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November 11, 2005


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David Cowan

MD, Here's a promising sign of recovery: four times in your post you inserted the period before the right parentheses (though the period should follow, as in this sentence).


No, you're not the only one. I'm an English Major, and obsess about grammar on signs and everywhere else. In fact I have the spelling and grammar check in Word turned off because it's often wrong and it makes me spit fire when it suggests something stupid to replace an accidental fragment or badly spelled word. (I do admit that I'm fairly lax with my blog, but I also often go back and edit.) I have a bf who insists on using double negatives just to make me squirm. How evil is that? *shudder*


I have started this comment 4 times and then found errors. I flippin' don't care anymore! Please don't read my blog as it would likely give you a seizure.

I have the perfect cure! Teach 7th grade students for 1 year. That will cure you, (or kill you).


By the way, 2:08 needs to lighten up. I find you delightful, at all times. You and my mom should go bowling. She is infuriated that words are added to or changed in the dictionary when enough people use it incorrectly.



I was about ready to jump on the Week's mistake. Erin correctly pointed out that it ought to be Two Weeks' Notice,

You might consider updating the post by striking through the error.

Two Week's Notice Two Weeks' Notice.

Even better than Eats, Shoots & Leaves is Between you and I.

My biggest pet peeve is the overuse of the reflexive pronoun, as in, X gave a a copy of the book to Y and myself.

Mr. Big Dubya

Dude - that's it. I'm banning you from my site - how can I possibly write knowing you're out there, lurking, looking for that dangling participle or split infinitive? I'm paranoid enough about my writing.

Time to dig out my Little, Brown handbook again and my Chicago Manual of Style.

Mr. Big Dubya

Oh - dammit. Let me jump in with some of my pet peeves.

Greater than/More than


while i understand the interest find in "eats, shoots & leaves", i would highly recommend that people read louis menand's review of said book in the new yorker. (i apologize for not have the issue number readily available.) the book is rife with grammatical errors and in translation (yes, it is a book dedicated to "queen's english") it fails to provide adequate grammatical guidance. the devil is in the fucking details, baby .


jiveturkey...i wish you had given your e-mail address so I could have sent you a separate message but you are absolutely 100% right.

I actually liked "eats, shoots & leaves" but I agree that the New Yorker review of the book was even better. And since, in you, I'm sensing a kindred spirit, I want to share my total nerd joy & geek nirvana by telling you that, as a birthday present from my brother, I received the 8 DVD-ROM set of every New Yorker ever published. Over 4,000 issues! Half a million pages! All for $49.00 on Amazon!

It's the greatest thing since sliced cheese! Unfortunately, I can't find ANYONE to share my enthusiasm. But you're with me, aren't you?

Hello? Turkey? Anyone out there?


i am rarely up past 11 (i have morning duty when the dog and the beastie boy awake at 6), so i apologize for not posting an immediate response. i do share your unbridled enthusiam for the new yorker. for years i used to hoard each and every issue until my wife (otherwise known as the security council around here) forced me to sell them to a second hand bookstore on chambers street before moving to texas. she was right. why would anyone in their right mind pay to ship all those back issues from a blue state to a red state. i took the money (it felt dirty), bought myself a fifth of jack and some billie holiday, and then sat by the mini-golf park by stuyvesant high school mourning that fateful day.

now, i suppose, you have the pleasure of personally comparing each editorial era at the new yorker. that begs the question: which one do you prefer? for instance, tina vs. david? (mind you, the tina brown era was an aberration to me. i could have bought VF instead and got free perfume as well.)

as for being a strict grammarian, you have to embrace grammar before you can transcend it. unfortunately, most skip step 1.

chocolate makes it better

My brain hurts now everyone.

I have truble with my speeling, but I figere if you get the point acroos, what's the difference!?


touché, chocolate makes it better.


Crap, I wish I had something witty to say but I'm a shitty grammarian and a crappy speller. My wife gets all over me for being such an idiot and is constantly correcting me in front of the kids. Now, THAT'S annoying.


my favorite post thus far.

and the best comments!


