Top Five Language-Related Pet Peeves
I try to be open-minded when it comes to language. I make mistakes and am humble when those mistakes are noticed. There are words that I have to look up for their spelling every time; I can never properly explain the uses and forms of 'lie' and 'lay.' So, I understand. Yet, I still have some pet peeves about people's misuse of the English language.
#5 To Me
In journalistic writing and other forms, personal opinion is never used. However, when writing an opinion piece, a reflection, a personal essay or memoir, the writer's opinion is expected and understood to be driving the piece. Thus, it is unnecessary to state phrases like 'to me,' 'I think,' 'I believe,' and 'In my opinion.' Readers know it is your opinion because details are being commented upon. Thus, omit these hedging phrases from your work.
#4 Commonly Confused Words
Whole textbook chapters or appendices have been dedicated to explaining the differences between words and phrases. I cannot possibly replicate their efforts here. However, here are my top three pet peeves within this category.
3) Its vs. It's
For whatever reason, people struggle with this one. It's simple to memorize. In the four-characters It's, the apostrophe functions as a separator. It separates and replaced the "i" or "ha," depending on if "it's" means "it is" or "it has." Regardless (please don't say 'irregardless'; that would be overall pet peeve #6), that apostrophe separates words, so only use it when you mean to do that.
Its is a possessive pronoun. When a genderless object appears to own something, it shows that relationship. The company and its profits plus the new car and its features are two examples of the correct usage. Use this phrase to remember the difference: It's convenient to rely on public transportation if you understand its system.
2) To, Too, Two
Let's start with definitions. 'To' indicates direction or intent. "I want to sleep" and "Let's go to sleep" are two examples of its proper use. 'Too' means also or very. "Can I come, too?" and "It is too cold in here" demonstrate these. 'Two' is the number, such as "I'll be there in two minutes." Spending two minutes to study these rules can help you, too.
1) Their, they're, there
'Their' is a possessive pronoun. It shows ownership between two people. If Joe and Mary share a house, it is their house. 'They're' means 'They are,' such as "They're enjoying the time in their house." Finally, 'there' indicates direction/place or introduces a phrase. Note the following: There are free samples over there. Although it's bad form to use a major word twice in one sentence, it demonstrates the two uses.
#3 "I couldn't care less."
This one irritates me to my core. I am not always the most logical person, but how people don't understand why this is wrong befuddles me. The phrase is, "I could not care less." It is used to indicate such disinterest in the topic that the speaker does not care and, in fact, could not care less. By saying you could "care less," there exists a potentially small - but nonetheless there - amount of caring. Thus, if you want to show your complete lack of interest, say that you could not care less.
#2 Apostrophe S
I debated what should go here. Originally, it was going to be the misuse of 'good' and 'well.' However, since I am doing mistakes that tend to appear in writing, I changed my mind to the abuse of 'apostrophe S.' I still cannot understand where it came from, but people are pluralizing words by adding apostrophe S. For example, "dog's like to chase their tail's" has two errors (not error's). There are a few plural rules, but let's suffice it to say you do not add an apostrophe to make any noun plural.
There are only two situations when an apostrophe is used: in a contraction and to show ownership. Two sentences ago I used 'let's.' This is short for 'let us.' Variations on 'is' and 'has,' among other words, can be put into contracted form. The apostrophe replaces one or more letters for this informal language use. The second use is in showing possessive form. I wrote a whole piece on this, labeled Apostrophes: Use and Misuse, so please refer to that. In short, though, never use an apostrophe S to show that two or more of an item exist.
This phrase needs to be removed from our vernacular. This shorthand for "laugh out loud" has become so pervasive that it appears not only in its original home of text messaging, but in emails, on Facebook, and probably other medium I don't know. The original use of time-saver 'LOL' was to indicate that two people were in a conversation, and one person laughed. Out loud. It's inherently incorrect to start. Whenever one laughs, it's out loud. If you're not making noise in response to something funny, you're not laughing. Regardless, it exists. 'LOL
' is meant to indicate gut-busting convulsions in response to something clever or unexpected.
It has degraded into a standard response anytime someone writes something mildly chuckle-worthy. One person writes, "I fell down." In response.... "LOL." Really? It is always written back within seconds. If something truly was LOL-worthy, the recipient would not be able to type back so quickly. Anyway, this two-way exchange has become progressively worse. There's no longer even any need to have someone make you laugh. You can LOL yourself! People will write something mildly amusing. Then, within the same message, they will tack on LOL. I have this to say to them: you are not that funny. If you need to announce that you are being funny, you're just not. So, please stop. Immediately. Let others laugh if they find your statement funny. If you must, write LOL in response to someone else. But please, for the love of my nerves, stop LOL-ing yourself.
Okay, kids, now that I have inevitably offended at least one of you, go out there and keep writing.
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