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Guest Post: A Refresher Course on Grammar and Spelling

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Aileen Robbins of The Dunn Robbins Group very kindly pointed out a typo (it’s been that kind of month) in a recent newsletter. That led to a discussion about usage and—well, Aileen can take it from here, with her three main pet peeves when it comes to usage: mis-spelled/misused words; mispronounced words; and misplaced quotation marks.

Category I: Mis-spelled / misused words

In the first category, considering we all have access to spell check, everyone has the chance to correct even a quick e-mail before it is sent hurtling through space. Which means that most of the errors in this modern computer age fall into the homonym category, or sometimes words which spell check doesn’t catch, because the incorrectly spelled word does indeed exist in its dictionary. Here are a few offenders:

   1. It’s (contraction of it IS, a subject and a verb) vs. its (the
   2. too (also) vs. to (direction towards) vs. two (number)
   3. you’re (contraction of subject & verb) vs. your (possessive )
   4. they’re (contraction) vs. their (possessive) vs. there (location)
   5. principal (head of a school) vs. principle (tenet)
   6. irregardless (wildly redundant with both the "ir" and the
      "less") vs. regardless
   7. and complementary vs. complimentary

Category II: Mispronounced Words

These words are not only mis-spelled, but also egregiously mispronounced so often, in fact, that people think you’re pompous or affected if you pronounce them correctly. "X" substituting for "s"
drives me particularly nuts.

   1. espresso (not eXpresso)
   2. aficionado (not afiXanado)
   3. ask (not axe)
   4. nuclear (not nucular)
   5. sherbet (not sherbert)
   6. library (not li-berry)
   7. restaurateur (not restauraNteur: the "n" disappears when it
      refers to the person, not the place)
   8. across (not acrosst)
   9. idea (not idear)
  10. drawer (not draw)

Category III: Misused quotation marks

People who use "quotation marks" for no apparent reason, e.g.: "Out for lunch" or Out for "lunch."

Aileen was worried about going overboard; I think there are probably (not "probly") many more we can name. As she remarked in one email, we would all be well-advised to review Strunk & White on a regular basis.

What are your favorite—or should I say, least favorite—pet peeves?

UPDATE: One of our readers, Brook Ashley of Santa Barbara, CA, sent in these peeves:

Two things that cause me to erupt in hives are:

Reading, "He hung himself," rather than the correct "hanged." An exception can be made for rural Appalachia, where "He done hung himself," is still acceptable.

Hearing, "I’m going to lay out." This is endemic in Southern California, where I now live. I want to scream, "Lay out WHAT, honey?"

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