On many social media conversation threads, there is someone who takes the role of grammar/spelling police—often to discredit an opposing viewpoint. That’s not me-- although there are times when I chuckle at the “Your a idiot” comment. I think ideas are more important and I understand that typos and auto-correct may account for some of the mishaps.
Of course, I place some value on using proper grammar and it does help your point if you sound well-educated. There are some often repeated missteps and idioms that I notice more than others. Here are a few of them.
The first is one of the most common. It’s “I could not care less,” not “I could care less.” The second doesn’t even make sense—especially in the context that it is offered. “I could not care less” means you don’t care about the subject matter you are discussing. “I could care less” means that you care some and misses the point.
Another is the word “irregardless.” Although some will argue that if a word is used and has an understood meaning, then it is a word. Reminds me of the “Ain’t ain’t a word” rebellion some of us had as a kid. In this case, all one has to consider is what “regardless” means and wonder how it is different than “irregardless.” The prefix “ir” means “not,” and better suited for words like “irresponsible” and “irrelevant.” And, “regardless” sounds much better.
While most are familiar with the misuse of “to, two and too,” and “you’re and your,” I am surprised how often I see “than” and “then,” mixed up. In fact, I was just reading a published paper by a veterinarian that used it incorrectly. “Than” is most often used in contrast or comparison—“I would rather have a dog than a cat.” “Then” is used in progression or as a function of time—“I am going to the store then to the bank.”
A mondegreen (or eggcorn) is a commonly misheard phrase and the one I hear all the time is “for all intensive purposes,” The original phrase makes more sense as “for all intents and purposes.” I am guessing that those who were not familiar with the phrase repeated it, in which case the words ran together creating the more popular mistaken phrase.
If you have ever seen the movie “Finding Forrester,” you might recall the distinction between farther and further. As the student enlightens the teacher, generally farther refers to distance, further is a definition of degree.
There are some other phrases and idioms that have been around for a while even though they may be grammatically incorrect. The one that comes to mind is “to each their own.” The grammatically correct version would be “to each his or her own.” It is clumsy and the use of “their” to an individual subject is a common mistake in all forms of writing.
Redundancy of ideas is normal in passionate writing or social media comments, but sometimes there is redundancy even within a sentence. In sports, it can be heard that a team “won the last five games in a row.” The “in a row” part is obvious and unnecessary.
There are plenty more and a quick Internet search will reveal numerous lists of common mistakes. Apostrophes seem to give folks problems and I do not even trust myself with “effect” and “affect.” A frequent error that I see in professional writings and emails, even with spell check, is “alot.” It is two words “a lot.” I do not know why loose and lose is such a problem, but they are often misused. My only punctuation note is that the period at the end of a sentence with quotes goes—almost always—inside the quotes.
When it comes to spelling and grammar, I was not an English major and I do not like to correct people—even when they ask. It can be uncomfortable and some people take it personally. There are many rules and everyone makes mistakes, and I see them everywhere—including marketing materials and professional printing.
After all, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a great editor!
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