July 19, 2011

Nittiest of Nitpicks

I'm no grammarian. I don't pretend to be flawless in my use of the English language. I don't pretend to be very cool either; for that I thank five years of Latin, five of French and a lifelong love of etymology. Homecoming Queen was never on my radar, but being named English Student of the Year made my life. (Most popular girl ever, as you can imagine.)

That said, I do have a few points about which I'm very nitpicky. When I see people misuse these phrases on Facebook or Twitter, I cringe. Luckily, the last few years have worked wonders in getting me over these issues - after all, who has time to worry about grammar when there are diapers to be changed?

Still, I thought I'd share a little bit of my crazy with y'all. Behold my least favorite English blunders. These seem to run rampant on blogs and social media. (I'm also standing by to be schooled in my own errors, so feel free to point them out in the comments...)

1. Contraction versus possession. Your and its are possessive. You're and it's are contractions. Apostrophes stand for missing letters; in this case they abbreviate "you are" and "it is." (Cue this lesson from a classic Ross and Rachel moment.)

I have seen two national publications in the last week use, in their social media outlets, the word who's instead of whose. "Who's mom is more fun?" is not correct by any stretch of the imagination. Journalists of all people should know that!

2. Sneak "peaks." I can understand how easily this happens; the two words certainly look nice next to one another when misspelled that way. But a peek doesn't become a peak just because the word in front of it is spelled with an "ea."

3. Loosing my mind. Your goal is not to "loose" weight; it's to lose it. And no matter how crazy your boss is making you or how long your child has been screaming, unless you can pop your head open, it's impossible to "loose" your mind. (This should be reassuring!)

4. Slow down, my dad works here. B is a civil engineer who has seen the side of an interstate in heavy traffic a million times more than I like to remember. I absolutely have a heart for the safety of roadside workers, but these signs jump out at me every time I see one.



A semi-colon is your friend, particularly when the second half of a sentence could stand on its own. "Slow down; my dad works here." Doesn't that look much better? No, just me? Oh well...

(Side note: Don't let the grammar distract you from the message. DO slow down! Feel free to grumble, but do it at 40mph. xoxox)

5. Who versus that. A wonderful sixth-grade teacher of mine hammered this rule into my head; now I can't help but wince when I hear people ignore it. A person is a who, not a that.

"Anyone that wants coffee should come get some now" sounds terrible to me. I like to pretend I respect people too much. "I am happy to serve anyone who is ready" sounds far better!

6. Addictive versus addicting. I can't explain this as well as Grammar Girl and, while I know both are technically acceptable, I am still deadset on using addictive. You'd be surprised how often the word addicting is thrown around, but maybe I just pick up on it more than normal. Few people are this nitpicky about words anyhow...

7. Stationery versus stationary. Something stationary stands still; stationery is the gorgeous paper we write on when channeling Emily Post. This slip-up is most egregious when stationery stores make it. Truly! You don't sell "stationary," I'm quite certain. If you misspell what you sell, I should get some kind of a discount - especially on the $20 a card kind.

8. Apostrophes for pluralization. You did not get a Christmas card from the "Smith's" or the "Holmes's." Pluralizing these names makes them the Smiths and the Holmeses, respectively. I wish stationers would remember this rule; selling an address stamp that reads "The Smith's" is shameful.

The same rule applies to regular ol' nouns. A "pack of dog's running" is an extremely confusing concept. Why add more characters when you can just plop on an "s" and make a word plural? Keep it simple.

And, as tempting as it is even to me, adding an apostrophe does not clarify anything when pluralizing abbreviations or decades. The 80s are the 80s, as odd as that might look, and an old college snapshot of mine would include a pack of "sorority squatting" Zetas or ZTAs, not Zeta's or ZTA's. No one is taking possession of anything, just making it plural. Make sense?

So there you have it, a few of the highest priority nitpickiest little nitpicks in my brain. I'm sure I make grammar errors left and right that other people pick up on, but we all have our "must get right" points; these are mine. Split infinitives, two spaces after a period, overuse of commas, excessive exclamation points - we all have our "thing."

Do you have any irksome phrases or pet peeve expressions? Let 'em rip!

10 comments:

MatersandMelons said...

I could not agree more!!! Amen, Sista!! :)

Angela Duke said...

I totally agree with all of this. I'm a grammar police sometimes, but I make some BIG mistakes myself-- that I of course only notice after I read through old tweets or blogposts long after I wrote them. "Your" and "you're" & "to" and "too" are the worst to me. Then of course there is "I's" instead of my, which we have discussed.
I'm glad you wrote this. It was thoughtfully executed!

Maryland Magnolia said...

Numbers 1, 4, and 5 are my big pet peeves! I was an English minor in college, and I pick up on these mistakes all of the time too :) It's very upsetting to see all of these errors showing up in major newspapers and magazines more and more now!

Mrs. Business said...

I love this post - all great points! I caught myself using "loose" instead of "lose" the other day, and I was so disappointed.

The biggest slip up I've seen lately was last night on The Batchelorette. Did you notice how they were visiting Ames's hometown? They also spoke with Ames's sister. I was so disturbed! (I realize it depends on what style guide they use, but that's just my pet peeve!)

Whitney Bouknight said...

Great post! I know y'all isn't a real word in over half the country. For us Southerners, though, we should know how to correctly spell it. It is y'all, not ya'll. It drives me crazy. I also get annoyed that people don't know how to correctly use an ellipsis. It is only three periods, and they should have spaces between each of them . . . And while I'm on the subject, as much as I love watching the bachelorette, it really annoyed me when Ashley kept referring to an ellipsis as a "dot, dot, dot."

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Loving this! The mistake I hate the most is people using I instead of me (such as labeling a picture Amy and I) and the dreaded I's!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

you kill me. that is all ;)

Malissa said...

Yes! Regardless is a word, irrespective is also a word. Irregardless, however, is not a word.

As someone with the last name "Hughes" I appreciate the PSA on making names plural. : ) We are the Hugheses or the Hughes family, not the Hughes's.

Rowena said...

In case you were curious, this is why we are friends.

Katie said...

Girl! I blogged on a similar subject a few months ago and posted this--by far the funniest thing I've ever seen. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

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