A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
This month, we asked area writers, editors, and winners of multiple “War on Words” contests for their pet peeves. Here are the responses:
Mark Nardone, communications manager at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library
I’m sure I’m not the only one to name “between you and I” as a peeve. That one drives me nuts. [Between you and me is correct.] Also, ending sentences with unnecessary prepositions, such as “Where are you at?” I am of the school that ending a sentence with a preposition is often perfectly OK, especially if the attempt to avoid it leads to an awkward, convoluted sentence. “That is the one I spoke of” sounds better to me than “That is the one of which I spoke.”
Ben Yagoda, professor of English at the University of Delaware and author of several books, including When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse
The only usages that really bother me, for some reason, are pronunciations: off-ten for often, ne-go-see-ate for negotiate, divissive for divisive.
It also bothers me when people complain about saying “reach out to” instead of “contact,” not realizing that 60 years ago, people were complaining about “contact” as a verb. And when they complain about “graduated high school” instead of “graduated from high school,” not realizing that 60 years ago, people were complaining about “graduated from high school” instead of “was graduated from high school.”
Larry Kerchner, winner of multiple “War on Words” contests
1a. Use of the objective me as a subject. E.g., “Me and Bob are going to the store.” “Me and my mom like ice cream.”
1b. Use of the subjective I as an object. E.g., “Thank you from Annette and I.” “Between you and I.”
2. Use of the singular there’s when referring to plurals. E.g., “There’s a hundred ways to do it.” “There’s lots of illiterate people in this country.”
3. Incessant use and misuse of literally. E.g., “I literally moved mountains to get this done.” (Just heard on TV as I was writing this.)
Luann Haney, owner of Haney & Associates advertising agency and winner of multiple “War on Words” contests
• For all intensive purposes [all intents and purposes is correct].
• doggy-dog [dog-eat-dog is correct].
• And do I need to remind you of pacific vs. specific?
Also, there’s the ever-popular failure to use possessive: “Somebody hit my sisters boyfriend car” instead of “my sister’s boyfriend’s car.”
Matt Sullivan, chief operating officer at Short Order Production House and O&A contributor
“More than” for comparing amounts. Not “over,” which is for spatial relationships, and not “greater,” which is for relative size. This is the hill I’ve chosen to die on. I don’t care what those panderers over at the Associated Press say. There are rules.
Pam George, freelance writer and frequent contributor to O&A
My pet peeve is something akin to pan seared salmon instead of pan-seared — compound adjective. And I dislike when corporate clients want to uppercase Company or Bank, or if they capitalize their titles after their name.
Maria Hess, former Delaware Today editor-in-chief and Delaware Press Assn. Communicator of Achievement
The maddening abuse of exclamation points and the strange obsession with capitalizing every word that sounds important.
And finally, our own Jerry duPhily, publisher of Out & About
Exclamation points: Almost always unnecessary unless part of a direct quote. Let your prose create the excitement, not your punctuation.
Also, the unnecessary use of the word that. Sometimes “that” is essential, but generally the word can be removed and the meaning of the sentence doesn’t change. It stuns me how often writers fail to do the simple exercise of searching for that before submitting copy.
Department of Redundancies Dept.
(in which we keep up with the Joneses)
• Mike Jones, USA TODAY: “At the very least, Smith has to be able to get his guys to at least challenge Tampa Bay.”
• Mike Jones again: “But thus far, Watt has yet to look anything like the impact pass rusher . . .”
• New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, responding to a question from Dan on The Dan Patrick Show: “Initially I didn’t, at first.”
WORD OF THE MONTH
Pronounced broot, it can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means rumor, report, noise. As a verb, it means to report, to repeat or to spread a rumor.
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