Grammarian Pet Peeves #2


We live in a bustling world. We always have somewhere else to be, something else to do, all at the same time. I understand we’re in a hurry. Which is why I’d really love to blame the grammar atrocities below entirely on people just typing too fast. I really would. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And for that reason, we’ll get back to basics below. Maybe some people will see the error of their ways. If not, it’s at least therapeutic to rant, right?

nailsThen vs. Than
Yes, there is a difference. Than is used as part of a comparative statement, while then is used to show a sequence of events/actions. For example, “I would rather eat a box of nails than go see Mamma Mia,” versus “I want to eat a box of nails, then go see Mamma Mia.” These are entirely different statements. The former says that eating nails is preferable to having to endure the musical Mamma Mia. The latter, likely spoken by a true masochist, shows that the speaker wants to eat a box of nails before going to see Mamma Mia. It’s easy to mix these up on a first draft when you’re working quickly, but there’s really no excuse for them appearing in a final draft.

Cartoon Elephant by Grant CochraneIts vs. It’s
Often when someone forgets to add an apostrophe in a contraction, such as in won’t and can’t, we can forgive it as a typo because wont and cant have no meaning without those apostrophes. However, in the case of its vs. it’s, the mistake is a bit more severe, because its is a word. For example, “The pink elephant hit its head and now its dead.” Its dead what? Its dead brain cells can’t cry for help? Its dead pride can never be saved? What?! On the flip side, “The pink elephant hit it’s head and now it’s dead.” The pink elephant hit it is head? Talk good impossible for you? Watch that apostrophe—it’s a sneaky one.

Face palmRight vs. write vs. rite
This one, while less common than the others above, really irks me. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer, and this grammar abomination insults writers personally. Right is the opposite of wrong. To write is to construct words into meaningful sentences, which compose paragraphs and so on, to convey meaning to a reader. A rite is a ritual or custom. They are not interchangeable. Period. When I see, “I’m so pissed at Best Buy, I’m going to right a letter and complain!” my face palm is so powerful I knock myself off my chair. When someone on Facebook comments, “I know, write?!” or “Yeah, you’re rite,” I fight the desire to tear my clothes and weep in public.
Stop making me hurt myself and my property, people. Please.

By Madeleine Mozley

Image 1 by pdalgarno; image 2 from, by Grant Cochrane; image 3 by Taliesin.