I’ve shared various punctuation pet peeves and grammar myths on the blog over the years. But I’ve still got more to share because the internet is a hotbed of grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.
It really makes me sad to see how the everyday use of the English language is deteriorating. So, as proofreaders, I feel it’s our duty to keep flying the flag for the proper use of our language.
And if we can have a bit of a chuckle at the same time, then it’s a win-win!
Here are 9 grammar pet peeves that drive me crazy.
Read them, laugh, and maybe even learn something!
9 Grammar Pet Peeves That Drive Me Crazy!
1. Should have vs. should of
Gahhhhhh, this is possibly the worst one, and that’s why I need to get it off my chest first.
This is one of those grammar mistakes that is misheard in speech and then gets written down incorrectly.
“Should’ve” is short for “should have,” and I concede that it does sound like “should of” in speech. Nonetheless, that would be incorrect.
Same goes for “could of” and “would of.”
Let’s work on getting those shoulda, coulda, wouldas right, shall we?
2. Specifically vs. pacifically
We all know that the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean.
But did you know that pacific (note the lowercase) is a word in its own right? It means conciliatory, mild of temper, or having a soothing appearance or effect.
Now unless you actually do want to talk Pacifically (i.e., in the context of the Pacific Ocean) or you want to talk pacifically (i.e., in the context of having a calm, peaceful conversation), then the word you’re looking for is specifically.
Specific means clearly defined or free from ambiguity.
Example: I specifically wanted the rainbow sprinkle-covered cupcake.
3. For all intensive purposes
I can see where the confusion arises here. If you say it fast, it does sound like “intensive purposes,” but the correct term is “for all intents and purposes.”
4. Less vs. fewer
Have you ever been in the grocery store and seen a sign that says “10 items or less”? It’s wrong!
The sign should read “10 items or fewer.”
Use less with items that can’t be counted; use fewer with items that can be counted.
Example: I’d like to use less water to preserve the environment.
Example: I could read fewer books, but where’s the sense in that?!
5. Couldn’t care less vs. could care less
This one is actually pretty simple. It does exactly what it says on the tin. “I couldn’t care less” means that you care so little that you could not care any less.
“I could care less” means that there’s still room for you to care less i.e., you still care a little right now.
Here’s Grammar Girl’s take on the matter. The evolution of this phrase is super interesting!
6. Hone vs. home
When trying to figure out whether you should write “home in” or “hone,” consider the pigeon.
Homing pigeons can single-mindedly find their way home over long distances.
Home in on means to move directly toward something.
Example: Try to home in on what you really want from life.
Hone means to sharpen.
Example: If you hone your proofreading skills, you can become a sought-after proofreader.
If you feel the need to add the words “in” or “in on,” then the word you’re looking for is probably “home.” When in doubt, use “zero in” instead.
7. Supposedly vs. supposably
Surprisingly, “supposably” is a word. Who knew? It means conceivably.
Example: Supposably, she could have committed the crime. She was in the area at the time.
Supposedly means according to what is or was said, claimed, or believed by some.
Example: Supposedly, he was the one who stole the books from the library!
8. Regiment vs. regimen
It bugs me when people say “regiment” when they mean “regimen.”
It probably shouldn’t, but it does… especially when I see it on a fitness trainer’s site. They’ll say something like “I’ll create a custom fitness regiment for you!” Oh, WILL you?! Will it be a group of men and women in their 20s wearing uniforms?
No, you mean to say regimen!
9. Try to vs. try and
When I looked further into this one, it seems I might be one of the only people upset by its usage. Merriam Webster even gives “try and” the okay in certain circumstances.
One of the arguments against “try and” is that it just doesn’t work in other tenses. For example, “I will try and fix the issue” doesn’t make sense in other tenses (e.g., “I tried and fix the issue” or “I am trying and fix the issue.”)
If it still upsets you too, you may have to learn to accept it in everyday speech and informal correspondence but avoid using it in formal situations (or around other grammar nerds).
I’m so happy to have got all those grammar pet peeves off my chest now. My fellow proofreaders and word nerds will understand the barely controllable rage that bubbles to the surface when confronted with these mistakes. What can we do but laugh at the silly ones and try and to help people make their writing better?
Are you guilty of making any of these grammar mistakes? Got any more grammar pet peeves that drive you bonkers? Let me know in the comments!
If you want to take on the challenge of improving some of the content that makes its way onto the internet, check out our free Intro to Proofreading course! It’s your duty as a word nerd to make the internet a better place!