My Top 11 Grammar Pet Peeves

I was tempted to write about the Stamp Act of 1765 today, but I was afraid I’d scare off my audience. Let it suffice for me to say that today is the 256th anniversary of the Stamp Act of 1765 that contributed so much to the American Revolution.

Photo credit: Brett Jordan on unsplash.com

Today’s blog post is a little less serious than the last two. As a writer and the daughter of a former English teacher, I have many grammar pet peeves. Today I’m writing about 11 of my favorites. (By the way, this started out as my three favorites. I need to put this out there in cyberspace soon before my list becomes unmanageable.)

February 8, 2021 was National Grammar Day here in the United States. I mentioned it in my blog post that day but, due to the length of the post, I didn’t elaborate as much as I wanted. Therefore, I’m taking the opportunity to air my grammar grievances today.

I’ve found a new “label” for myself. It has come to my attention that I am on the verge of becoming a pedant. I sometimes get distracted by minutiae. I can’t see the forest for the trees. You get the point. Below, I offer examples of what I mean.

Who hijacked “fewer?”

Have you noticed that reporters on TV and some of the people they interview have completely abandoned the word “fewer” and have replaced it with “less?” Is this a new guideline? Whatever it is, I don’t like it. It is my newest grammar pet peeve.

I’m a native-born American. I was taught at an early age that “fewer” was used when referring to something that could be counted and “less” was used when referring to something that could be measured. That’s a little vague, and is probably a difficult concept for anyone learning English as a second language. To a native-born American, though, one grows up with certain things just sounding right.

For instance, I would say “fewer minutes” but “less time.” I would say “fewer dollars” but “less money.” I would say “fewer people” but “less population.” Substituting “less” for “fewer” in each of those examples just sounds wrong to me; however, the English language is ever-evolving. If the general consensus is to abandon the word “fewer” and use “less” in every instance, the day may come when it will no longer sound wrong to me. But I doubt it.

Right near

Another relatively recent pet peeve of mine is the use of the term “right near.” TV news anchors tend to say it. “The accident was right near the intersection of ….” “Our reporter is right near the scene of the crime.” Why and when did people start saying that? The word “right” is unnecessary. Think about it.

So

It was maybe eight or ten years ago that I first heard someone start a presentation or speech with the word, “So.” She was a young college student. The first word out of her mouth was, “So.” It wasn’t long until I heard other people falling into that habit. Today it has become so widespread I fear it’s here to stay.

Lie or Lay

Please take a minute to think about this one, people. You know who you are. You don’t think “lie” is a verb. You think it’s only a noun. A liar tells lies. I’m here to tell you that you also lie down. I lie down. He lies down. I don’t lay down. You don’t lay down. He doesn’t lay down. I lay down a book. You lay down a book. He lays down a book. All God’s children lay things down, but they don’t lay down. They lie down. Got it?

I want to… OR I’d like to…

This pet peeve is one I hear speakers make. It is in speeches or interviews on TV that I usually hear this. It causes me to talk back to the TV, usually at a higher volume than my usual speaking voice.

If you want to apologize, say, “I apologize for…” or “I’m sorry for.…” Don’t say, “I want to apologize” or “I’d like to apologize” and then not follow that with an apology. When I hear someone say they want to apologize but then they don’t, this is what goes through my mind: “What you’re saying is, ‘I want to apologize, but I can’t.’”

If you say, “I want to thank you…” but that’s not followed by an expression of appreciation, what I hear you say is, “I want to thank you but I can’t” or “I want to thank you but I’m not going to.”

Just go ahead and tell me you’re sorry. Just go ahead and say, “Thank you.” Don’t just say you want to.

Very unique, most unique

I suppose I’m nitpicking here, but something is either unique or it isn’t. There are no gradations in uniqueness.

Awesome

God is awesome. God’s creation is awesome. Your team winning a ballgame is not awesome, although the Carolina Panthers winning the Super Bowl would be something to celebrate. A new outfit is not awesome. McDonald’s fries taste good, but they aren’t awesome. The overuse of any such word weakens it and leaves it powerless. That’s what’s happened to awesome.

Normalcy vs. Normality

This is a new one for me. Apparently, the two words are interchangeable. I’ve heard “normalcy” all my life, but it seems like the last several months we’ve been inundated with people on TV saying “normality” instead. Is it just me, or have you noticed a change? “Normality” sounds more hoity-toity to me, but maybe that’s just me.

Come on guys, it’s prostate

This illustrates prostrate. Get it? Photo credit: Naassom Azevedo on unsplash.com

Maybe it’s none of my business, guys, but the name of that gland y’all have is a prostate. It’s not a prostrate. This mistake is made so often that when you search for the word prostrate on Microsoft Bing, it comes up with a kazillion sites about prostate and asks, “Do you want results only for prostrate?” I’m not kidding.

Hot water heater

It’s just a water heater. It’s not a hot water heater unless there’s such a thing as a cold water heater. The term “hot water heater” is especially irritating when it is used in printed material from a large electric utility company.

