Top 10 Grammar Pet Peeves
As an editor, I find that most people feel compelled to apologize to me when they have typos in their messages or use incorrect grammar around me. I usually try to reassure people that I’m not secretly editing them… mostly. I admit there are a few grammar goofs that will always catch my attention. These are the ones I have a hard time ignoring when I’m off the editing clock, the ones that cause inward cringing or mental eye rolls.
1. I seen
This error is part of the regional dialect in my area and it reminds me of the stereotype of the uneducated country bumpkin who says to the police, “I seen the whole thing, officer.” This error should be corrected to either “I saw” or “I have seen”.
2. off of
The two-word phrase off of can be simplified to off. In fact, the definition of off of is off so why not cut back the overuse of propositions and add this to your best practices list. All the Divas know this is the first thing I search for when editing a manuscript. Haha!
3. me and
Me and has special meaning to me. When I was a child, my younger brother and sister would often start their stories with “Me and Janine.” For years, adults would jokingly ask why my brother or sister called me mean. I’ll admit, I wasn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed, and it took me until I was a teenager to finally get that “me and” said quickly sounded like “mean.”
While we’ve all learned to begin our sentences with I, breaking the childhood habit of using me instead of I is hard. We wouldn’t say “Me walked to the park,” so why do we say “Me and Theresa walked to the park”?
4. and I
No, this one isn’t a typo. I’m talking about using I when it should have been me. This particular error seems to be on the rise, for example:
The teacher talked to Martin and I.
Are scratching your head and wondering where the error is? Let’s try this sentence without “Martin and” and see how it sounds.
The teacher talked to I.
Did you find the error that time? It didn’t sound right to the ear because of the use of I when it should have been me.
The teacher talked to me.
The teacher talked to Martin and me.
5. pour over
I love homonym errors. Mostly because they are a source of silly editor humor. Yes, we know we’re nerdy. We’re okay with it too. 🙂
Merriam-Webster’s defines pour as to cause or allow to flow : emit in a steady stream : diffuse, discharge.1
Merriam-Webster’s defines pore as to gaze intently or fixedly : look searchingly : stare.2
Now that you know which word is the correct one to use, when Sally pours over her homework, you might be tempted to ask what she’s pouring. But more importantly, you’ll change pours over to pores over.
6. in between
In between by nature is a redundancy. Almost every definition of between begins with the word in. So to place in before between is redundant and a use of unnecessary words. Cut the excess and simply use between.
This is another regional dialect issue where I live. I expect to hear this one at the elementary school where I work, but certainly not from the teachers. Sadly, I have heard adults use this one, which only reinforces the mispronunciation of especially.
8. in spite of
Need another one for your best practices list? The definition of in spite of is despite. In spite of is an unnecessary use of words. Opt for despite and add this to your best practices list.
9. misplaced modifiers
A misplaced modifier is a phrase or word meant to describe one thing, but is misplaced and describes something else, oftentimes resulting in a humorous sentence. Let’s take the following example:
Walking down the street, the car missed Janet by inches.
Who’s walking down the street? Is it Janet or the car? In the sentence above, the car is the subject of the sentence and therefore is walking down the street. Nice trick but not very likely. This sentence could be corrected a number of ways. Take these examples:
The car missed Janet by inches as she walked down the street.
As Janet walked down the street, the car missed her by inches.
10. peaked one’s interest
And since I love homonym errors so much, I’ll round out my list with this last one: peaked one’s interest. Just when you thought you only had to worry about peak vs. peek, you remember there’s that pesky third pique. I suppose you could try to make an argument for peak here instead of pique, but the meaning of pique makes it the clear winner: to excite or arouse by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff.3
So there you have it. My top 10 grammar pet peeves. And while I can’t promise I won’t mentally groan about other errors, at least I’ve done my part to make my corner of the world a little better. 🙂
Now… go write something!
1) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “pour,” accessed February 16, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com.
2) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “pore,” accessed February 16, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com.
3) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “pique,” accessed February 16, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com.