Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Twelve grammatical mistakes that make me want to throw live scorpions at you

Here’s a fun post about incorrect word usage: 9 grammatical mistakes you need to stop making before I throw live scorpions at you.*

Yes yes I know, these posts are a dime a dozen, but a) I totally agree with most of these; and b) You couldn’t come up with ten?* and c) scorpions are cool! The tigers of the arthropod world! Though if someone throws one at you, wouldn’t it just bounce off harmlessly? Still, it’s an eye-catching phrase.

OB-PA739_scorpi_D_20110804084811

I found one of those on the wall of my house a few years ago. Not too poisonous, but startling! I’d had no idea there were any scorpions in MO at all. I am afraid I killed this one before looking it up and finding out it really is not that dangerous even to little dogs like mine. Next time I will just throw it outside. It is a striped tree scorpion, incidentally, and it will sting and the sting will hurt, so this doesn’t mean you should just pick one up casually, but you should think of it like a wasp, not a rattlesnake.

Anyway, so what are these nine* dire diction bad boys?

According to this post, they are:

1. Affect / Effect

OH YES. Since I had no choice but to learn the difference and how to use these, I naturally feel everyone else should do it right, too. (If you’re writing in science, you get to use both of these A LOT because there are no good synonyms, so you are forced to learn the correct usage.)

2. Myself. “My treasurer and myself agree with you completely about general operating funds.”

Another good one! That drives me batty! Surely it’s not just me. Surely many other grammarians out there hear this like fingernails down a chalkboard — myself without a referent. Ugh!

3. Apostrophes. “I forgot my flask, so Janice let me drink from her’s.” Or, “There are leftover donut’s in the conference room, y’all!”

Those examples are from the post. I . . . don’t *think* I have ever seen the former? Or maybe I blocked it. Examples like the latter are EVERYWHERE. Is apostrophe use really that difficult? I don’t think so.

4. Its/It’s.

Cheating to break this one out of #3 and use it as a separate example of grammar badness. But it certainly is super-common. (Don’t tell anyone, but if I’m tired enough, and typing with just my fingers and not my brain, I can actually make this mistake myself. Unbelievable, but true.)

5. I resonate with. I’ve been seeing this one more often lately. Instead of saying, “Your post on dating in the nonprofit sector resonates with me,” a colleague says, “I resonate with your post…”

I had to read the example given to understand what this one meant. I’m not sure I’ve heard anybody say this? I agree that it makes me think you are vibrating.

6. Utilize. Please stop using “utilize,” such as “Let’s utilize binder clips as door prizes at our gala.”

I must admit, this one does not particularly bother me. Sure it’s a little pretentious, but “a little pretentious” is not nearly as bad as “brainless use of random apostrophes.”

7. Based off of.

This sounds a little silly, I grant, but it’s not a usage that particularly outrages my delicate sensibilities.

8. Irregardless.

Yeah, I had a teacher tell me this is not a real word lo these many years ago, and that took care of that. Now I’m allergic to this usage.

9. And the funniest entry:

Service. OK, this, like “utilize,” is not a grammar mistake. It’s more about word choice. But please pay careful attention, because we in the nonprofit sector use this word a lot. And when it is used as a noun, it’s fine. When it’s used as a verb, though, it opens a hole in the fabric of space and time, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse unleash themselves upon the earth. Watch: “We service low-income individuals through our employment programs.” NoooOOOooOOOooo!!! If you don’t know why that is wrong, please ask a friend.

I laughed.

10*. Comprised of.

Yeah, it doesn’t really annoy me, if only because I never hear anybody use the word “comprise” or “comprises.” I mean, except me. I do now and then. Without the of.

11. Momentarily. It traditionally means “for a short period of time,” but it’s started to mean “in a short period of time.”

Interesting! I’m not sure I ever really noticed this shift. Obviously it doesn’t snag my attention when people use it in either sense.

12. Myriad. “We have a myriad of options for venues for next year’s gala.”

Yeah, just “myriad,” no “of” — I know that, but really, do people say “myriad” enough to annoy you with the “myriad of” phrase?