Apostrophe s

I hope I’m not stepping on your toes, but whoever wrote the computer program for the automated grammar checker got this completely wrong and has confused people to no end. The program insists that an s at the end of a word should always, always, always be preceded by an apostrophe.

Sometimes, a word is simply a plural. An apostrophe indicates a possessive. If you ever receive a Christmas card from “The Morrison’s” instead of “The Morrisons,” you’ll know I’ve gone around the bend.


A confession

I make grammatical errors. I still have to look up “affect” and “effect” because I’m unsure which one to use when. I still have to stop and think sometimes to figure out if I should say “I” or “me.” I make many punctuation errors. The use of commas has always tripped me up. My errors are probably some of your pet peeves. Point them out to me in your comments below. Go ahead. I can take it.

I feel better now. Thank you.

Since my last blog post

I had several rough days after getting my second Covid-19 shot, but it sure beats getting a bad case of the virus! The high fever was the worst part for me. It varies from one person to another. Some people just have a sore arm. Don’t let my experience deter you from getting vaccinated.

Until my next blog post

Try not to get too hung up on grammatical errors. In the big scheme of things, they aren’t life-and-death matters. On the other hand, ….

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m listening to Truths I Never Told You, by Kelly Rimmer, and I’m reading The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, by Jan Jarboe Russell. Ms. Russell’s nonfiction book has been a real eye-opener for me. I’ll share more about it in my April 5, 2021 blog post.

Make time for a hobby this week.

What do you think?

Do you think I qualify as a pedant? Survey says….

What are your grammar pet peeves?

Janet

16 thoughts on “My Top 11 Grammar Pet Peeves

  1. Hi, Anita! Great to hear from you! Too bad we didn’t know that about each other way back when. We could have shared some pet peeves and laughs. Be safe and take care of yourself. Spring is coming! Yea!

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  2. Splendid Janet! I have also been rather perplexed when I started hearing people in the US start their sentences with “So”. The first time I heard it was also on the tele and I thought it was just something random, later I started hearing it more and more and it seems to have become the norm. I do not understand it but…
    I am a native Spanish speaker and I teach Spanish to speakers of other languages, mostly friends, expats from US/UK that have relocated to Spain and I always tell them that the language to a native speaker just sounds right and that is how we know that we are employing the correct word. I never fancied grammar, in fact I hated it in both Spanish and English but when you learn to speak from repetition, as we did when we were children, you just adapt to the sounds of the language and you develop an instinctive way of knowing which is the correct verb, article or adjective. I have many peeves with Spanish grammar as well and Spanish is a very complicated language…but I learned English in the UK and then changed it when I lived in the States, so now I speak American English.
    In any event, I most assuredly enjoyed your post, quite lovely indeed and also appealing.
    All the best, I am glad you’ve gotten both your doses and you are doing fine. Here I am still waiting. Today the Spanish government decides who the next group of people will be but I fear I will not be in the group as it is probably going to be from 70 to 79. Stay well and all the best,
    Cheers,
    FBC

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello, Francisco! I’m delighted that you enjoyed my blog post so much! I certainly had fun writing it.

    That’s interesting about Americans starting their sentences with “So.” It’s interesting that, as a native Spanish-speaker, you had also picked up on that. It’s driving me up the wall! It’s everywhere. In interviews, the person being interviewed often starts to answer every question with “So.” It’s a lazy habit people have fallen into and I’m afraid it’s here to stay. I don’t think people even realize they’re saying it, so it’s going to be difficult for them to break the habit. Your explanation of how certain things just sound right to native speakers is excellent.

    I’m sorry you haven’t been able to get your vaccination yet. We are indeed fortunate here in the US that the roll out under the Biden Administration has been good. There were a few bumps in the road early on, but now things seem to be well organized. I hope your age group will open up soon there in Spain.

    Sunny today and mild. Typical spring weather in North Carolina: warm one day, cool the next. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see spring arrive. Take care and stay safe. – J

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am sorry you had a reaction from the vaccine but like you said, it is much better than getting Covid. I am horrible at grammar but we have this local TV commercial and the owner starts every sentence with SO. It drives me nuts. Now I have been guilty using it too, however, it makes me crazy! Now the new thing that bugs me is not using punctuation when sending a text message. The newest one, no vowels and we need to figure out what they said. Ahhhhh!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re welcome, Laleh. I’m struggling to write a book for adults. I can’t imagine being able to write books for both adults and children. You are amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Diane. I run a low normal temp, but four degrees of fever was no fun. The fever lasted about 30 hours. You’re the second person who has commented about people starting sentences with SO. I’m glad I’m not the only person this is driving nuts. I wish we could all band together and put an end to this madness! LOL! And don’t get me started about text messages. I’m right there with you, and I can’t believe I left that one off my list. My mother is long gone, but she was forever an English teacher. My sister and I have commented frequently that our mother wouldn’t be able to watch TV today because so many grammatical errors are made on the news, in commercials, and in interviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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