The Grammar Nazi Strikes!


Over on Farcebook, I just joined the discussion group, “I judge you when you use poor grammar”. In honour of this development, I thought I’d list some of the most common grammatical errors that really peeve me. Feel free to add your own. I may need to start a wiki for this one…

  • In grocery stores, it’s common to see, “Eight items or less.” It’s eight items or FEWER, people! FEWER! The rule is that fluid things (like water, beer, etc) are qualified by “less” and “more”. But countable quanta (like items, persons, books, etc) are qualified by “fewer” and “more”.
  • It’s spelled DEFINITELY, not DEFINATELY.
  • If you prefer item A over item B, you like it MORE, not BETTER. If you say, “I like A better than B”, you are commenting on the manner in which you do the liking, not on the quality of quantity of the “like”. For that, you must use say, “I like A more than B.”
  • “WOMEN” means more than one woman. I have seen this error most commonly on dating site profiles. Mind you, if a woman doesn’t know how many she is, it’s probably a good self-selecting criterion for me.
  • GRAMMAR is not spelled GRAMMER, unless one is referring to the surname of the pompous actor who plays Frasier.
  • ORIENTATE is not a word; ORIENT is.
  • “At” is the most annoyingly common dangling participle, as in “I’m driving to where you are at.”
  • Sadly, it is more correct to say, “I drank three beer” than, “I drank three beers.” Why? because the former is an elliptical sentence in which the words “bottles of” are omitted but implied. (Same goes for any fluid measure. See “eight items or fewer” above.)
  • It is more correct to say, “spinach is healthful” rather than, “spinach is healthy” since the latter is a comment on the physiological health of the spinach plant itself, not on the health benefits that is may confer upon its eater. (Courtesy of Yakuta.)
  • Irregardless is not a word, even though the new Webster’s Dictionary wants to make it such.
  • In the new parlance of our idiot youth, CHILL is being used as an adjective, as in, “This show is chill.” CHILL is a verb, people. Use it as such.
  • The words “party” and “network” are not verbs, they are nouns. But society has spoken on these two, and I wave the white flag. I will party tonight and maybe network while I’m at it.
  • Why does everyone mispronounce kilometre? It’s KILL-oh-mitter, with the emphasis on KILL. It’s not kill-AHH-mitter. Why? Because only devices require that we pronounce their suffix as “mitter”, as in THERMOMETER and ODOMETER. Units must have their prefixes well enunciated. A kill-AHH-mitter would therefore be a device for measuring kilometres. We don’t, after all, say cen-TIM-mitters or kill-AHH-grams, do we? No! The best example of this is millimetre and millimeter. The latter is a device for measuring the former. The CBC is the only media outlet I know of that consistently gets this right.
  • Someone who is very good at cards is called a “card SHARP”, not a card SHARK. Someone who is good at pool is, however, called a POOL SHARK.
  • “To coin a phrase” does not mean to use a well-worn phrase. Rather, it means to use a new or rarely-heard phrase in a speech or article in such a way that it rapidly becomes a meme or cliche.
  • There is no such word as ALRIGHT. It’s two words: ALL RIGHT.
  • IT’S is a contraction of “it is”. ITS is the possessive form of IT. There is no ITS’.
  • There is no such word as WHO’S. It’s spelled WHOSE.
  • There is no such word as ALOT. It’s two words: A LOT.
  • THEIR is the possessive form of THEY. THEY’RE is the contraction for THEY ARE.


And don’t get me started on when and how to use a semicolon.