Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Pilkunnussija

It's April Fool's Day and a perfect day to write about my particular foolish idiosyncrasy.   I am a pilkunnussija, as the Finnish say, which is a person who corrects grammar excessively.  I always have been a bit of a pilkunnussija.  I can remember laughing at a friend's grammatical error way back in second grade.  Though I no longer find it funny when someone makes a grammatical mistake and am fairly tolerant as far as the spoken work is concerned, I do have a few pet peeves with grammar in written form, especially in publication.  I mean copy editors are getting paid to make sure a piece of writing is grammatically correct, so, damn it, copy editors of the world:  Know your trade!  Following are some of my grammatical pet peeves:

  1. Use of the word "utilize" when the writer means "use."  "I am going to utilize my basement for a man cave" is vastly inferior to "I am going to use my basement for a man cave."
  2. "Less" used for "fewer."  If you can count it, the correct word is "fewer."  If the item is not countable, then "less" is correct.   "I have fewer cookies than you, but you have less ice cream."
  3. Incorrect use of colons.  Just because your sentence contains a list does not mean a colon is required.  A colon should never separate a noun from its verb, a verb from its object, or a preposition from its object.  "The colors of the flag are: red, white, and blue" is not correct.  "The flag has three colors:  red, white, and blue" is correct.  When in doubt, leave the colon out.
  4. Double possessives.  When a possessive takes an apostrophe, it replaces the word "of."  If the word "of" is retained, no apostrophe is necessary.  Correct:  "Larry is Sam's friend" and "Larry is a friend of Sam."  Incorrect:  "Larry is a friend of Sam's." (Sam's what?)
  5. See picture above.
Happy April Fool's Day.  Love to hear some of your grammatical pet peeves.  Please share them.


  1. your and you're
    there, their and they're
    two, to and too

    1. All good ones. And you see them misused in places where they ought not be.