It’s Just Plain Wrong!

Very very wrongAre you like me? Do you see or hear mistakes made in the language that just drive you nuts? I’m a retired English teacher and a writer, of course, so naturally I’m more sensitive to grammatical errors than most people, but some “mistakes” are finding their way into the language as part of the normal usage.

Newscasters, journalists, writers – I see all of them violate basic rules.  I’m not talking about emails or texts; I understand that speed is important in today’s communication tools.  I get that “kno” means “know,” that “their,” “there,” and “there” have become interchangeable when instant messages are required, and that contractions are an outmoded and unnecessary distraction.

 But are they?


The most common and irritating grammar mistake is one I hear even the most fastidious English teachers using: the old “you and I” dilemma.

It’s perfectly okay to use “you and I” in any situation where the phrase is the subject of a sentence or phrase, but somehow we’ve come to think that “you and I” must be used in all circumstances; hence, we have the following annoying errors from newscasters to writers to television actors; it’s endless!Tatoos ID

          He gave the book to Mary and I.

          John and Sam tromped Gary and I during our tennis match.

It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and there’s no getting around it.  In each case above the pronoun should be “me.”  Poor pronoun “me”!  It’s as though the whole English-speaking race has banished it from the language.  Probably most folks think the use of “I” sounds more sophisticated and somehow just right.  No, wrong!

I won’t go into the why of the example, but the easiest way to spot it is to remove the noun (Mary or Gary, in these cases).  You wouldn’t say, for example, “He gave the book to I,” so why would you say “Mary and I”?

 Wash hands

Okay, you’re all readers and therefore very smart people in my estimation.  Let’s try another less egregious mistake.  These examples are from best-selling, well-known authors, so I’m going to blame their copy editors for them.

          The local woman was found hung from the rafters.

          Laundry is hung on the line, but persons are hanged.  Note: this usage may fast be changing, so don’t get too hung (hanged) up on it lol.


          I’m sorry but that’s just not a word, just as “irregardless” is not a word.  “Modernity” is the word the writer is looking for.

          These kinds of upraisings can cause … (this was spoken by an NBC newscaster)

          Look up the difference between “rise” and “raise”; we rise up of our own volition, but something has to be raised in the air.  Thus bread rises as do “uprisings,” but we raise a roof or produce — yum, tomatoes!  Note: Children are not raised or risen; they are reared, but again this usage is fast leaving the oral language.

          Seeing them side by side, the resemblance was almost striking.

          This example is taken from a long-running series by my favorite British author.  Problem?  It’s the old dangling participle.  “Seeing” is an adjective and must have something to modify, but what?  No noun in the sentence will work; a resemblance can’t “see,” nor can a “side.”  There’s nothing left except the implied “I.”  Clearly, the speaker saw the resemblance, but the speaker is nowhere in the sentence, thus the participle is “dangling” in the air like so much wet laundry — you know, the laundry that was hanged out yesterday (giggle).

          Where she went to, no one knew.Lets Eat Grandpa

          My old grammar teacher (Mrs. Beane, at least 100 years old when I had her for English), would remark, “She’s behind the ‘to.’”  But the fact is, we don’t need that extra “to.” “Where she went” will suffice.


Many grammar and language goofs are laugh-out-loud hilarious. 

What are your favorite humorous or irritating mistakes you’ve overheard spoken or seen written.  Dish!  Share! 

 Today I’m giving away three – yes three!! – downloads of the audible version of my Golden Heart winning book “The Watcher,” narrated by the talented Robert Forge.  Comment to be eligible to win.  If you don’t listen to audio books yourself, give it away as a gift; I won’t mind!

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  • Helen says:

    Is he staying with me ?

    Have Fun

  • Jane says:

    Hello Jo,
    Without commas, we’re cannibals. Loose and lose is a common one I see a lot. I’ll admit I still have trouble figuring out when to use lay and lie.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL at the cannibals without commas comment, Jane. So true on many levels. Lose and loose is such a common error that I have to stop and think almost every time I see/hear/write it!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, Jane, the lie and lay thing is hellacious! It’s because to lie’s principle parts are lie, lay, lain; and to lay’s principle parts are lay, laid, laid. It’s that “lay” which can be used for either meaning (to lie – to rest yourself or something resting and to lay — to place something). It’s crazy!@!!

