I recently took one of the ten or twenty thousand quizzes that show up on my Facebook feed every week dealing with everything from what does your favorite Pokeman say about you to which Disney princess are you. I will admit that I am a sucker for those quizzes when they show up on my timeline. I never publish the results, but I very often take the quiz. By the way, I wouldn’t take the Pokeman quiz because despite the fact that some of my grandkids are fans, I have never quite figured out what a Pokeman is so I certainly don’t have a favorite. Now the Disney princess is a different story. Oh Belle….
However, the quiz I recently took dealt with grammar, and which grammatical mistakes most annoy me. According to the developer-of-the-quiz, they could predict my age by what grammatical mistakes grate most on my nerves.
I took the quiz and learned that I am 19 years old. Hmmmm.
The reason the quiz so misjudged my age, I think, is because I couldn’t really answer the questions fairly. The fact of the matter is that ALL grammatical errors annoy me (being old and therefore easily annoyed), so I would just randomly select my answer. This isn’t to say that I have perfect grammar. I don’t. My grammar particularly suffers when I’m speaking, and is a bit better when I write. Still, far from perfect.
Nevertheless, spelling and grammatical errors bug me. Must I be the editor for the entire world I often ask my husband. Aren’t I so full of myself? I wonder how many grammatical errors are in this very blog post. Don’t tell me.
My mother used correct grammar and was a good speller as well. I think the two often go hand-in-hand. I know what grammatical error she found most annoying: Saying these ones or those ones. While I wouldn’t say that is the grammatical error that makes me the most crazy, I always notice when someone uses that phrase (which is frequently) because I heard my mother complain through gritted teeth very often when she would hear someone say something like these ones are my kids’ favorite or make sure you put those ones on the top. Like fingernails on a chalkboard to her.
There are certain grammatical mistakes that I probably wouldn’t make if I was writing, but would very possibly make when I was speaking. For example, I probably often say something like there’s pickles in the refrigerator, but I would correctly write there ARE pickles in the refrigerator. Verb/subject disagreement doesn’t particularly bother me. I’m fairly disagreeable myself so who am I to talk.
The same holds true for the correct use of who and whom. I wouldn’t want to speculate on just how often I misuse those words. I know, I know, who is the subject; whom is a direct object. Still, it’s difficult for me to remember.
And speaking of it’s, I’m not sure why that word is so often misspelled because the rule is simple: the only time it is ever spelled it’s is if you are saying it is. Otherwise, it’s its. Even if it doesn’t make sense (i.e, possessive its), simply memorize that simple rule.
I guess if you put my feet to the fire and made me commit to the grammatical error I find most annoying, it would be the incorrect use of less and fewer. The incorrect use of those two words is one of the few grammatical errors that makes me crazy in both written and spoken form. Grocery people: it’s not 15 or less items; it’s 15 or fewer items. And don’t hate me if I come with 16 items.
My sister Bec (who was a high school English teacher for many years) is as good a grammarian as anyone I know. I frequently ask her questions about the correct use of a word or phrase. We were both in attendance at our niece Jessie’s final capstone presentation prior to graduating. It isn’t surprising that we were both clueless on the topic her group presented: the feasibility of using paper pulp with a polymer as a substitution for clay in a landfill. What? But at some point someone in her group misused less and fewer. I hasten to add that it wasn’t Jess. Afterwards, Bec and I looked at each other and I said, “Did you understand any of that?” Bec admitted she didn’t understand a word, but added, “I did hear someone incorrectly say less instead of fewer.
I laughed out loud, because I had noted it as well.
Must we be the editors for the entire world?