speller, but I would probably have a hard time with someone who just didn’t care about those things and wasn’t curious about them, particularly if he knew that they were important to me. For some people it wouldn’t matter and opposites attract and all that, but for me, it just does. It’s like if I was really into riding horses and kept a horse and did that every single weekend and the person I was dating just thought it was stupid and pointless. This isn’t to say that someone who has poor grammar is a bad person or inferior in some way, but someone who has poor grammar and doesn’t have any desire to improve it is just not for me. I come from a large family of readers and writers and words just have a magical quality for me. By the way, there is huge difference between someone who uses words a certain way on purpose, even if that way is technically incorrect, and has a definite style vs. someone who just doesn’t think about it and doesn’t care. I am only against the thoughtless. But I also would never date someone who I didn’t find witty. It’s just my thing.

            As for the smoking, people quit and if they don’t, it’s a calculated risk. The only thing I would require is that the person not smoke around our hypothetical future kids or in our future house.

        • It was not the reason we broke up, but it was one of the reasons that I’ve been able to convince myself our break up was for the best (most of the time… it was only a few months ago so I’m still working on it). He was a wonderful, amazing guy in so many ways and is one of the best people I’ve known (and the physical chemistry was REALLY great), but words are not his thing. As someone who writes for a living, it was a problem for me. But not enough to make me leave an amazing guy otherwise.

        • Trial by Jury :

          I am a trial lawyer. I was trained by a man who was from Iowa, and came across as very “homey” and “country boy,” and extremely sincere. He didn’t shy away from his natural country/Southern accent during trial, even in our city. Jurors found him very comforting and they trusted him. He didn’t lose trials very often.

          I have found that sometimes having 100% proper grammar, combined with not being from around here, leads to people thinking I am snobby.

          I sometimes pepper my language on purpose with “Me and …” as the subject of a sentence. Or add in a “y’all.” Make a little more “down home.”

          I think sometimes this can break down a barrier between you and the person you are talking to, like a jury.

          • Anonymama :

            Yeah, some of these mistakes truly are cringe-worthy, but others (particularly the pronunciation ones) are really more like talking in a different dialect than just ignorance or incorrect grammar.

  43. Good instead of well. “I did good on that test” kills me.

    But I have to say I feel pretty lucky that I haven’t seen some of the more terrible ones posted above too often! And I do have to admit that I have judged people for consistent spelling and grammar mistakes and I can’t help judging anyone who uses “u” or writes “thx” and the like, but I think we’re probably a bit of a self-selecting audience here on that front. I constantly remind people that not everyone thinks this is important.

    The two rules that I’ve always found helpful are:

    1) for I vs. me: get rid of the other person. If you wouldn’t say, “me went to the park” or “send it to I” then you shouldn’t say, “David and me went to the park” or “send it to David and I,” and
    2) for that vs. which: you can always get rid of whiches! (Kind of like Kat’s rule but it helps me remember it and who doesn’t love witches?!)

  44. So – can I just say that many of the mannerisms and sentence structures cited here as grammar pet-peeves are actually linguistic mannerisms that are common in low income or minority communities. So while, yes, you may “know what is correct” and be annoyed when you hear another structure – check your privilege and remember that in the communities in which the person lives and functions their usage may be entirely correct. And more so, since language is a living, changing thing, it may well be that you are simply accustomed to a more traditional usage whereas the person you’re interacting with is using a slang usage that has become adopted in the general population (not necessarily making it wrong.)

    Anyway – I’m just saying. Language is a marker of privilege and we should probably all try to remember that.

    • Thank you, TCFKAG.

      • Are you two trolling for the STFU Corpor*tte Gold Star of the Week?

        • Yes! They’ve earned it. When members of a group deemed privileged make a big show of self-flagellation and precious awareness, THEY WIN BIG!

        • LOL that was funny Kris.

    • I get your basic point, and I agree that empathizing with someone’s background and point of view is always a good idea before applying any judgment. But I also think that your comment smacks of condescension toward folks who you think just don’t know any better or just can’t be helped.

