Grammar Pet Peeves

22 May

“In the contest between I and me, the booby prize often goes to myself.” This quote from “Woe is I,” sums up my biggest pet peeve.

It’s the missuses of these three words that, as writers, drive us to distraction. “Me, myself, and I,” are the three words that absolutely, make me cringe. As a result, I’ve decided to go on a one person campaign to try to get people to sound as intelligent as they are.

People putting a personal pronoun first. When I was little I remember my father explaining this basic rule to me. “Think of it as stepping in front of someone. It isn’t polite.” You wouldn’t walk up and cut in line. No, you’d wait your turn at the end. Unless you’re in a car and then it seems to be perfectly acceptable to push in wherever they like. But that’s another pet peeve.


The rule: Do not use ME as the subject of a sentence. It must be the object of the verb or preposition. (example “to me” “just between you and me,” etc)

This problem has its roots in childhood. Your parents wouldn’t give you a cookie when you said, “Me want a cookie.” Instead they gently corrected you to say, “I want a cookie.” It planted in your mind that me wasn’t as acceptable as the word I. We begin to think subconsciously—and yes it is sub and not un because you can’t think anything if you’re unconscious—that I is more refined and therefore more correct choice. Not necessarily.

Don’t say—I and John are going or John and ME are going.

Do say—Between you and me or they came to see Bruce and me.


The Rule: self-ish words (reflexive pronouns—yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves) are often used in place of I and me, he and she, etc. It may be laziness, out of habit or, because people just don’t know which is correct so they stuff in a self-ish pronoun.

The rule: reflexive pronouns – myself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, ourselves, yourself, yourselves– should be used only when they refer back to another word in the sentence. Use myself to refer back to yourself (I dressed myself.)


The rule: Use I only as the subject of a verb.

The rule of thumb is to remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

Susie and me walked across the street. Remove the Susie and and you end up with, me walked across the street. Remember, your mom won’t give you a cookie for this one.

I know this seems so basic, but if you listen to others speak and some write you find the errors glairing. It becomes annoying when you hear the mistakes repeated time and time again on TV and in the newspapers.

Since I’m on the subject I’ll throw in my second teeth gritter. Less and fewer.

Less– a smaller extent, or degree smaller in size, less exact. Often preceded by much or still: not so large, great, or much: less money; less speed. lower in consideration, rank, or importance.

Fewer– a smaller number: fewer words and more action. a smaller number: Fewer have come than we hoped.

In the end if you can count it it’s fewer. If not use less.

Remember kids learn by example and they’re hearing the errors from all sources and taking them as correct. Do a kid a favor, speak correctly.

What are your pet peeve words or phrases?


Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Idaho


15 responses to “Grammar Pet Peeves

  1. Liz Fredericks

    May 22, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    I like the cues, Peggy! ‘Myself’ is always a pain to me. (I know, I laughed)
    My pet peeves? Misuse of possessives and inappropriately contracted words – its vs it’s
    And more peeves: affect vs effect, they’re vs their vs there, incomplete sentences (in nonfiction, of course!)

    • Peggy Staggs

      May 22, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      It seems like it’s always the small words that get twisted.

  2. Meredith Allen Conner

    May 22, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    Great post Peggy! There vs their and your vs you’re – biggest peeves.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    May 22, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    I think it comes down to a, “that’s good enough” attitude, and the fact that most people don’t pay attention. Like the guy who totally missed the “No turn on red” sign, hung right beside the red light, and right in front of a cop. Fortunately for the inattentive driver, the cop was busy with an accident, no doubt involving two people who weren’t paying attention either. Sigh.

  4. WestWordArizona

    May 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    Close proximity. See this often. Translation: close closeness.

  5. Peggy Staggs

    May 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I know what you mean. Redundancies are out there everywhere.

  6. Phyllis Humphrey

    May 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Yes, the incorrect use of “myself” drives me crazy too. I sometimes nag writers who get things wrong in their blogs and then they accuse me of nitpicking. “I don’t proofread my blogs.” But I say, “If writers don’t use the language properly, who will?”

    I’ve done two blogs (one very recently) on boo-boos and have a list of 13. The one that really drives me crazy is “incidences.” There is no such word. One event is an “incident.” Two or more are “incidents.” Add an S as for any plural. But please, no “incidences.”

    • Peggy Staggs

      May 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      Making up new words almost seems like a new pastime. In my testier moments I ask what the new word means. The replies are interesting.

      • Liz Fredericks

        May 22, 2012 at 2:03 PM

        Dearest Peg – it’s not testy when you’re gathering information. Think of it as a contribution to the collective conscious. 😉

  7. maryvine

    May 22, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    I remember a time my husband was watching the Lone Ranger and I was nearby. Tonto’s misuse of pronouns made me crazy. For example, “Me get the horse.”

    • Peggy Staggs

      May 23, 2012 at 8:11 AM

      I know, even when it’s done for a reason it grates.

  8. Janis McCurry

    May 23, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    “these ones.” Fingernail on the blackboard time for me. It should be “this one” or “these.” I hear this misused almost daily.

  9. Peggy Staggs

    May 23, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    It’s funny which errors pop out at us. And where you work you’d think that would be one that you’d never hear.

  10. Steve Lehr

    June 23, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Using “I” as a more refined first person pronoun. So it comes out, “That’s between John and I.”


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