  • Helen says:


    One of my pet hates is when they use their instead of there and visversa LOL over the years I have seen this a lot in books and it grabs everytime and on our lunches this is a topic that we talk about often (Laine are you there) I must be honest though I am not a good speller and never have been and with auto correct on a lot of phones and tablets things often get change to the wrong wording as far as I can see.

    I have never listened to an audio book but I must one day 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Debbie Oxier says:

      Hate the spellchecker on my phone. It is always changing words around and I usually don’t catch it until I’ve hit “send”. My daughter and I have laughed until we cried over some of them. Our favorite from the internet is motherforklift. Sure you can guess what it was intended to be, and no, we weren’t the ones so sent it! My son-in-law once sent a text to his pastor and it changed an important word to whore! He was so embarrassed!

      • Jo Robertson says:

        That’s hilarious, Debbie. I do hate when my smart phone changes my text messages. I mean, it’s a machine, for Pete’s sake!! Is it really smarter than me? Maybe lol.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’ve just about given up on their, there, and they’re, Helen. It seems to be a hard one for students to wrap their minds around.

      You should give an audio book a try, especially if you have any kind of commute to work. I like to listen to them right before I go to bed at night (after I read, of course!).

  • Amy Conley says:

    Iy has to be the word “at” at the end of a sentence. Like fingetnails on chalkboad to me. Secondly is the word “that” instead of the pronoun or the word “which” which would be the correct word to use. When your own mother is known as the “English Police”, it tends to be passed down, in this case to me. Unfortunately I married into a family with very little schooling, my mil made it to 8th grade, but she missed more days than she was present.My fil did graduate, but he’s a Kentuckian and from the Hills and they have their own language.
    Another one of my biggest complaints, not enunciating properly and using the vowels “e”, “a”, “i”, and “o” for the same word. It doesn’t happen with the “o” as much as the others, but it does drive me nuts! The name Kristin, Kristan, and Kristen are prounced differently! They are NOT the same word. SET and SIT, PEN and PIN, the list is endless.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      My husband is a great “sit-set” violator, Amy. Oh, and he says wrassle instead of wrestle, but I think that’s a regional thing.

      Hugs on growing up with the grammar police person. My kids still comment on my correcting them.

  • Ki Pha says:

    Thank you for the English grammar lessons. I believe I needed that more than I thought. Hehehe
    Oh, I also realize that English classes don’t teach grammar lessons as well any more. Wait, should I be using ‘well’ or ‘good’? Hmmm
    Anyways, I don’t think I can contribute to this grammar lesson because I myself need grammar lessons. 🙂

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Don’t worry, Ki Pha. No one knows grammar anymore; it’s become a great mystery lol, and I suspect it won’t matter too much in another 50 years or so. It changes all the time with common oral usage.

      I think middle school teachers still teach grammar (and of course kids hate it), but it’s a losing (or is that loosing lol) battle!

  • Jo, had to laugh at your post. My father was a grammar nazi, which used to make me roll my eyes, but now I’m grateful that he was. One of his pet hates was the word ‘get/got’. I still get a naughty rebellious thrill if I use either in a book! Notice the use of ‘get’ in that sentence.

    This isn’t a grammar whinge, but I recently read a romance where the heroine ate potatoes in 12th century Europe. Given they were discovered in the Americas post Columbus, that’s pretty amazing. The book nearly ended up getting (ooh!) slammed against the wall but I stuck with it. It was a good story – which made me even more disappointed that such an obvious mistake was allowed to remain in the text. Sigh. Clearly I’m a history nazi!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      You ARE a history nazi, Fo! It’s one of the hard things about writing historical, getting the facts straight according to the time period. I remember writing a (very bad) historical and using the word ecru, then wondering if that word/color existed in my time period.

      Uh, I’m being a bit dense this AM, but what’s the get-got controversy? My husband still says git, so I “get” that LOL.

