Grammar Pet Peeves

Years ago I was at a cocktail party when a woman came up to me and offered her hand. As we were shaking she said, “I was walking by and I heard you properly use ‘fewer’ in a sentence. That is so rare these days that I had to meet you.”

10 Items or Fewer

We had a delightful conversation about our grammar pet peeves. What a shame that this happened before my grammar class class! I would have been able to contribute so much more. Perhaps that conversation subconsciously led me to that class.

All of this came back to me when I read an article posted on Facebook of words people misuse. Being a huge Princess Bride fan, any article entitled “Words that Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean” was going to get my attention. I was so proud of myself for knowing most of the 15 mentioned. The one I didn’t know was “factoid.” Check out the article to see if you are using that word correctly. I’ll wait.

What surprised me was one that was missing: Virtually.

I remember this word being on my tenth grade vocabulary list. This was taught by the same woman whose lessons on comma splices didn’t take until years later.

Most vocabuulary words didn’t stick. To be honest, I just couldn’t be bothered to commit those to permanent memory – for the test was good enough. Come to think of it, it is very strange that I felt like that – honor student/teacher’s pet and all. But I digress.

It was mid school year when “virtually” showed up on our vocabulary list. I remember the definition: in theory but not in fact. Those words didn’t mean anything to me until the teacher pointed out an ad slogan on tv, “For virtually spot-free dishes.”

“What exactly does that mean?”


“If virtually means ‘not in reality,’ ‘virtually spot-free’ dishes have spots.”

Oh! Now that was cool! Obviously since it stuck with me for more than 25 years.

What are some of your grammar pet peeves? or What unexpected lesson have stuck with you since high school?

6 thoughts on “Grammar Pet Peeves”

  1. I am an English major. An English teacher. The list of my grammar peeves would fill a three-volume set.
    Some of my (least) favorites…
    Supposably…there is no such word. But try telling that to a bunch of teenage boys. They ALL do it. Just like Joey on Friends.
    People saying “I’m done” when they complete a meal. Meat is done; people are finished.
    Poor comma use. The Pinterest jokes alone cover this one. Oh, and OVER use of commas drives me crazy, too.


    1. Wow! “Supposably” is a new one to me. Oh no, I just realized you spend your day listening to students misuse “literally.” You poor thing!

      I’m an Oxford comma fan. I hope you don’t consider that to be comma abuse!


  2. “these ones”
    “a myriad of”
    Ending a sentence in a preposition.
    And what is so hard about getting the correct usage of your, you’re; through, threw, its, it’s, there, they’re and their?

    I have a daughter-in-law who is pretty new to English (being from Chile) and her correct use of the language trumps many native speakers.


    1. I’ve never heard “These ones” before. The homonyms I’m normally got at. I did have a two day spree where every time I wrote down a homonym I chose the wrong one. Looking at it I knew it was wrong, but my brain was completely overriding that knowledge!


  3. My triggers are the use of the word “literally” and hearing someone say the word “like” regularly (or it occasionally?) in a sentence. I have a question. Am I using the word “virtually” in a correct way if I am referring to something having to do with the internet?


    1. I learned the “virtually” really before there was the internet. I hadn’t even thought of the newer meaning of that word! Hmmmmmm. I imagine in some respects it still works: I met you virtually. We have met in theory but not in fact, if we mean the traditional form of meeting someone (i.e. in person). Yet another example of how the internet is affecting our language.


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