      Also, Kat’s question asked us what pet peeves we have “particularly with coworkers,” so the setting is a professional workplace, where using the slang of *any* particular community, in addition to making true grammar mistakes, will earn one the side-eye.

      • Well – I’m sorry if it was read that way. I don’t think the issue is that people don’t know any better or can’t be helped (and in many cases, they very well MAY “know better” – but language is a complicated mix of habit, culture, and learning and many of our mannerisms are ingrained in us at a very early age. They don’t change simply because we step into the office.)

        What I was trying to say is this – I would bet that you, in your daily life, use plenty of slang or “turns of phrase” or metaphors or similes, even at work, that may twist the English language a bit. But the ones that we find jarring tend to come from communities or cultures that are different than ours – it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. And just like if a southern person who has lived in the north for a long time finds that their accent comes back quickly when they go home, so to many people may use one type of linguistic system at home and one at work and it shouldn’t be surprising that they sometimes overlap.

        The insistence that language is static and that there is only one correct form is, frankly, a way that discrimination has been perpetrated in the past and continues to be today. So I’m sorry if you think I sounded condescending – but what I was trying to say is that many of our ingrained assumptions about what is right are really just products of where we are from (you can call it privilege if you want…you don’t have to if that somehow offends you) – and when you judge people who construct language differently you are sub-conciously perpetuating very old systems of control and hierarchy.

        And if this gets me on STF& Corporette I’ll be perfectly content to be there – because its actually something I care about. Though I’ve never self-flagellated in my life…it doesn’t seem like something I’d enjoy.

        • Anonymous :

          No she is saying you are posting this so stfu will post it and be like she is the best! good for her and her condescending post! cuz stfu is ridiculous about how white people are the worst and minorities need to be rescued from all the white privilege.

          Frankly, I think its f*ing racist that you think I need to check my privilege- when you are the one who traditionally would have the privilege and I don’t. Implying that everyone on this site is white is ridiculous- I think it seems relatively diverse. and I hate the “check your privilege” like you have to come down from your high horse just to talk to a minority. Literally what you did in this post is self-flagellate yourself to get some internet high fives or plus ones, without thinking how truly snobby you sound. the whole phrase check your privilege makes me sick. I don’t need these white liberal angels “checking privilege” to defend those poor, poor people. Also language does not actually change that much. Parts of it change, but 95% is pretty static. end rant.

    • At the risk of being flamed, I have to post this because it’s a constant annoyance for me.

      I’ll be the first to admit I’m very privileged. I live in a poor area now and I just want to wring people’s necks for using these linguistic mannerisms and for all their facebook postings that look like text messages from a 13 year old girl before predictive texting was invented. That’s not how they are being/were taught to speak or write in English class so why do people insist on using it? My stepdaughter constantly challenges my language (the use of “pretty well” instead of “pretty good” being one example) with “no one says that around here” but someday she’s going to be judged in interviews and interactions with her colleagues for that usage because people like this site’s readers will be hiring her and working with her! (There aren’t many jobs in our town so most people commute an hour or more in either direction to large cities where there is a lot of wealth, privilege, and good education).

    • Anonymous :

      mmmm golf clap for you! thank you for saving us poor minorities from up there on your pedestal.

      • Le sigh. I’m terribly sorry that what I wrote apparently was offensive to so many people. Really I was just trying to point out that language is complicated and how we learn and use it is a powerful tool in society.

        But you know what – forget it. I’ll just go sit in the corner like a good little girl (whom, by the way, you know little about) and keep my mouth shut.

        • Wow, chillax folks. Beating people up for expressing an explicitly personal opinion, that sounds like fun.

        • Anonymous :

          I know your name, race, heritage, location and rough economic status. That’s enough to know you are hitting the wrong tone with your posts. I know you mean well – but this sounds so over the top condescending in print.

        • I really resent your response, TCFKAG. Nothing in my respectful response to your post suggests I think that because thought your point was misplaced in this context that I want you to sit in a corner and keep your mouth shut “like a good girl.” Are you serious?!
          That’s an incredibly defensive response. Your comment was thoughtful and thought-provoking, but you apparently need all the thoughts that were provoked to be identical to your own, or else you’ll take you ball and go home. Grow up, lady!

          • Um, if you think your post was respectful, then is it possible that TCFKAG *wasn’t* actually responding to you, but to other replies that were less respectful? Especially since she actually hit the Reply button under a post that was not yours. And also that she might have a sense of humor and not be entirely serious in her response? Today has been a crazy day at my office, so maybe there’s something in the water, but I think we need a round of chill pills here, folks.

          • Kelly – I did reply to you in some length but its in moderation because of the name of the blog in the post. It’ll maybe come out eventually but honestly I’m sort of done with this now.

    • I’m with TCFKAG here.

      Language changes. And the people who change it might be low-income, might be minorities, and might not be reading this site.

      I think TCFKAG was just trying to point out that not everyone in the English-speaking world has the opportunity to learn what we call “proper” grammar, and that doesn’t mean their communication isn’t also valuable.

      I don’t think she was meaning to condescend. And I’m pretty sure that her personal attributes don’t preclude her from trying to speak up for others.

  45. Ugh, my boss uses a comma after “but.” Always. As in, “I wanted to take last week off but, it turns out I had sixty hours worth of meetings.”

    It’s also how she speaks.

  46. Blonde Lawyer :

    This reminds me of one of my favorite Simpsons moments:

    “Contingency? No, money down!”

    Video: http://vimeo.com/52752274

    Pic: http://www.splittinghairs.org/simpsons-reference/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/vlcsnap-2012-11-15-17h08m49s203.png

    (Found the pic via google, I have no idea what the blog it is from is about so click at your own risk.)

  47. Blonde Lawyer :

    This reminds me of one of my favorite Simpsons moments:

    “Contingency? No, money down!”

    Video: http://vimeo.com/52752274

  48. Eighmeagh :

    Too many pet peeves to name! Partial list:

    Me/myself/I (sometimes “me” really is the correct choice!)
    Use of a plural pronoun to refer to a singular noun (I know some people believe this has become acceptable; it still makes my ears bleed)
    Forming a plural with an apostrophe (just today I saw an otherwise beautiful sign that said “Hero’s are everywhere.” Aaaarrrggghhh!)
    That/which
    Affect/effect
    It’s/its
    Loose/lose (I know, this is a spelling peeve, not a grammar one, but it seems everywhere!)

    I’ve been known as a grammar nerd for years. ;-)

    • Eighmeagh :

      Ugh. “…seems TO BE everywhere.” That will teach me to post from my phone!

  49. Another opinion :

    The death of the adverb. Drive slowly, not drive slow. He is doing very well, not very good. TV news reporters are the worst violators.

  50. Embarrassed of. Isn’t it “embarrassed by?” I also see a lot of heals when people are talking about shoes, and peaks when they are talking about sneaky little looks. Not grammar, but mixing up words like that sort of drives me crazy. I guess it’s because autocorrect doesn’t usually catch those.

  51. or yay! or nay? heard of yea, folks? first time I assumed it was a joke…

  52. Not a lawyer :

    My biggest grammar pet peeve is the use of apostrophes when making a word plural.
    Eg. To the Smith’s

    Agggggghhhh- that’s possessive, not plural, people!

    • Anonymous Poser :

      Oh! That’s also great when they mean to make a family name plural AND possessive, but instead use the singular possessive.

  53. Anonymous Poser :

    This isn’t about grammar, but…
    The word is spelled
    “whoa”
    not
    “woah”
    or
    “whoah”.