* The post SAID nine. The title of the post really is “9 grammatical mistakes you need to stop making before I throw live scorpions at you.” I counted the items twice when I got to ten, and frankly, it IS funny that a post nitpicking grammar and word choice happens to screw up counting from one to twelve. I hope I didn’t happen to make any grammatical mistakes in this post right hear! I mean “here.” I think errors are especially likely to slither into posts of this kind, which no doubt serves the poster right.

Meanwhile, when I thought there were only nine items, I thought of another which annoys me way more than anything you could do with “momentarily:”

13. “Orientate.” Stop it stop it stop it. There is no such word. It gets on my last nerve when people say this. Stop with the extra syllable!

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15 Comments Twelve grammatical mistakes that make me want to throw live scorpions at you

  1. Elaine T.

    Oh, yes, I’ve been seeing ‘myself’ misused all over the place in print recently. Fingernails on a blackboard!

    What I’ve also been seeing that I trip over is ‘reticent’ used when I’m expecting ‘reluctant’. Reticent has always had to do with silence, not talking. What’s going on with applying it to action? First noticed in some posts on the Tor website, and the rot is spreading.

    p.s. downloading a sample of Rose Under Fire.

  2. Rachel

    AAARGH. I blocked “alright,” I guess, but it is really in the TOP SPOT for me. NOTHING IS WORSE.

  3. SarahZ

    I think my pick would be there/their.

    I don’t know that I see it in writing so much, but people confusing literally and figuratively bugs me.

    I hate it when people use quotes for emphasis.

    Have you seen Weird Al’s music video for “Word Crimes”?

  4. pete mack

    Oooh, and one more. The one that really gets to me, more than affect/effect, is infer/imply. NO I do not infer that I despise silly grammatical errors. (Nor do I imply it. I will state it outright.)

  5. Rachel D.

    Strangely enough, although I considered myself pretty decent at grammar, I had no idea about all those “of” errors: “based off of”, “comprised of”, and “myriad of”. I say them all fairly frequently, and it sounds weird to say “We have a myriad options”.

  6. SarahZ

    I looked it up, and myriad can be an adjective or a noun, so both “myriad” by itself and “a myriad of” are correct. Technically, the latter means “10,000 of”, but, like the word “decimate”, the meaning is exaggerated in modern usage.

  7. Craig

    Pete, according to Fowlers on Google Books, “orient” is more than a hundred years earlier than “orientate” 1728 v. 1848. I don’t have access to the OED, but that’s the second-best source.

    (It also informs us that they both originally meant “to face or cause to face toward the east,” and underwent the same generalization of meaning; huh, I had no idea. Fowlers doesn’t say if one shifted meaning first.)

  8. Rachel D.

    Cool, thanks SarahZ!

    “based off of” I actually understand, now that I think about it. And “comprised of” still sounds right to my ear, but on looking it up, I suppose I understand it too.

  9. Rachel Neumeier

    I replace “myriad” with “thousand” in my head, and since “We have a thousand of options” is obviously wrong, the version with “myriad of” also sounds weird to me.

    I totally agree that imply/infer errors sound just silly. My mother hates that one and would never have let us get away with that error!

  10. pete mack

    I always thought myriad was indeterminate, so it’d be “myriad Lovecraftian Horrors”, rather than “a myriad Lovecraftian Horrors.”

  11. quartzen

    I cannot stand constructions along the lines of “very unique”! Unique means one-of-a-kind, you cannot have something very one-of-a-kind, it either is or isn’t! Someone pointed this out to me a few years ago and I can’t stop seeing it now.

    I notice quotation marks incorrectly used for emphasis everywhere too, but I find these typically more amusing than irritating. The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a delight if you want to waste some time: http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

  12. Craig

    Quartzen, thumbs up about modifiers to “unique”! I haven’t noticed quotes for emphasis, particularly… but now that you’ve mentioned it I probably will.

  13. charlotte

    hmmm. I use “comprised of” quite a bit–“the archaeological assemblage is comprised primarily of chipping debris.” “The assemblage comprises chipping debris” just sounds awful, as does “chipping debris comprises the assemblage.” I looked it up, and people have been using “comprised of” since the early 18th century, so I think it should be ok by now.

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