Well, with all of this being said, do not read my blog! I do not want to be responsible for your death. I try to speak and type properly, but I still get messed up on many things. Plus, the blog is my effort in creative writing...catch the creative part. The only thing that really bothers me is when people say (or type) a lot.

JJ Daddy in Savannah

How come you don't mention that Roy Cohn and Henry Winkler also went to Horace Mann? They're not well known grammarians, but, Ayyyyyyyyy!


Great post. I'm afraid to admit that I have similar tendencies that are far worse. I cringe when I listen to Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend" for its abuse of the subjunctive (but o/w love the song). Also, I hardly ever bid on eBay items when the seller has poor grammar or mis-spells words.


My wife just asked "Can I see the remote?"
My response was, of course, "Yes, I'm sure you can."
Which lead to "Okay, smartass!"


Today I read "It boggles my mind how there are people out there that are successful and cannot speak right." I cringed.


Their, their metro dad, it'll be ok.

Linda B

I went to Whole Foods the day I read this post. I was in the checkout aisle when I looked up and noticed the sign - "10 items or fewer". You would have been so happy. So, there's yet another reason to love Whole Foods.


I am terrible afraid that MD will hate to me and correct mine grammar. I will have to insure that I right correct from now on.


After reading this post, I don't feel as bad about getting bent out of shape when people say "I could care less."

(Of course, I was petrified about commenting for fear of incorrect grammar.)


I can truthfully state that you are NOT the only one. And now I know I'm not the only one, either.


Mr Sass

I must confess that I am also a grammar and spelling nazi (and pompous git, it would appear).

I often read articles that I will completely discount because they contain just one grammatical or spelling error and Kim is frustrated by my constant grammar corrections of her writing.

It's so bad I even have a collection of bookmarks dedicated to humourous grammar based comics, such as

There's no excuse for poor grammar and spelling, it shows that you are simply too lazy and/or stupid to take it in (given that school is free and indeed compulsory). People also don't seem to realise that on the magical internets[1], your text is the only impression people have of you, and as such, poor grammar and spelling reflects poor character.[2]

[1] I work at an ISP and have been a sysadmin for years so I consider myself qualified to bastardise 'internet' as I see fit!

[2] This doesn't go down too well with most people, however in most cases it's not a great loss.

PS: Are footnotes not great?


Look - Because of me, my wife now reads your blog religously. I may not be the best with the English language, but there are some things that I cannot stand. Use of the double negative. Incorrectly using their and there. My wife thinks I am a dumbass because I throw out corrections. But...Metrodad...I am with you.

Phat Daddy

I have been accused of being a grammar and spelling nazi. I can't help it. Whenever I hear English being slaughtered by those who should speak it properly, my brain wants to implode.


*cringe* I am the same way. However--I am fascinated with linguistics (from a distance) and have an appreciation for the fluidity of language. Which is why even if it is gramatically correct to say "fewer" rather than "less," it has become acceptible to say it "the wrong way." I think that is what is really cool about language. It is constantly in flux in a "survival of the fittest" kind of way.

And—I realize your mother was a stickler for bad grammar and taught you well, but didn't she also teach you that it is wrong to correct other people's bad grammar? So learn to bite your tongue!;-)


You are, as I have heard it said, preaching to the choir. Testify!


You know, I feel like being a little contrarian here.

It looks like there are TONS of people who have problems with poor grammar, and maybe that's because a literate blog by a wise man attracts those types. Can one not make the case that some of what is being described as poor grammar is actually the evolution of the language? I'm sure all of us use phrases and grammatical flourishes that would make some English professors cringe, but which have become so ingrained in our language over the decades that they have become, for lack of a better phrase, "proper English." One of the great things about our language--and something which makes it frustrating to those trying to learn it--is that it is adaptable, absorbing influences from all corners and flexible in the face of cultural change.

Many people write in the same manner and style in which they speak and are heralded as geniuses by the same people who nitpick over grammar. As annoying as it is to see or hear a simple sentence mangled by the grammatically challenged, I think it's dangerous to let one's belief in some objective set of linguistic rules serve as an excuse to feel superior to others.

Can't we all just get along?

Christ, I reread this comment three times to look for grammatical errors...look what you people are doing to me!!!


