Friday, March 16, 2012

What's Your Pet Grammar Peeve?

I'm not a grammar dragon, but there is one mistake that makes me blow fire. (The following explanation comes from the Gotham Writer's Workshop Newsletter:

Gotham Books

by Patricia T. O'Conner

What a difference an apostrophe makes. Every possessive has one, right? Well, not necessarily so. It (like he and she) is a pronoun—a stand-in for a noun—and pronouns don’t have apostrophes when they’re possessives: His coat is too loud because of its color, but hers is too mousy.

Now, as for it’s (the one with the punctuation), the apostrophe stands for something that has been removed. It’s is short for it is, and the apostrophe replaces the missing i in is. The parakeet is screeching because it’s time to feed him.
Here’s how to keep its and it’s straight:
  • If the word you want could be replaced by it is, use it’s. If not, use its. (There’s more on its and it’s in the chapter on pronouns.)
NOTE: Sometimes it’s is short for it has, as in: It’s been hours since he ate.
An itsy-bitsy problem
Used to give me fits.
Why use an apostrophe
With it’s but not with its?

The answer to this little quiz:
The longer it’s stands for “it is,”
While the its that’s less impressive
Is the one that’s a possessive.
From Woe Is I, Third Edition by Patricia T. O'Conner

Me again: The other day I was approached to be part of a blog tour. On the very first page of the work I spotted an "it's" instead of an "its." I declined.

What is your peeviest grammar peeve? Have at it, and a most splenetic Friday to you!


  1. The misplaced apostrophe is certainly one that exasperates me but I also particularly dislike the use of 'of' as a verb - I should of bought it then, She must of liked it and so forth. Misspellings on advertisements and on strap lines in television news bulletins irritate me too!

  2. Oh this one's going to make me mad because I have a problem with sloppy grammar of any kind. I don't mind genuine mistakes and typos but regular use of bad grammar (particularly by people who call themselves writers) winds me up.

    Personally it's that old 'to boldy split infinitives' that gets me. It's acceptable in American English but I HATE it in 'real' English.

  3. Depends on what I see really, but yeah it's and its is a big one. Sometimes I type to fast and hit an extra thing or two but I always know it's the wrong view and fix it later.

  4. every day vs. everyday

    every day = daily
    everyday is an adjective

    It only bothers me when I see it being used by companies in their ads. :)

  5. Apostrophes seem to be the worst. Alongside its/it's, and the trickier-to-spot whose/who's, the apostrophe no-no that steams me up is when folks insist on adding them to plurals.

  6. It's/its and there/their/they're mistakes do drive me crazy, and I've been trying to hammer the rules into my students lately, with varying success.

    The one that drives me the most nuts, though, isn't grammar, but spelling: when people spell "definitely" "definately." There's a little red line under that word for a reason, folks! Gahhh.

  7. To MorningAJ:

    You might want to check out the Fowler brother's "The King's English" (1906) where they dismiss the prohibition as a "curious superstition".

    It's very difficult to find any usage book on either side of the Atlantic written in the past 75 years that condemns split infinitives.

  8. The wrong usage of your/you're. Why must people be so lazy or sloppy? It seems so simple to me...


  9. Have you read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss? The comma after "eats" is misplaced. The sentence actually refers to the diet of a Panda bear, but the misplaced comma changes the entire meaning of the phrase. This book on punctuation is terrific.

    One peeve I have is the use of the word "nauseous" in place of "nauseated." These are NOT interchangeable. People will say, "I feel nauseous," which does not mean their stomach feels sick; it means they themselves are sickening or cause nausea in others. Drives me nuts.

    I work part time as a medical transcriptionist, and doctors are the WORST with grammar. They love to end sentences with prepositions, I have to fix punctuation all the time. Also, we have one doc who always says "In lieu of this circumstance," but what he means is "due to this circumstance." I cringe every time I have to type it!


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