Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pet Grammatical Peeves

Everyone has a few pet grammatical peeves.

Some have become so common that they are now acceptable: like split infinitives or using “they” to refer to a singular object.

An article from BuzzFeed offers us some excellent examples.

Here is a sampler:

Split infinitive: You need to really focus.

Using “they” to refer to a singular object: That person knew what they were doing.

The dangling participle: Walking along, cars whizzed by.

Discord between subject and verb: There’s towels in the closet.

Confusing “lay” and “lie:” I’m going to lay down.

Double negatives: I didn’t do nothing.

For your further edification, I can tell you that all but the first three were flagged by the Microsoft Word Grammar Check.


Dennis said...

I suspect that when one is doing commentary on the web one is attempting to maintain one's flow of consciousness. A funny thing happens when one goes back to correct the errors one fails to see one's own errors.
It is always easier to see those same errors in someone else's work. Also, I suspect that many are working within a time certain. Hopefully the ideas are there for others to read and comment upon.

Anonymous said...

As a military speechwriter, I had no choice but to use the gender-neutral "they". It was uncomfortable, but necessary for PC reasons.

It's easy to ruin your whole life w/one word - if you are a white male. I kid you not.

I suspect most US govt. speechwriters (even "contractors" in Ireland and India) operate under the same strictures. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...


All people who work for the government, in one form or another, are under the same rules when writing, whether that be speeches, security plans, training courses, et al. A significant number of us used "GRAMMATCS"(sp) as an aid, but still had to meet those strictures.
Over the years watching the explosion of PC in DoD leaves one wondering how much of this interfere with decision making, especially at the top. It does sometimes appear that the "war fighting" General is being replace by the "Political" General more attuned to PC than the welfare of the troops who have to face this country's enemies. The number of Generals being pushed out of the military by the Obama administration ought to worry a lot of people. Just a look at the ROE and some of the courses being taught at the service academies makes one wonder where this is going to end.
Words have meaning and they do have consequences.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I've seen precious few articles about the Obama administration's efforts to push out senior officers. Is there any good information on it? And why has no one, as in no one in Congress, taken up the cause?

Dennis said...

Anonymous said...

Going back to the "pet grammatical peeves" subject, there are a few things that annoy me:

When people say "Things are getting clearer." There is no such thing as "clearer." There is clear and clearing.

When people speak the abbreviated expression "etc" as "EK - set - er - uh." The original Latin is "et cetera," which is et with a T at the end, not.a K sound. I also have no idea where the Brits get the -ium phonetics at the end of the word "aluminum," as it is spelled the same way on both sides of the pond.

When columnist Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal editorial page uses the pronoun "we" in his personal columns. I'm never sure if his columns are discarded editorials Jenkins wrote or if Jenkins has multiple personality disorder.

The late David Newman was a radio talk show host in Detroit years ago who once spent an entire hour on the proper use of the apostrophe. I thought the volume of calls on the topic was a testament to both his professional genius and the quality of his audience. His measured tone, quick wit and courteous bearing is sorely needed on today's airwaves. I do enjoy Rush Limbaugh, but so many others have copied his schtick without commensurate ability. Conservative voices would be complemented with some contrast to Limbaugh's approach. David Brudnoy of WBZ-AM Boston was also excellent, but he passed away almost a decade ago. Alas.


Sam L. said...

Tip, I've often seen it spelled "aluminium" in Brit and Ozzie items. Likely also Canadian, but there have been so few of those...