Grammar Rant

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I almost never address the issue of grammar because, sure as shooting’, I’ll make a handful of mistakes right here in front of you. But irregardless I’m feeling cranky so I’m going to list seven of my top cringeworthy examples of grammar and word use mistakes.

Irregardless— need I say more? Regardless is the word. Irregardless is fingernails on a blackboard.

Confusing Your and You’re— Is this the most common grammar mistake in written communication? I have to hold myself back from correcting those responsible for the signs that say, Your in for a Treat! or Turn You’re Engine Off Before You Pump Gas.

The Plural Apostrophe— Why is it that people feel the need to separate the singular version of a word from the plural? Every fruit stand in Central California seems to sell orange’s and artichoke’s and avocado’s. Can they charge more by throwing in an errant apostrophe?

The Self Conundrum— Since when did we start using myself in place of me or I? I have a feeling that people are so confused as to when to use I and me that they feel the safest route is to substitute myself. *buzzer* Nice try. The -self words (myself, herself, themselves, itself, etc.) are used in only two instances– to emphasize, like, “I picked out the color myself.” Or to refer back to the subject, as in “She spends hours preening herself.”

Nauseous or Nauseated?— I hear this way too often, especially by YouTube vloggers. “I’m especially nauseous today.” Oops! That does not mean what they think it means. It means they are especially sickening. If you are sick, you are nauseated. Sick vs. sickening.

Upgrading words— when simple seems too simple. I wish people would use the perfect little word instead of turning simple into simplistic or use to utilize or even orient to orientate.

Secret or Secrete?— I’m wondering if I am wrong here because I hear this pronunciation (or what I believe to be mispronunciation) frequently when listening to professional newscasters and commentators. It makes me gag every time I hear someone say that the “documents were secrete-ed on a hard drive.” Shouldn’t it be secret-ed? When I picture secretions of documents it makes me nauseous. Someone set the record straight, please.

Okay, your turn. Name a couple (or more) of your pet grammar gaffes or word use mistakes.

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  1. Dark diving athlete, cormorant,
    you terrorize the fish, and own
    the skill that nature can’t supplant,
    nor to others be sneaky-shown;
    but thy fair coz, the Grammarant,
    dives for the metaphorical bone
    left festering, leaving won’t for shant
    and other evils before editor’s throne.
    You hauteur seems picky, brightly-fell fowl,
    but if not for your teaching, I’d throw in the towel.

  2. Iola says:

    I visited the New Zealand Ministry of Education website yesterday, and found a plural apostrophe on a page asking for suggestions on how to improve our education system.

    Teaching grammar would be a start.

  3. I learned good grammar early–my grandmother was firm about it. When the brothers we adopted were placed in our home at ages 5 and 8, their grammar was awful, but I couldn’t correct every sentence. I hoped they’d pick up better grammar on their own. The older boy always used “me an’ ___.” The younger one consistently said “me,” never “I.” One day, I overheard the 5 year old correct the 8 year old: “You should say he and I, not me and him.” I asked the little guy why he didn’t take his own advice. He smiled, “Oh, me no say I.”
    * The good news? He learned to say I. On his own, without my correction.

  4. Toni Wilbarger says:

    I can’t stand it when people misuse it’s vs. its. Definitely a fingernails on the blackboard kind of moment!!

  5. David Todd says:

    What to say to sooth and upset grammarian?
    “There, their, they’re.”

  6. Mine: bad vs. badly
    I felt badly after burning my fingers.
    I felt bad after I hurt her feelings.

  7. Me? Make a mistake? Whilst sitting here on my chesterfield, I’m honoured to discuss our fine winters, during which we go tobogganing in our toques. Most of us like travelling, maybe to a zoo, which starts with a Z. That’s pronounced ZED. Hopefully, you folks recognise that.
    Although, I discovered this week that ’til is NOT an accepted abbreviation of until. Yes, I cried into my laptop and realised that I have alot of fixing to do.

  8. Jessi says:

    I am forever confusing compliment and complement. I make sure to look them up each time one or the other comes up in my writing. I wonder if I’ll ever have to NOT look it up, lol! Same with discrete and discreet.

  9. Wanda Rosseland says:

    My cringe was when I saw the title of a beautiful painting by a friend of mine.

    Taken care of business

    No, I did not say a word. It was already on the posters and in the newspaper article.

  10. Barb says:

    I’ve seen an its’ on more than one occasion–good grief. People, there is no such thing as its’.

