Friday, December 14, 2007

Common Grammatical Mistakes

After reading this post on one of my favorite blogs, I felt inspired to list some of my biggest grammatical pet peeves.

I’m a full-time copy editor at TV Guide. That basically means that I get paid to be a Grammar Nazi. As a result, I know a lot of nitpicky rules about grammar that the average person probably doesn’t know (like the difference between “convince” and “persuade,” for example). However, it makes me absolutely insane when people mess up on the easy things.

Thankfully, the writers I work with are wonderful and don’t make a whole lot of really common mistakes in their copy. However, there are things I see and hear in everyday life—often from people I know and love—that just make my teeth hurt.

Some examples:

1. The inexplicable use of apostrophes to indicate plurals. I don’t know when this became the accepted use, but with the holiday season upon us, I am constantly seeing advertisements for “CD’s” or “DVD’s. I can almost excuse that, since people don’t ever seem to know how to pluralize acronyms. (It’s easy, by the way…just add an “s” and make it “CDs” and “DVDs.” If you throw in an apostrophe, you make it possessive.) But what I can’t excuse is the way some people use apostrophes in basic plurals all the time. My local SaladWorks proudly advertises that they sell “panini’s.” A hair salon downtown offers “haircut’s.” No, people, no. Please stop.

2. People who mix up “Leave me alone” and “Let me be” and instead come up with “Leave me be” and “Let me alone.” The first two make grammatical sense. But the new constructions are utter gibberish. As Bill Walsh, copy editor for The New York Post, once said, “’Let me alone’ makes about as much sense as ‘Allow me to purple.”

3. It’s/its and you’re/your. Can we please get this straight? “It’s” is a contraction, short for “it is.” “Its” is a possessive. Same for you’re vs. your. “You’re” is a contraction that’s short for “you are.” “Your” is a possessive.

4. This drives me nuts: “$10 dollars.” No. No, no, no. It’s either $10 or 10 dollars. To use the dollar sign and then spell out “dollars” is redundant. Same for “6:00 o’clock” or “5 am in the morning.”

5. People saying “loose” when they mean “lose.” I’m not sure why this is even an issue. They’re two completely different words—they mean different things, they’re spelled differently and they’re PRONOUNCED differently. So why is this such a common mistake?

6. “A lot” is not spelled “alot,” and “all right” is not spelled “alright.”

I’ve got hundreds more, but those are the ones that make my spine tingle when I see or hear them. What are some common mistakes that irritate you the most?


miriam said...

i believe "alright" is -- or at least used to be -- just as correct as "all right."

just like "judgment": i grew up spelling it "judgement" -- which IS correct, but it's been eliminated from spell checkers and stuff, and no one spells it that way now.

Angela said...

"Alright" is occasionally used in fiction, where the rules are more flexible, but no newspaper or magazine conforming to AP style would ever, ever use it.

Same with judgment/judgement--Merriam-Webster lists them both, with "judgment" (no "e") as the preferred spelling and "judgement" as a variant. But it's a strict no-no to spell it with an "e" in an AP-style publication.

Muggsy said...

I'm having an online discussion with some people and we're having a disagreement about the use of the American dollar sign.

I know it is redundant to say, "$10 dollars." The issue is whether or not it is acceptable to write, "10$."

I've never, ever seen it done that way until very recently. I think it is wrong, but is there a "rule?"

Paul Smith said...

these mistakes are so common, thanks for sharing this! has some mistakes you can miss!