I have tried a number of different cures in my never-ending battle with writer’s block. Friends have advised me to do a number of things, from writing about my feelings, to free writing, to brainstorms, and so on. I have even used writer’s tags to spur the writing process. One of these tags was to write about something that really annoys me, so, here we go.
I tend to be the quintessential grammar nazi. Generally, when I read something that is grammatically incorrect, I cringe. Most of the time, the errors are fairly minor, and I just let it go. Sometimes, however, the errors hit one of my pet peeves that really raise my hackles. I freely admit to being slightly obsessive/compulsive about my own writing; if I see an error that I have made in something I have written in the past, I have to go back and correct it, no matter how much time has passed since the piece in question was first written. Since I started working on my degree, and being forced to write paper after paper, this level of obsession/compulsion has increased dramatically.
I believe that a person’s writing is one way to measure that person’s intelligence. This is not to say that grammatical perfection means that a person is a genius, but it at least shows that a person is smart enough to form a coherent sentence. Clearly written statements make it easier to separate facts from nonsense.
Rhetorical ability is another measure. What good is writing a grammatically perfect piece if the writer is unable to properly convey the thoughts writer is trying to communicate? Understandably, some ideas are more difficult to convey than others, but I think that is the challenge all writers should aspire to meet.
In an effort to get it off my chest, i am going to rattle off a list of some of the pet peeves that really stab me in the spleen:
- “Irregardless” There is no such word. Every time I see this word, I want to smack the writer in the face with a thesaurus.
- “Would of” That should be “would’ve”. This particular error shows a lack of understanding of even the most basic grammatical rules.
- Incomplete sentences or sentence fragments. Most of the time, these are caused by improper punctuation where the writer substitutes a period for a comma. These are annoying, but not nearly so as when a writer completely drops his or her point in the middle of a sentence.
- Misuse of homonyms. It really reflects on a person’s education if that person cannot distinguish between they’re, there, and their or to, too and two, as well as any number of other homonyms that commonly get substituted for each other.
- Spelling. I have a friend who is very intelligent who makes proper use of punctuation and sentence structure, but his spelling is nothing short of horrendous. I find myself unable to read far into his writings because his spelling errors are almost physically painful; they make him look far less intelligent than he really is.
- Excessive profanity. Okay, I admit to not being the best messenger on this one. As a former sailor, I can drop f-bombs (and other profanities) with the best of them. However, overusing profanities in what is supposed to be a serious piece tends to distract from the point the writer is trying to make.
- Excessive wordiness. Some writers go on and on and on in an effort to make themselves look more intelligent, and use more words than is necessary to make their points. Using more words does not always make one’s point more clear. In fact, such wordiness often distracts from the point as the reader tries to distill the writer’s meaning from the sea of words swimming before him or her. It has been said that those who use the most words often have the least to say. From my experiences, this adage is quite true.
This list does not encompass all of my pet peeves, but it does list the most common and the most aggravating. I do tend to be more forgiving when it comes to speaking. Many intelligent people who can write well tend to be poor speakers.
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