6 Professors Share Their Grammatical Pet Peeves

Ever since my time on my high school newspaper, improper grammar has really irked me. For example, I’m a huge fan of the Oxford Comma. Also, I used to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians and cringe anytime the characters said, “my sister and I” when the correct phrasing would have been, “my sister and me.” Buzzfeed has even done a post on presents for the grammar nerd in your life, and when I saw it, it made me wonder about the grammatical pet peeves of the people around me. As a Creative Writing and English major, I definitely have many classmates who have their own pet peeves, but I thought it would be even more interesting to find out what my professors thought. So I asked a few professors in the English department about the grammar mistakes that irk them the most. Here’s what they said:
the value of the Oxford Comma, courtesy of Pinterest
1. Professor Katherine Keller: I don’t have any absolute favoritesthough I don’t like it when folks qualify absolutes, such as “unique,” which means singular and can’t be “very” or “really.”  My new favorite pet peeve though is not so much a peeve but an amusement: Autocorrect, a blessing to those of us who love malapropisms and other word play.  In one student essay I read recently, autocorrect changed a “bides” in a quotation to “bidet.”  So, always correct your autocorrect or your work may end up in the toilet.  Sorry, very bad pun.  

2. Professor Lisa Page: Biggest grammatical peeve in creative writing is tense. So many of my students jump back and forth, writing in past and present tense at the same time. “The rain fell gently. It sounds nice.” Ugh!

3. Professor Faye Moskowitz: My pet grammatical peeves are the confusion about “It’s” and “Its.” The difference between “elude” and “allude” drives me nuts, too. But it is the misplaced modifier that is the bane of my writing existence, because it is sometimes not easy for the writer to spot.

4. Professor Evelyn Schrieber: My pet peeve is the misuse of its and it’s. Students cannot seem to understand its is possessive without the apostrophe (like his, hers, and theirsthose they get). I tell my students not to use contractions in formal writing and that way they will not misuse it’s, but they still use it anyway! My second pet peeve is using the word “this” without a noun after it.

5. Professor Marshall Alcorn: I have two pet peeves.
1.  Misuse of semi-colon and colon. 

2.  People who enforce  Latinate and confabulated 18th century grammar “rules” in English, as in insisting that a double negative really means a positive.  “I ain’t got no money,” does not in any stretch of anyone’s imagination mean I have money.  The double negative was effectively used in many English dialects since the time of Chaucer, and continues effectively among many dialects today.

6. Professor Jonathan Hsy: I don’t exactly have a grammatical issue here per se, but one of my major pet peeves as someone who teaches medieval literature is people using the term “Dark Ages” to refer to the entire Middle Ages (the period known as the “Dark Ages” technically refers to a more narrow historical period just after the fall of the Roman Empire). 

A few other things: The terms “middle aged” and “medieval” are not interchangeable. The “Middle Ages” is a multifaceted historical era; “Medieval Times” is a theme restaurant/spectacular dining experience. 

I’d love to know—do you have any grammatical mistakes that bother you? Let us know in the comments below!

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