Grammar Police

by Jen on June 12, 2009

in Rant of the Week,Worlds' Goodest Teecher

I do not pretend to have perfect grammar or even an unusually superior command of the English language. (After all, I am the History Goddess, not the English/Language Arts Goddess). I am guilty of grammatical misdeeds myself, to be certain. Two big ones that came up while I was writing my graduate thesis: I like to start sentences with “But” and “And” and I have a serious comma fetish. (Come on, what sentence couldn’t use a few more commas?) Also, I’ve been know to end a sentence or a thousand with a preposition (pure laziness, I admit). So what follows may be a little hypocritical, but it’s my Rant of the Week nonetheless.

I’ve seen this dozens of places in the past year and I just can’t take it any longer. This has entered my top five grammatical pets peeves, rounding out the list that includes what I like to call the “errant apostrophe” (the various misuses of its/it’s and your/you’re), superfluous quotation marks*, people who use the noun bath as a verb**, and saying “all intensive purposes” instead of “all intents and purposes.”

My newest hatin’? “Phased.” As in, “I wasn’t phased when my mother told me she was really an alien sent to Earth to learn human customs.” It’s fazed, people. You weren’t not phased (carried out systematically), you were not fazed (“disturbed or disconcerted”).***

F.A.Z.E.D.

Thank you.

Free Tip of the Day: People who write should, first and foremost, read. It’s the single best way to improve your grammar and vocabulary. Read. A lot. Read anything, but, please, not just blogs. Read books and published things that have been edited.

*Quotation marks do not signify emphasis, people. Underline, bold and italics serve those purposes. There are a variety of correct uses, but none apply to being used on the word “sale” on an advertisement for your store. (However, they are correct when used on the word “sale” in this sentence and the previous one, as I am referring to the word itself. )
**The verb form is bathe.
***Disclaimer: The grammar in this sentence? Not sure.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amelia Sprout June 13, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I'm not sure if I would have gotten that one right, but I know I will now. Unless of course I'm trying to be sci-fi ironic. Then all bets are off.

2 jen @ negative lane June 14, 2009 at 9:57 am

Ha! I did think about including a disclaimer that, if you are a member of Star Trek, then you might actually be phased. ;-)

3 ragtopday June 15, 2009 at 2:25 pm

If you aren't already a fan of the Cake Wrecks web site, you need to check it out. There is a whole category for the misuse of quotation marks. My ex MIL used to sign all her cards with "Love" in quotes, and I was never sure if she was mocking me (we got along fine, btw). It was a revelation to learn that some people use them as a point of emphasis. Never made sense to me!

I agree wholeheartedly with the READ advice!!

4 ragtopday June 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Oh! Another pet peeve of mine is when someone will write "I should of gone to the party", when it should be "I should have gone to the party." Not everything is written as it sounds!!

5 Steph June 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Dude. I break the rules of grammar constantly.

But.

There's generally a reason I do it, and I generally understand that I'm breaking a rule. I think if it's a *style thing, it's okay. (At least that's what I tell myself when I tromp all over the English language.)

Also? I wish people would learn the difference between affect and effect. There is a difference. Really. I swear. But I won't start that rant here.

6 jen @ negative lane June 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Ragtop Day ~ Yes! The "should of" thing is something kids write in their essays all the time that drives me nuts. You are completely right that people write like they talk.

Steph ~ I totally agree that breaking the rules of grammar is appropriate as long as it's a style thing. 'Nuff said. (Ha.)

You guys have hit on what really should be a category in my top five grammar pet peeves: homonym misuse. (Specifically homophone misuse.) Affect/effect and the like. Ugh.

But really, overall I'm not a grammar snob. I can't be. I commit too many transgressions myself. There are just some things that irritate me.

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