  11. I “literally” cannot handle one more error from “you’re” news feed. “Its” “to” hard for me “too” ignore.

  12. Christine Dorman says:

    Thank you for ranting, Wendy. I love a good rant, so i’m happy to join in. You’ve mentioned two from the top of my list (orange’s and you’re rather than your). Here are two more. First, the ubiquitous usage of a plural pronoun as a reference to a singular antecedent:
    Sometimes, someone will get their back up because someone said something they didn’t like.

    My absolute hit the roof error is i. I keep telling my college-level writing students that i is not a word in English, but they have yet to believe myself–I mean, er, me.
    Take care and thanks for therapy.

    • Christine Dorman says:

      Of course, just because I ranted, I managed to commit the error that most drives me nuts: i. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it was a typographical error, not a lack of knowledge. I guess that’s what I get for complaining. 😉 Have a happy day, everyone!

  13. Julia Roller says:

    Oh Wendy, I can so relate to everything you wrote! I complain a lot in daily life about grammar mistakes. Lynne Truss is one of my heroes. Yet I rarely do it online because I too also fear making a mistake I don’t even realize is a mistake. 🙂 I think I know just enough grammar to be a nuisance. The one I will add to your list is a plural apostrophe error that I always see on Christmas cards: The Smith’s, The Miller’s, etc.

  14. Debb Hackett says:

    Good rant. Thank you. Your vs you’re trips my OCD right off.

    I believe you are correct in all of your points excepted secreted. In that instance I believe the pronunciation is correct, but you could consider it an upgraded word. “Hidden” would work just as well.

    Love the errant apostrophe point. I believe they should charge more if they are giving out errant apostrophe’s. Could’t resist.

  15. You have some good (or bad) ones here. The to, too, two issue is high on my list. It’s almost like a stop sign on the page when the wrong one is used. 😑 Or there’s the words that look somewhat like another word sounds like. I once saw “agents” used instead of “against.” Kind of throws you a bit when you’re reading a script for the first time.

  16. As an English teacher at an international school, I get two big groups of grammar errors I see in papers all the time–difficulties specific to ELL (English Language Learner) students, and then errors from native speakers either from carelessness or from never really learning the grammar properly. I’d say my top pet peeve, though, is the plural apostrophe–apostrophes don’t make things plural!! There, my own little rant done. 🙂 I do try to really point this one out to my students, and acknowledge that it’s hard because they see it wrong in so many “professional” places now, as you pointed out.

    As for secret vs. secrete, we had this one in a high school vocabulary lesson within the last month, and I had to clarify for confused students, so I actually learned this one! 🙂 “Secrete” actually can both mean “to issue” like sweat, tears, etc., or “to hide safely away.” So I’m guessing those newscasters are using it correctly, however odd it sounds. English–as I often tell my students, especially with sympathy to the ELLs–is a weird language! 🙂

    Thanks for a fun post, Wendy. 🙂

  17. Sarah Thomas says:

    Today in an on-line help chat the helper asked me to “bare” with her. Not in the office, thank you.

  18. I love reading these type of grammar issues, and explanations, as I am always striving for more knowledge in grammatics.

    I think the one I have to look up on occasion, and my guess is others do too is the use of the words “affect” and “effect.”

  19. I sigh when I hear “you and I,” when it is appropriate to say, “you and me.” I believe Stevie Wonder sang a hit song with that as its title.

    Another one that elicited a groan from me was the theme for a writers’ conference, “Write Brave.” I asked the conference organizer if that should not be, “Write Bravely,” and was informed that it was written that way intentionally.

  20. Sharyn Kopf says:

    One that’s bugged me recently is when “whoa” is spelled “woah.” I’m not sure where that second spelling came from, but it’s used so often it seems to have become an accepted wording. Ugh. Even spellcheck catches it.

    I also wish writers would stop overusing the word “that.” I’m a big fan of deleting unnecessary words. 🙂 The writer of a nonfiction book I’m reading likes to add phrases like, “Notice that …” to the beginning of sentences. I want to destroy them all.

  21. Carol-Lynn Rossel says:

    Nauseouus vs. nauseated:
    my prime bugaboo. When someone says “I’m nauseous,” I bite to not reply “All right, then. Thanks for the alert.”

  22. Carol-Lynn Rössel says:

    Agh! My aux keyboard “done me in.” “Nauseous” has but two letters “u”. And I thought I typed ‘bit tongue’ instead of ‘bit.

  23. Elisabeth Levens says:

    Is it just myself Wendy or is my pet grammar gaffe you’re problem also? Well, irregardless, this is the word that drives me crazy: mischievious Vs. mischievous.

    All those who agree, say i.