Top X Lists Debunked

TOP X LISTS DEBUNKED – Gini Dietrich’s Top 12 Grammar Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

Debunked

This is a list of grammar police rules; can more than a quarter of them really be wrong?

I’m the sort of person who hates grammatical errors but also makes a lot myself.  But there are a lot of grammatical rules that some grammar police like to throw around that just don’t exist.

I’m pretty much going to ignore the “nearly everyone makes” part.  Even if, as the we limit ourselves to Social Networking, like the context of the site the list is on suggests, where people are lazier about their writing and about correcting themselves, I doubt that any quantitative study was done.  Considering that “you’re”/”your” are not only incorrectly used on social media but often replaced with “ur” pointing out such rules may be a nonsense.  Rather this is a list of things that annoyed the person who compiled the list and those sort of things stand out more, and it seems like everyone does them.  But I haven’t done a quantitative study either, so I’ll let that one pass.  Although, language is usage, so it could be argued that a mistake “nearly everyone makes” is the new rule.

For more information about each item, please check the original list.

1.  “Affect” vs. “effect.”

  • Affect (to influence)
  • Effect (result of influence.)

CORRECT.

2.  The Oxford Comma (The serial comma).

  • Oxford comma: “Tom, Dick, and Harry”
  • Without: “Tom, Dick and Harry

WRONG.

Even the article mentions that this is a matter of style.

In most cases whichever one you use makes no difference.  However, there are many cases where using the serial comma removes ambiguity.  There are also some cases where it creates ambiguity.  There are cases where neither with or without solves ambiguity issues.

The best rule of thumb in any particular is:  If it stops ambiguity use it, if it causes it don’t, but otherwise be consistent with your usage (or not) – unless you’re writing for an institution with a particular preferred style, in which case, use theirs.  Social networking doesn’t have a style manual.  For more information:  Argument for and against and a Wikipedia info dump.

  • Oxford comma: “Tom, Dick, and Harry”
  • Without: “Tom, Dick and Harry”

3.  Commas in general.

Use a comma before (or around) the name or title of a person being directly addressed.

CORRECT.

This is correct, but comma use is far, far more complex than just these two issues, however.

4.  “There”/”They’re”/”Their.”

  • There: location.
  • They’re:  they are.
  • Their:  possession.

CORRECT.

Despite the list’s claims, this can just be a one-off error, rather than not knowing the rule, whoever, the important bit is is that the rule is correct.

 

5.  Care less.

  • “I couldn’t care less” vs “I could care less

CORRECT.

A claim could be made that the people using “I could care less” were using it ironically, sarcastically or damning with faint praise, but I’m not going to guess intent and just say:

 

6.  Irregardless” vs “regardless.” 

CORRECT.

Irregardless is wrong, however, as happens usage defines language, so irregardless does have a dictionary entry (noting that it is non-standard) and that it can be used for emphasis.

 

7.  “Nauseous.”

  • Nauseous:  sickening to contemplate/to feel sick.
  • Nauseated:  to feel sick.

WRONG.

This is a recently invented rule, using “nauseous” to mean “feel sick” has been in use since the 17th Century and is more commonly used than “nauseated.”  See here.

  • Nauseous:  sickening to contemplate/to feel sick.
  • Nauseated:  to feel sick.

8.  “Your”/”You’re.”

  • Your:  possession
  • You’re:  You are.

CORRECT.

This is true and common.  But as with the There‘s it can sometimes just be a mistake.  And as noted in the intro, in social networking, where “ur” is a common replacement it’s hard to argue grammar.

9.  “Fewer” vs “Less.”

  • Fewer: only countable objects.  “There were fewer people here today”/”There was fewer milk in the glass
  • Less:  only non-countable objects.  “There were less people here today“/”There was less milk in the glass”

WRONG.

This is another grammar police invention.  “Fewer” is only countable objects, this is true.  “Less” is, however, usable for both countable and non-countable objects.  This has been the case since the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) when King Alfred used it that way.  The use of less only for non-countables was first noted in 1770 as a personal style choice.  For more information: Dictionary.com.

  • Fewer: only countable objects.   “There were fewer people here today”/”There was fewer milk in the glass
  • Less:  for countable and non-countable objects.  “There were less people here today”/”There was less milk in the glass”

10.  Quotation Marks.

  • Did Bogart ever say “Play it again, Sam?”
  • Did Bogart ever say “Play it again, Sam”?

WRONG.

Simple punctuation belongs inside.  A question mark not in the material being quoted, doesn’t.  For more information: Grammarbook.com.

  • Did Bogart ever say “Play it again, Sam?”
  • Did Bogart ever say “Play it again, Sam”?

11.  “More than” vs “over”

  • Car sales increased by over 10% last year.”
  • “Car sales increased by more than 10% last year.”

WRONG.

Despite Gini Dietrich thinking that an advertising company “created this grammatical error” the “rule” was actually created in 1877 by New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant and is a common rule for US journalists, but usually ignored by UK journalists.  Despite Dietrich’s claims there is no “more space”:  12.0001 is more than 12, just as 12.0001 is over 12.  There is an argument to use “more than” in more formal writing, such as a cv or American newspaper, otherwise (and especially in social networking) use whatever sounds right to you.

  • “Car sales increased by over 10% last year.”
  • “Car sales increased by more than 10% last year.”

12.  “Me” vs “I.”

  • Do you want to come to the shops with my wife and I?
  • Do you want to come to the shops with my wife and me?

CORRECT.

Everyone was taught that “Me and my wife went to the shops” is wrong and “My wife and I went to the shops” is correct and took it to heart.  However, consider a stylistic divorce:  “Me and my wife went to the shops” and “My wife and I went to the shops.”  It becomes obvious why the first is wrong.  However, same stylistic divorce can be applied to the example sentences:  “Do you want to come to the shops with my wife and I?” vs “Do you want to come to the shops with my wife and me?”  It should be clear which is correct.

RESULTS:  7/12 correct (58 1/3%)

On many of these points style manuals and grammar guides will disagree.  Disagreement means that, no, these are not rules set in stone: there is debate.  Of course, always use the style manual that applies to the medium that you are working in.  But as noted above, social networking doesn’t have one.

There are rare, specific cases where #5 and #6 could be used correctly and so you could argue that they are half right, bringing the result down to 50%, but “nearly everyone” probably isn’t being that specific in their usage.

Agree or disagree with the rules or my claims about them:  DO A SURVEY about the rules.

By posting on grammar I have opened myself up to attacks on my grammar.  Go ahead I could always use improvement.  Please use the comments section below to do so.

~ DUG.

Other Facts vs Myths Posts.

Other Language Posts.

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6 thoughts on “TOP X LISTS DEBUNKED – Gini Dietrich’s Top 12 Grammar Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

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