August 10, 2011

Even Pettier Pet Peeves

It was comforting to find I'm not the only gal in the world who has nitpicky misuses of the English language that drive her batty.

In the days since I've written that post, I have found that my pet peeves are many. A few I missed on the first go round:

1. It's y'all, y'all. The incorrect abbreviations of y'all are everywhere. The apostrophe contracts the word you, so it belongs between the y and the all. Often seen as yall, ya'll (contraction of ya all, I suppose?) and even yal'l. Maybe that one was a typo?

2. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (See: The King and I.) The abbreviation etc. stands for et cetera, a Latin phrase meaning "and other things." Sometimes mispronounced ECK cetera or abbreviated ect. I warned you I was that cool kid in Latin class for five years. Hang on; there's more coming.

3. Vice-versa. Not vice-a-versa. This means "conversely" or "the other way around."

4. Just breathe. Breath is a noun; breathe is a verb. Your advice to someone panicking should either be "deep breaths" or "just breathe," not "just breath."

5. One last comma. Perhaps this is just a style preference, but to me it stands out as an error. There is no need for a comma before the "and" when you're listing a series of things. In other words, it's appropriate to ask for "apples, bananas and oranges" rather than plopping another comma down after "bananas." Hey, I said this list was petty. After years of proofing for school and for a living, though, I'm very mindful of it. I may throw unnecessary commas out sometimes, but never before an "and."

6. Which and that. The words "which" and "that" are not always interchangeable. Visually speaking, though, it drives me crazy to see "which" used without a comma. Grammar Girl explains it all beautifully here, but my point boils down to: if you're going to use "which," you need to put a comma before it. Well, not if you're using a preposition beforehand. (Think "in which," etc.) Okay, end rant.

Think I'm totally neurotic yet?

Disclaimer: Plenty of bright people make mistakes. I certainly do. As a matter of fact, I pronounced archetype "arch-a-type" for years. As in the golden arches, not Noah's boat. Eep.

I pronounced breathy "breathe-y" in English class and discotheque (this is really terrible) "disc-oth-kway" in Physics while reading a word problem. (That is what years of Latin pronunciation will do to you, friends. Thankfully, a few years of French straightened me right out - but not in time.) Nothing like a room of laughing peers to correct your pronunciation!

I'm not great with punctuation inside quotation marks. The look of a question mark after a quotation mark rubs me the wrong way, so I often rework sentences to avoid that. See here to learn about what I mean.

A commenter on my previous post pointed out something I do, though she may not have realized it. I use ellipses quite often. (An ellipsis is the fabulous little collection of three dots used when you're trailing off, as I do so often...) Evidently spaces belong between the periods? I'm so set in my ways that the change looks too awkward to me.

For that matter, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to stop typing two spaces after a period. I sure am trying, though. Darn middle school typing class! I am thankful for the ability to type 100+ words a minute, as it makes my type-happy life a lot easier. My fingers work faster than my brain, though, and I may never outgrow the double spacing ingrained in me in keyboarding class... (Oops, there's that ellipsis again!)


Kristen said...

You know I love this post. You’re not petty or nitpicky; you’re my soulmate!

Two things: I agree with you on the comma before the third item in a series. That’s formally known as the “Harvard comma” and according to AP Style, is completely unnecessary, though not technically incorrect.

Spaces before and after ellipses: this is something that I constantly correct in marketing materials. The AP Style rule to treat the ellipsis as a free-standing word (with proper spacing before and after) was carved into my brain by Professor Mocker in “Introduction to PR Writing” in 2000 … I haven’t forgotten it since!


Lesley said...

So funny! I literally stress out about the comma in a series. Mrs. Baumgartner (my 7th & 8th grade English teacher) was the teacher in my life who stamped her grammar rules into my brain. She was very strongly on the side of the comma before "and", but our yearbook/journalism teacher was strongly against it. I have to fight my conscience to leave it out, but I'm working on it!

Also, I'm fighting my typing/computer class learning to leave out the second space between sentences!
On the positive side, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! :)

StratPack said...

Would you believe we have something in common besides our love of carbs? Latin! 5-6 years in high school and college (couple credits short of a minor). Teaching middle school and high school Latin was also my part-time job in college. I know this sounds pathetic, but I seriously miss it and often wish I had time to just sit around and translate. It's not uncommon for conjugations to randomly pop up in my head. A, AE, AE, AM, A, AE ARUM, IS, AS, IS ... right?

As for the grammar pet peeves, I can somewhat relate (especially the last comma), but I'm far too consumed with legal writing to think about much else. 5 years of daily brief and memo writing and reading is enough to drive a person mad! Thank goodness for blogs like yours to provide respite. :)

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Yes, now I'm really scared for you to ever read a blog post of mine. Just kidding...maybe. I agree that ellipses (and parentheses) are awesome!

Jillian said...

Girl, I'm an SLP and I make tons of mistakes!! As long as you never point mine out we will be cool:)

Rachel said...

I ALWAYS put commas before my and when listing things. I think i had a teacher who always took off points if you didn't use it (which is silly, since both ways are technically correct) and now I feel like I have to use it!

Also, I will always put two spaced after periods when typing. My brain just couldn't do it any other way!

Angela Duke said...

It is beyond funny that you mentioned the double spaces. I saw a quote on Pinterest yesterday listing it as a fatal error, however I CANNOT stop. Like you, I had keyboarding in seventh grade, and I forever will double space after end punctuation.

Katie said...

I'm sorry, but I need my ellipses all together...hanging out. And if omitting spaces between them is wrong, then I don't wanna be right!

Nicole said...

So funny! The last comma in a series cracks me up because I have ALWAYS been taught to have it there...middle school, high school, college, and in my PR jobs, too! I was always corrected anytime I left it off, so I almost always include it now - but I think about it almost every single time I write - or type - a series of things. Crazy contradictory grammar rules!


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