    I know it shouldn’t bother me…please ignore the above if the alternate spellings have become acceptable.
    ;)

  54. I can’t stand it when people use the passive voice in affidavits.

  55. Oh there are so many:

    “Here is a photo of so and so and I” – major Facebook violation
    Supposably
    All intensive purposes
    Ask instead of asked
    A whole nother
    “So and so and mine’s” – this one happens on The Bachelor a lot, i.e., “Billy and mine’s relationship is a great journey.”

    • The last example – it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard!! Oh, and I have another. The reluctance to use possessives with gerunds. But I can’t think of a good (bad) example!

  56. 1. Alot. It’s two words, people!
    2. Which brings me to it’s and its. Ouch.
    3. Me, myself, and I. Please let George and I know. NO! Ick! Go away!
    4. Real instead of really. This really bugs me. Really, really. Its real bad, although for whatever reason, the misuse of bad/badly doesn’t affect me as much as…
    5. Effect/affect. I prefer to speak with effect rather than affect.
    6. Irregardless. Its real irritating that spell check doesn’t flag that one.
    7. Improper pluralization like mother-in-laws.
    8. Insure/ensure. Let’s insure this doesn’t happen again. Hmm, I’m not sure that State Farm would consider insuring that.
    9. The general, bizarre, and inexplicable, overuse, of, the comma, in sentences, or just, in whatever.
    10. The most irritating grammatical error by far is overuse of apostrophes. I think I’ll have some more beer’s when I go visit my friends, the Smith’s.

    I don’t presume to be the grammar queen but Strunk & White should be required reading.

  57. One foul swoop – it just sounds illiterate.

    You do realise that there are national differences in grammar? The distinction between that and which doesn’t apply outside of the US (though perhaps Canadians have bought into it) and non-US writers eschew the use of the word got and would rather rip their skin off than use gotten, but quite writerly Americans are happy to use both. I try to be tolerant when the emails arrive from my US colleagues but “gotten” is hard to take in business documents. I’m sure they reciprocate with gritted teeth when I ignore their that/which distinction.

    • I’m a USian and I would never EVER use “gotten” in business communication. I also grit my teeth when I see that/which misused.

  58. going deep anon for this :

    Let me count the ways…

    My boss writes this phrase often: “Touch basis” as in “We should touch basis on this next week.” Boss also says: “Bob and myself will take care of X.” Or “Susie and me will be there tomorrow.” Or even worse: “Leave it to Jenny and I.” It’s upsetting when she tries to re-write something that I’ve written and sticks some weird phrasing in it.

    Another jaw dropper is people who say “Wah la” as in “Hit the send key and Wah La! It works.” It took me ages to figure out that they meant “Voila!”

    Yesterday I saw someone who wrote “Everyone should take their queue from David.”

    I’m picky about grammar in official written work (not here on the internet) but my biggest mortification is re-reading something that I previously wrote and finding an error like here/hear or its/it’s or to/too/two. Scary.

  59. My peeves:
    -A few that others have mentioned (I/me/myself and moot/mute are particularly annoying)
    -Affect/Effect
    -Number/Amount
    -Inappropriate spell check corrections (though it was hilarious when my boss accidentally spell-checked his name to “Dave Chippendale”)
    -Not quite spelling or grammar, but when people use words because they sound fancier than the correct word, it annoys the hell out of me (utilize is not a direct synonym for use).

  60. Discreet = under the radar, private, keeping something quiet.
    Discrete = separate, individual.

    Drives me up the wall (figuratively) when people mix these up.

  61. I am simply glad to know there is a decent crowd out there who agree that grammar is still important in the age of twitter. I’m dating middle-aged now, surprise divorce, and been telling friends how the grammar makes more of a difference than I could have imagined- I can’t respect a partner with bad English if it is his first language. And then there is the cute sailor I might go out with, who describes himself as a candidate for sergeant in the grammer police, swoon… :) Seriously- what are we going to do when no one coming out of school will do it right?

  62. ps pet peeve- highly educated folks with bad grammar. specifically the STEM fields. engineers, brilliant scientists, can’t write basic English.

  63. I own this shirt too! A friend of mine bought it for me probably ten years ago.
    The message rings true!

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