Beyond Your/You’re and Oxford Commas: Niche Grammar Peeves

So for two years of my short life I was a newspaper editor.

Not a big newspaper, or a very serious one, either. But I maintain two things about being an editor of a dinky newspaper: every news outlet is a legitimate news outlet, and once an editor, always an editor.

It’s spring, by which I mean spring in Idaho, by which I mean winter, but spring (by all its names) means fun stuff about student government, and because I guess I like to do my civic duty I was reading up on various candidates of things, and you would not believe the inarticulate fops that some college students seem to be.

Okay, that was excessive, I suppose. Sorry.

When I was an editor, I did not restrain myself to editing only people’s grammar and AP style, but I also tended to nitpick word choice. If I thought that a person had inserted an extra ‘that’ into a sentence, I would cross it out. Sometimes you don’t need the that. Actually, the word that makes me cringe even when used correctly because so many people use it incorrectly. And there are lots of other examples. So here are as many niche grammar peeves as I can think of.

1. Excessive ‘Thatting’



Okay, listen up. We all know that Shakespeare said, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” But if you’re talking along and you write something like Shakespeare quoted, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” that is WRONG. Shakespeare didn’t quote it – he was the one who said it in the first place! If you are writing an article, in a newspaper, about someone and they quote Shakespeare to you in an interview or something, you can write, Mayor John Dinglefritz quoted, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” a reference to Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVIII. That is when you should use the verb quoted. I, like every other girl on the internet though perhaps not as violently, think Jennifer Lawrence is adorable, but she did this too. You know there’s that quote that Kate Moss quoted that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” is apparently what Jennifer Lawrence said. Unless Kate Moss was quoting someone else, Kate Moss did not quote that quote. She was the one who said it. Jennifer Lawrence quoted Kate Moss in saying it. To quote something or someone is to say something which does not come from the body of your own work. If it came from your own mouth originally, however, you did not quote it. Shakespeare did not quote himself (at least, not that we know of).

3. Capitalizing things that don’t need to be capitalized but which are frequently capitalized and then misconstrued as supposed to be capitalized (got that?)

Do not ever capitalize seasons. That is wrong. Another one that bugs me personally, though it’s debated by other people, is capitalization of Mom and Dad when it follows a possessive pronoun. I’ve seen my family members write things like “my Mom is doing well,” etc. Technically, this should be “my mom is doing well,” but “Mom, are you doing okay?” or “Dad, where’s Mom?” can be capitalized. I don’t like the “Your Mom is at work” format but I don’t know of any reasons why it isn’t grammatically correct. It just bothers me.

4. Unnecessary quantifiers

This one actually comes from something that a candidate wrote. He (or she, I can’t remember) quoted Sophocles. The sentence was, “A Greek Tragedian named Sophocles said yada yada yada.” (By the way don’t capitalize tragedian. Unless he is Lord High Tragedian to the King.) But the point for this particular grammar peeve is that you don’t need the word “named.” And if you don’t use “named” you also don’t have to use “A,” but this does make you sound rather uppity. “Greek tragedian Sophocles said yada yada yada.” So that’s a choice you have to make.

That’s all I can think of for now.


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