Please please PLEASE for the health of your heart and to prevent a blood vessle in your brain from busrting, never ever ever visit or read my blog. I depend entirely to much on teh spell checker and have been known to vomit up a post, grammatically coorect or not. I think it would just be better fo rteh world <~~ ut ut look at that poor tyoing, i swear It's nothing compared to the usual. I must say though that you are quite amusing.


Eh...grammar rules are just guidelines. Do you know how flat and mundane our language would be if folks chose to play by those rules? A little creative manipulation of correct grammar is refreshing.


Maybe you're an asshole. Have you considered that possibility? Get some therapy, I don't know how anyone you know can stand you.


I used to teach English, and now I can't turn it off.

My current crusades are superfluous prepositions and the rampant disregard for the apostrophe.

Windows is starting up? Can it be started down? It's just starting! Open up, summon up, heat up...

It kills me that I'm bothered by my step-father's *hand-made* sign for our house which reads, "The Gilbert's".

You are not alone.


I knew there was a reason we all got along so well! Jay and I bonded agonizing over people misusing "well" and "good" and - god forbid - "it's" and "its". *shudder*


How about this quote from a newly minted Rhodes Scholar (English Major at Navy, my alma mater):

AP Story

"My parents were always really supportive of me in high school, but never really pressured me," Jacquelyn Hanna said. "They raised my sister and I to really follow our dreams, and they always said that we could do whatever we wanted in our lives."


Late to the game, but...

I'm a writer by trade, and I have not a damn clue about grammar. (But if I did then all the proofers would be out of work. So in reality, I do it for the children.)

I do have one major hang up besides the they're/their/there fiasco, and it's with people who do not understand the difference between then and than. There's an actual company here called Faster THEN Light.

Then light what?


I see someone else joined in late to the blog. Here are a few pet peeves of my own.

1) Folks that say "for all intensive purposes"
rather than "for all intents and purposes."

2) The word "irregardless."
There is no such word. The word is "regardless."


no, you are not alone. Not only is the much-mentioned "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" a *bestseller,* but Martha Brockenbrough has a few great columns on this topic, too. (Love her!) see these and other good stuff at: http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/columns/?page=marthahome


I'm agree with you wholeheartedly on every point you have made. I can get past the less/fewer errors and several other things, but nothing irks me more than when my father or my brother says: "I seen Joe in town yesterday". "I seen"??? Arrrgh.

Other pet peeves:
1) improper use of subjuctive
2) their/they're/there
3) it's/its
4) Billy and me went to the movie.


(I'm the only one, aren't I?) There is a common grammar error in that sentence. If you meant it for a joke, then just ignore the rest of this post. But my point is: This is a case for the proper use of "ain't" according to a booklet I once read called "Fifty Misconceptions of the English Language." To be correct but rather stuffy, the above sentence should be "I'm the only one, am I not?" The verb "are" in this case is not right. The problem is that we don't have a contraction for "am not" unless you allow "ain't" in cases like this.


Bad grammar signifies demonic possession.


Hmm, I'm making a comment on a post that's over six months old. I hope you don't mind.

You're not the only one, MD. It drives me up the wall when I see bad grammar, but I must confess that on my blog I quite often butcher grammar and syntax. There are tons of excuses, none of them valid; though I will say that it's punctuation and spelling mistakes that will someday make me insane. Or maybe they already have.


Dave Thomas

I am also six months behind the times. But it’s never too late to be the biggest asshole ever, and I’m bound to say that your parenthetical phrases are flipping some crazy shit with their punctuation. Witness:

I stopped going to Food Emporium because all their checkout signs said, "10 items or less" (it should be "fewer.")

The law says that the period adheres to the sentence which begat it. Therefore, your period belongs to the primary sentence, not the parenthetical:

I stopped going to Food Emporium because all their checkout signs said, "10 items or less" (it should be "fewer").

If your parenthetical phrase is also independent, you can create a different stylistic effect by making a new sentence out of it:

I stopped going to Food Emporium because all their checkout signs said, "10 items or less." (It should be "fewer.")

