Grinding My Gears

Yeah, these bother me as well.

Pet peeves from readers and JS copy editors continue to flow, like so many misplaced modifiers.

  • I could care less. This phrase means the opposite of what the writer or speaker intends, which is could NOT care less. A JS designer caught this error recently on a proof of the editorial page. Sometimes the phrase appears in quotations, however, and we will ask the reporter whether that's what the person said. If it is, we talk about whether paraphrasing the quote is better than letting the person misspeak.
  • Extraneous words and phrases. In order to; in the process of; currently. (Add yours.)
  • Misspellings with words that sound the same. Its/it's is the most insidious, followed by its siblings your/you're, whose/who's and there/their/they're. Spell-check won't flag these words as errors, and the grammar check in many computer programs won't pick them up either. Editors on deadline rely heavily on spell-check. A trick: Make yourself stop and reread the word to make sure it's the right one. I just did.
  • Waiting on instead of waiting for. Our dictionary, "Webster's New World College, Fourth Edition," lists waiting for as the proper expression but also lists waiting on as informal or dialect for waiting for. Is it a regionalism? Where have you heard it used?
  • Exact same instead of the same or exactly alike. "Garner's Modern American Usage" calls exact same "a lazy truncation." "Although exact same is acceptable in informal speech, it's not an expression for polished prose," Garner says.
  • Use of that as a relative pronoun where who is called for. This one would seem a slam dunk, but reference books differ. The Associated Press and The New York Times stylebooks say who is for people and animals that have names, and that is for inanimate objects and animals without names. I expected Garner to agree, but he does not, saying, "Who is the relative pronoun for human beings (though that is also acceptable)..." Good luck finding a copy editor who agrees, although "The New Fowler's Modern English Usage" says the usage dates back centuries and appears in work by Chaucer, among other literary luminaries.
Exact same bothers me but waiting for is in a Rolling Stones song, so it must be acceptable English. The last one I have to side with Garner -- I was taught that that is acceptable for people but who is preferred.

No comments: