Wednesday, December 03, 2008


A post by editor Cheryl at her completely fab blog Brooklyn Arden got me thinking about phrases people use that are annoying. Cheryl talked about cliches she's read in query letters, particularly the overused "...or did she?" and how we should avoid them at all costs.

*Nerd Alert: Since discussing bad grammar and language use is one of my favorite pastimes, I thought I'd get the ball rolling over here.

I'm warning you now this whole post will read as completely judgmental. I'm sorry. Really! It's just that judging grammar and language is so fun and helps me feel so smug and superior ... just kidding. Sort of. I'm sure it's some kind of character defect, so you non-language snobs can go ahead and chuckle at my pitiful vehemence when it comes to language rules.

I could go on forever about incorrect grammar, but others have done it at great length so I won't. But here are my personal language peeves:

"at about"
As in, "I went to the mall at about 10 a.m." You either went at 10 a.m. or you went about 10 a.m.

"the fact that"
I never realized this was a bad thing until I got to my college journalism classes. We were practically forbidden to use it, and the profs were totally right. It sucks the life out of your writing.

"centered around"
There is only one center of something, so it should be "centered on."

"12 noon"
What other noon is there? Saying 12 noon is redundant. Same with 12 midnight. Just say noon or midnight.

overuse of adverbs and adjectives
"His piercing hazel eyes glanced furtively at the beautiful, willowy young woman with the flowing, golden mane of shiny, satiny hair as she surreptitiously tiptoed toward the enormous wooden front door of the old gray stone castle." For the love, just spit it out already!

adding "" to the end of a sentence when you're not European
"This list is getting long, no?" Some American bloggers out there do this all the time. It's not wrong, just annoying. If English is your first language, then please stop. It sounds pretentious.

using too many words other than 'said' in dialogue
"What do you mean?" Joe questioned
"I mean you're the one at fault!" Jane accused.
"You think we did this?" Bob inferred.
"Yes, and I want you to fix it!" Jane demanded.
If your dialogue can't convey the tone of the speaker about 80 percent of the time, then something is wrong. You should be able to use 'said' and get the point across.

Now that I've been completely annoying with the snobbery, what are some of your biggest language peeves? Or peeves at something you are good at? For instance, when I run 5Ks, I'm sure the real runners get annoyed that I chug along in the middle of the road instead of on the side. Or am I supposed to be in the middle and they're supposed to be on the side? I have no idea. Which is probably frustrating for them. Kind of like I would be frustrated if they told me they'd run "at about" a 7 minute mile and finished around "12 noon."


Becky said...

My biggest pet peeve? Using 80's instead of 80s. "The music of the 80's was awful," for example.

OH! And "I should of done that" is another good one. It's "should HAVE" - my mom is guilty of that offense.

Please don't judge the grammar of this comment... :)

AC said...

Becky--I can't believe I forgot those! They really bug me, too.

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

I'm probably a grammatical train wreck, but ignorance is bliss. ;-)

As for the proper running etiquette in races, you can run in the middle or side, jug for the love of God, make sure you run in a straight line. People who weave all over the place are the worst to runners. The other sin is staging yourself near the front of a race if you are a slower runner. You don't want to be run over by the faster runners and they don't want to run you over. Other than that, running is cool because there are not a lot of rules to worry about. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

"language is so fun" -- what kind of inane grammar is that? It seems to be the norm in America now.

Anette J Kres said...

THIS is why you are one of my CPs! lol. Even though I got my degree in English, I focused more on literature and less on the nit-picky stuff. As a result, I just write what sounds right to me and try to avoid comma splicing. I'm sure my grammar and punctuation arn't terrible, but I'm nowhere near as structured as you. How are edits coming?

Michelle said...

Whenever I'm asked about my pet peeves, I can never think of anything!