Thoughts and other Miscellany

I judge you when you use these incorrectly

These are the grammatical mistakes that REALLY bug me.

1. less/fewer – gets top billing because of how common it is. Drives me crazy every time.

2. using “enjoy” as an intransitive verb. I cannot simply enjoy, I must enjoy my dinner, my food, my evening, my grammar dalek habits.

3. using an apostrophe to indicate a plural. There have been angry review notes about this one on my audit files. Worse when the rule about words ending in s followed by an apostrophe is correctly used while making a mistake (e.g. There were two thesaurus’).

4. there/their/they’re

5. it’s/its

6. were/we’re

7. refusing to acknowledge that “data” is a plural noun and therefore claiming that “these data” is wrong. I’ll accept “this data” as common usage, but don’t tell me the plural is wrong.

8. amount/number. Amount of cheese, number of cheeses. It’s really not that hard.

Any travesties I’ve missed?


11 thoughts on “I judge you when you use these incorrectly”

  1. I’m so with you on all of this! My professional life is spent correcting these mistakes. My particular pet hate is people who say “over” when they mean “more than”. I also detest the use of “in order to” and “in fact”.

  2. Less/fewer distinction seems to be well and truly lost. Even my university teaching materials get it wrong. That really grates on my inner ear, like a wrong note. I think it’s weird no-one ever gets it wrong the other way round; no-one EVER says/writes ‘they were paid fewer money, she drank fewer milk.’ So, everybody gets the distinction one way but not the other? Very strange. There is absolutely no excuse for problems with their/there/they’re or its/it’s. Mistaking those is a sign of real idiocy.

  3. I still mourn ‘disinterested’. Is that pathetic? It’s just that being disinterested is such an important concept. If we lose the word, as Orwell argued, do we lose the very idea it conveys? What does it say about our world that we don’t care to keep the idea of being disinterested or understand why it’s a good thing? You want the judge of your case to be disinterested but not uninterested. I am aware that both meanings of ‘disinterested’ have been around for a long time but now it’s used only as a synonym for ‘uninterested’, what do we use to mean ‘disinterested’? Can’t think of an easy replacement. Unbiased doesn’t do the job because it doesn’t have the possibly mercenary overtones you need to convey the idea of having an ‘interest’ in something.

  4. As a voluntary adult literacy tutor I hear many stories about how people are afraid of trying to learn to read and write because they are scared of others judging them if they get things wrong. Not everyone has a university degree. Not everyone finished high school, or even primary school. Sometimes people have learning disabilities. Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes people are just doing the best they can.

    1. Absolutely – my facetious tone is perhaps a little snide in this post. I know that lots of people haven’t had the literary, linguistic and educational opportunities that I have, and I would (I hope) never sharply correct someone who had no reason to know the right structure/words. My objection is to poor language use being condoned by corporations (e.g. “10 items or less” which has become so common in supermarkets) and lazy use by people who are perfectly capable of better language.

  5. Hello fellow Grammar Nazi,
    the two awful mistakes I can think of off the top of my head are momento in place of memento, and dias in place of dais. They piss me off all the time.

    Loved your blog, following you now!
    Please do visit my book blog, and tell me if you like it, or if it’s ridden with grammar bloops. And if you like it, please do follow!

  6. Your/You’re is my biggest bugbear. I wrote a post on this subject back in 2009, but it has a little poem at the end all about punctuation that you may like… Click here

  7. Ha ha! I have had the data argument many times with my boyfriend. He insists that it’s old-fashioned and confusing in these days of data being used in computing terminology. My personal pet hates include led vs lead and misplaced apostrophes.

    I agree with you that this isn’t about being bothered by individuals making mistakes so much as big companies and public signage, because those are the errors that perpetuate misconceptions and miseducation.

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