Weekly Musing: Feeling Peevish

Through the years I’ve touched upon pet peeves of mine mostly from my POV as a reader. One area I haven’t touched upon are my pet peeves I see as a writer. Sure I’ve given my opinion on annoying writing advice. Admittedly devising a list of writer pet peeves was a little more difficult. Beyond railing against publications and outfits not paying writers for content and charging reading fees, questioning why readers believe everything in a fiction story must be 100% accurate, and any other topic I’ve groused about in detail, what are the things which bug me as a writer?

Abusing Apostrophes: This is my biggest pet peeves. One of the biggest offenders are people adding ‘s to things which are not possessive but are plurals. For example, saying “The patient had multiple EKG’s during her hospital stay” is incorrect. In this context EKG should not be possessive. What does it possess? Nothing. Clearly the sentence states the patient had more than one EKG so it should be written as EKGs.

Another example is when words are abbreviated and pluralized. For example, PJ is short for pajama. When talking about say wearing PJs to IHOP it shouldn’t be spelled PJ’s. Again, what does it possess? When using ‘s really examine the sentence to see what, if anything, is possessive. If you mean to express more than one of something drop the ‘s and just use s.

One more common misuse of the apostrophe when noting decades or a specific year. For example, it is not the 1990’s. It’s 1990s. Does that look a bit awkward? Yes, but English is full of idiosyncrasies.

Another incorrect usage of an apostrophe is when a decade gets truncated. It is not the 50’s; it’s ’50s. Now, like so many rules there are exceptions. Examine if the decade or year in question truly possesses something. Take this sentence: “2016’s American presidential election was a wild ride” correctly uses ‘s when referring to a year. In this case the year is possessive.

Incorrect Usage of They’re/There/Their, You’re/Your, Were/We’re/Where, Two/To/Too, and Then/Than, etc.: We’ve all seen memes making fun of people incorrectly using these words. Some point out in posts and emails the errors. For me personally, when I see Facebook posts, emails, and other forms of communication where these words have been misused, my left eye twitches and it takes a team of oxen to hold me back from typing a correction. Blame how the English language developed.

Here are a few charts to know when to use each:

Though we all struggle with many of these you can see it’s easiest enough to look up a handy graph. There are other commonly misused words I could have added to this list, but I think the point is made. It’s super easy to search for when and how to use these words.

Extra Spaces After Sentences: This one is tricky because it depends on your generation and where you went to school.  However, the accepted industry standard is one space. I repeat ONE space after the period.  Not two. Two spaces used to be acceptable, but times change.  Language and grammar rules evolve and change.  A writer of any kind must be willing to progress unless they really enjoy having their metaphorical hand slapped.  To me it looks as if a writer is trying to pad their piece with the extra space.  It also is unnecessary work.  To me the extra space is noticeable.  See how odd it looks in relation to the rest of this post?

Could Care Less: Oh, dear. Anyone who says this sounds as if they don’t understand what they are saying. When one states they could care less when the intent clearly is you have decided you don’t care anymore. In other words, you should be saying “I couldn’t care less.”

Irregardless: Please someone tell me this still does not happen. I rarely see it pop up so I feel reassured most people have gotten the memo irregardless is not a word. Even Microsoft Word knows it’s not a word as it red squiggle lined it for me twice. The proper word is regardless.

I think the biggest culprit of why people believe this to be a word is how English language continues to change. Think about it how many words start with the ir prefix signaling its meaning is opposite: Irrespective, irreplaceable, irrational, irrecoverable is word. You get the idea. By this logic why can’t the opposite of regardless be irregardless? Because it’s English?

Hyphens: I tend to be a fan of hyphens though they are a confusing mess. Hyphens are fun though I can’t really explain why. I just really like them. Since hyphens are confusing here is a helpful guide as to when and when not use hyphens: *INSERT LINK* http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp

My legal last name is hyphenated so it greatly irks me when I’m not allowed to use it when filling out forms. When this happens my last name either is squished together in one long unpronounceable name or a space replaces the hyphen. This is legally and grammatically incorrect.

But I digress. Looking through the above linked list I notice I have incorrectly used the hyphen. I think the reason is because hyphens are so rarely used and I don’t remember them ever being brought up in elementary, junior high, high school, or college. As a result, it’s ignored or used incorrectly. But when used as intended hyphens clarify words and phrases.

 

Though this is my personal list of writer pet peeves, I unfortunately have committed some of these myself. Believe me old habits are hard to break. Thank goodness for reviewing one’s work, grammar books and websites, other readers, and editors. I’m know I’ve disappointed myself and annoyed my initial reader when I’ve not followed my own list of pet peeves. It is my hope with my small contribution you, the general public, will not fall into the trap or misused grammar so many do.

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