If you’ve been in a writer’s support group for any length of time, you’ve certainly seen it before. It’s an evergreen discussion that makes a pass every year or so. When a professional association has covered all the topics they can think of—Saying No to a Mentor Request, Keeping Social Media from Eating Your Time, How to Have a Book Signing that Doesn’t Look as Though it Occurred Post-Rapture, there eventually comes a lull in which no one can think of a fresh and original topic to pose to the group. So we pull out that good ol’ standby—Grammar and Spelling Pet Peeves. These are words which–if misspelled or misused–will send a usually stout-hearted editor into a quivering literary swoon. Announcing such a topic is a siren call. It’s like the ice cream truck tune of the writing world; it brings everyone running. We gleefully fly to our keyboards, our mental pockets stuffed with dangling participles, contractions that shouldn’t be contracted, and the horror that is the “vulgar singular they” (best delivered with the affectation of English Royalty).
Our pockets soon begin to empty as we showcase our favorites of the misused, abused, and confused of writing errors. Lead instead of led. Its instead of it’s. Less versus fewer. And let us not forget the useless and hapless apostrophe seen with so many CDs, DVDs, Dos and Don’ts. Everyone has a favorite peeve and we share with gusto. (Feel the confetti flutter by your head)
Then we get to the fun of misspelled word crimes.
The police poured over the evidence looking for the culprit, which unfortunately would give them no new insight, but would make for a very messy crime scene.
I turned my paper into my professor. Imagine his surprise. But he’ll thank me later when he notes the ample margin I’ve provided, which as we all know is essential to a balanced and enjoyable life.
She excepted Christ as her savior when she was 9. Her poor parents were horrified to learn that while little Petunia was open to all other gods, she had strangely ruled out Christ at such a young and impressionable age.
I have yet another set of words that can annoy me. These are not words that are misused, but rather which, even when properly used, seem poorly designed. Some words just don’t sound at all like the things they’ve come to mean. I have tried my whole life to grow comfortable with the word “pithy” as meaning “brief, substantive, powerfully expressed.” But all efforts to the contrary, I continue to feel I’m listening to someone with a speech impediment who’s in a really foul mood.
“Bucolic” is another word that instantly goes in the wrong direction. Instead of thinking of lovely farm scenery, I think bucolic, alcoholic, diastolic, metabolic, even vitriolic. You can’t take a word like colic, made up of nasty sharp consonants, and believe you’ve rendered it lovely, peaceful, and rural just by throwing a byoo at the front. If that works, then saying you byoosgust me should be a sign of extreme endearment.
The truth is I love words. But I also love the people who are doing their best to express a new thought or idea by using them, even if they don’t always do so perfectly. So I feel the sting, right along with them, of the language sometimes used in pointing out their errors.
Things like. . .
“I’m so annoyed by. . .”
“I find it unforgivable that. . .”
“It makes my ears bleed to hear. . .”
It strikes me a tad on the haughty side. Certainly there was once a day, many years ago, when each of these purveyors of perfectly used English also had to learn to use led instead of lead. But rather than feeling some sympathy for the person still making these mistakes, they now find themselves in the enviable position of being able to cast literary impropriety stones. They’ll tell us that these folks should be ashamed for not learning their craft before venturing forth. The problem of course is that one often doesn’t know what one doesn’t know until one has ventured forth. I also know that every one of these critics has looked at their own work—work that passed before a minimum of fourteen pairs of eyes before finally making it to print, and always they find something that slipped by them.
I think it’s okay, even important, to point out errors and encourage improvement. But as we each grow in our craft, I hope we also can recall that one word that never annoys, that flows perfectly off the tongue, that has a beautiful lyrical sound when spoken, which perfectly matches the beauty in its meaning. Grace. Ah, may we see and hear (and dispense) more of it. And if that doesn’t suit, I think byoosgust is still up for grabs.
19 Replies to “Pet Peeves And Grace”
Happened to be in my inbox when I saw this post and the opening pulled me over to finish the read. Very glad I did, Carol. I love the grace in this post. Blessings~
Thanks. Grace is something I’m big on encouraging. “To whom much is given. . .” 🙂
Oops, “Keggie” was me. 🙂 I didn’t realize I was logged in on another wordpress site!
It’s so true that “in to” and “into” have different meanings, completely altering a sentence if used incorrectly.
And grace certainly is matches its definition. What a wonderful reminder. A necessary reminder for the times when I “mess up” grammatically.
Amen, Carol!!! I have my pet peeves … and then I have my weaknesses. Ugh! So glad for good friends and crit partners so we can polish out each other’s smudges. Personally, I think bucolic sounds like something you do, fist to mouth, after a good meal.
Yes. Your version of bucolic makes sense to me. 🙂 It could go in many directions that make more sense than its actual meaning.
Great article this. Grace is doing its rounds at the moment. God seems to be getting the word out. Feel your love for words. Funny too. Thanks!
Great stuff, Carol. A fun, insightful and — dare I say? — courageous read. To write about grammar and spelling is to be the dentist who dares allow people a deep look into his or her own mouth. Bravo!
Thanks. And while yes, it took some courage (as I was certain everyone would look with greater interest at my piece to see if they could discover at least one thing to correct) I also knew that they couldn’t correct it without looking ungracious. Feeeeeel the angst. Tee hee. Tee hee.
Thank you for the splendid post! It is always needful and refreshing to read one about grace in a sea of popular dos and don’ts. Finding a flagrant error in a billboard or advertisement can send me into a fit; but on the other hand, I recently sent off a proposal in which I used “too” instead of “to.” There was a great deal of writhing and head-beating in this quarter when I realized the typo, but of course by that time some agent had already gotten to see the idiocy of me. Hopefully they got a good laugh at my expense.
On a related note, important as correct grammar and spelling are, I find it interesting to realize just how lax writers were with both some two hundred years ago. The misspellings and liberal use of commas in the Founding Fathers’ letters are enough to make your eyes pop out.
Yes, I am a grammar nazi. At some point you’re going to have to accept it. 🙂
Another great post, Carol! Thanks for sharing your wisdom…and your peeves. 🙂
Good one, Carol! It’s helpful to be reminded of what not to do, fun to feel confident that I would NEVER make those particular errors, but important to remember grace–considering I’m bound to make other mistakes! I make more types too, the older I get. Is there something called midlife dyslexia?
I’ve never heard of Midlife Dyslexia, but I’m certain you’ve just created the title of a best-selling book!
Carol, This is beautiful. I desperately need grace and I try to remember to give it!
Sarah–You’re in good company. We all desperately need grace.
This happened last week in church. I wanted to point out a spelling error on a sheet given to the congregation but could not think how to do it w/o looking /sounding arrogant. So I said nothing. There should be a happy medium. Kayleen Reusser http://www.KayleenR.com
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