Pet Peeves – Word Misuse

Like all readers, I have my list of errors that drive me crazy. As an editor, I do a Find in documents to locate and fix these — and if you’re an author, you should be doing this too.

People send me links to online “tests” (ahem, which I always ace), so here is my test key for you. This is a list of some common errors you should look for in your writing.

bicep – No such thing. That muscle in your arm is a biceps.

“could care less” – Think about it. What you mean is “couldn’t care less”.

“criteria is” – ‘Criteria’ is plural. If you just have one, say “criterion is”; if there are several, “criteria are”.

gauntlet – A gauntlet is a glove; throw down the gauntlet (from the dueling days when a man threw his glove at his opponent’s feet to challenge him). If you are running through a group of people assaulting or yelling at you, you are running a “gantlet” – old American indian word.

“hear/heard the sound of” – The only thing you can hear is a sound, so just say “hear”. I hear your eyes rolling at this advice.

“hone in” – Hone means to sharpen; you hone a blade or hone a skill. If you are pinpointing or locating something, you “home in” on it like a homing pigeon.

irregardless – This is a double negative, and means the opposite of what you want. Regardless means without regard, so irregardless means “without without regard”–in other words, with regard. So say “Regardless of the consequences” if you mean doing something without caring about the consequences.

kudo – There’s no such word. Kudos means approval or praise; it is singular.

lightning/lightening – That bolt of electricity in the sky is ‘lightning’. If you are making something lighter (in weight or color), you are ‘lightening’ it.

“nodded her/his head” – So what else would you nod besides your head? Just say the single word “nodded”.

“off of” – Get rid of the ‘of’, just use ‘off’. Go jump off a bridge.

“person that” – (Or substitute any category of people.) People are always ‘who’; ‘that’ refers to a thing. Let’s not argue about animals; do it whichever way your editor will allow.

“reason is because” – Redundant. Use “reason is”, or if introducing a noun clause you may use “reason is that”.

“Rose up/rise up/raise up” – Redundant. You can’t raise down, so just eliminate the ‘up’.

“road to hoe” – No, please don’t dig up the road with a sharp farm implement. That would be a difficult “row to hoe”.

“those kind”/”these kind” – ‘Those’ and ‘these’ are plural and would modify plural nouns. So say either “those kinds” or “this kind”.

“try and (action)” – This should be “try to” do whatever. ‘And’ is a conjunction used to join two actions or things. ”Try and call the grammar police” means you are going to do two different actions: you are going to “try” something (what?) and you are going to “call the grammar police”. What you mean is that you are going to attempt to call the grammar police – “try to call”.

undoubtably – No such word. This is a misspelling of ‘undoubtedly’.

“would of” – This is based on sloppy mispronunciation. The term is “would have”.


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