This next one is particularly screwy:

When someone asks me when I finished college, I literally flinch on the inside when I say "I graduated from Cal in '91." (instead of "I was graduated from Cal in 1991.")

You punctuate as though the parenthetical phrase were independent (it’s not, as your lowercase “instead” will attest). But with a wave of my magic wand:

When someone asks me when I finished college, I literally flinch on the inside when I say "I graduated from Cal in '91" (instead of "I was graduated from Cal in 1991").

One more little tweak: Generally, commas are used to separate quoted material from the rest of the sentence that explains or introduces the quotation. But they’re NOT used to set off quoted elements that are embedded in a larger structure. So I would scratch out the comma after “said”:

I stopped going to Food Emporium because all their checkout signs said "10 items or less." (It should be "fewer.")

The moral of the story? We all make mistakes are we’re all assholes. And grammar exists to serve us--not the other way around. And your writing is tremendous, no matter how many periods your parenthetical phrases steal.

Hi ho!


I want to know how to speak good grammar


Our daughter is now in the second grade. They are currently learning punctuation, capitalization, and other language treats. I cringe when I receive e-mails from her teacher that are punctuated incorrectly, misspelled, and have obvious grammar mistakes. I resist the urge to correct her e-mails. It's going to be a long school year.


I rarely comment on the grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors of others simply because there is no way to point them out without appearing to be a pompous ass and making people feel stupid. Instead, I choose to suffer in silence. However, I am considering whether or not I should speak up in the following instance. There is a moderately upscale Mediterranean restaurant in my neighborhood with a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk advertising their "Mediteranean Cuisine." Every time I walk by I fight the urge to go in and point out their spelling error, although sometimes I feel like I have an obligation to point it out so that they can correct it. In fact, I'm surprised that the sign is still out there (written in chalk, which is easy enough to erase and rewrite), as it suggests that nobody else in the entire city of San Francisco knows how to spell "Mediterranean", or at least has not brought it to the attention of the management. In a similar vein, I have seen jewelry stores with signs advertising their "jewlery", and sports equipment stores advertising their "sports equiptment". For fuck's sake, if you work in the field, shouldn't you know how to spell the thing that you do?

In addition to the numerous pet peeves mentioned in the postings above, which I share (especially the "grocers' apostrophe"), I have several others that I have not seen addressed:
1. Using "alterior motive" rather than the correct "ulterior motive".
2. Using "supposably" or even "supposively" rather than the correct "supposedly".
3. Using words of foreign origin with the incorrect gender forms (e.g. "John is a masseuse at the local spa".) or number forms(e.g. "I am an alumni of XYZ University").
4. Using written accents incorrectly and without regard to their effect on a word's pronunciation in order to make a word look foreign and presumably exotic. I see this in advertisements all the time. Yes, Virginia, there IS a difference between an accent grave and an accent aigu.
5. Using "who" when "whom" is required. This is an old debate, but hearing someone say "Who should I say is calling?" is like having a knitting needle jammed in my ear.
6. Confusing "who's" and "whose".
7. One that I have heard a lot recently, although I don't know if it's a recent development or something that I just began noticing, is when people say "The thing is, is that..." AAAAAAAHHHH!!! Why are you using "is" twice??? It should be "The thing is that...", shouldn't it??? For example: "I know that it annoys you when people use improper grammar, but the thing is that strangling them is not an adequate solution".

OK, so now everyone knows the kind of personal hell I go through on a daily basis. I guess it can only stay bottled up so long before I have to let off some steam. I'm sorry you all had to be the recipients of this rant. Hopefully you will receive some satisfaction knowing you helped to keep one more Grammar Nazi off the street.

Nick Pedder

What happened to "Two Week's Notice?" Do you care?

Yes I do. It should be "Two Weeks' Notice"


Well, I finally went in and told the host of the Mediterranean restaurant that they spelled "Mediterranean" wrong on their sidewalk sign (see above). He said that he knows, but gave no explanation why it hasn't been fixed... not that he owed me an explanation. It has now been three weeks and the misspelling is still written on the chalkboard. Ah well....

Jacquelyn B. (nee Hanna)

I would like to point out, Twosox, that I also split an infinitive in the passage you mentioned.

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