      • My father felt the use of got was really unclassy – there was always a better word.

        My parents gave me a Shorter OED when I was in university – GREAT present. It lists the dates for when words came into use.

        • Jo Robertson says:

          I’ve always wanted an OED, Anna! I have a really thick dictionary which is surprisingly thorough from my teaching days, but it’s falling apart now.

          I tried to look up the word to abound the other day b/c I wanted to know its principal parts. Didn’t have them. I thought the parts didn’t change, but my CP says the past tense is abounded. Felt wrong, but she’s probably correct. Anyone know for sure?

  • Mary Preston says:

    Both of my parents were school teachers. I do try my best. One of my pet peeves – these ones or those ones. Get rid of the ones folks.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      OMG, Mary, isn’t that annoying? It’s a younger generation thing, I believe, except that generation is getting older and older. Who ever started that completely wrong construction? Maybe a four-year-old?

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Great post, Jo! LOL Don’t get me started!

    I’ve learned over the years to accept that there are many differences in the English language due to the ‘Pond’. My biggest irritation is probably ‘gotten’, which is commonly accepted in the US, but is wrong, wrong, wrong in England!

    Misspellings of basic words – like their/there/they’re and loose/lose and your/you’re are annoying.

    Mispronunciations irritate me too – like skelington for skeleton. Sadly feb-u-ary seems to be the norm for feb-rua-ary. These days, even BBC presenters get it wrong! What is the world coming to?! LOL

    • Minna says:

      Anna, I wonder if feb-u-ary instead of feb-rua-ary is just a mispronunciation or a sign that the pronounciation of that word is in the process of changing?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, that’s the “got” issue Fo was talking about, Anna. I didn’t realize it was different across the Pond, as you say.

      I learned early on about “February” because my birthday’s in that month!

      Liberry for library is another annoying one.

  • Shannon says:

    I simply don’t hear grammar mistakes. I guess it’s living in so many places where the accent and word choice are relatively accepted in that environment. I guess the Equal Opportunity training I get at work makes me celebrate diversity in spoken speech.

    But written and published mistakes, that bothers me. Especially indie books with misspellings.

    Of course, I cannot proofread my own stuff. I always get a co-worker to read anything important to catch those misspellings and errors. I have found one trick that helps:. Proof read on paper and change the font to a really unusual one. Somehow that helps some. And our editors hate for gerunds has eliminated dangling modifies.

    The one rule I regularly break is apostrophes. It’s Do’s and Don’t’s on my briefing slides. The other just doesn’t look right.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      So much is acceptable in spoken words than in written, Shannon. I remember a college professor telling me that when he returned to the farm to visit, he didn’t use his college-teacher English as it wouldn’t be appropriate. That was a good lesson for me to learn.

  • Minna says:

    “Chicken needle soup”
    “3 nights in the sun”
    “Join the peach corps” -from Jay Leno’s Headlines, which I’m watching right now on Youtube.

  • Minna says:

    I have to add translations to the list. Translation mistakes usually aren’t obvious enough for anyone to notice in books, but with subtitles it’s impossible to hide the mistakes. Some are understandable (they may be even funny), the translator has heard something wrong or understood something wrong, but some mistakes and the number of them made by the same translator makes you wonder why the person was allowed to do the translation.

    Independence Day:
    “Nobody’s perfect”
    ” Kukaan ei ole täyteläinen” -Nobody’s full-bodied.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Too funny, Minna.

      I remember one of my Spanish phrases was supposed to say “Get out of the car!” when my son, fluent in Spanish, pointed out that it actually said, “take the car.” Oy!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    Thank you for posting this! It is one of my pet peeves. The biggest is the usage of your and you’re! I don’t know how many businesses in town have posted signs with the wrong one. Come on, YOU’RE running a successful business but can’t even master grammar school English? Another is, “I seen the movie and really liked it. Listened to a pastor butcher that one in a sermon once. I think he deliberately tried to use the word “seen” as many times as possible that day and it was like running his fingernails down a blackboard to me. I appreciate the way you addressed the whole “you and I” thing. I had someone tell me once (probably a teacher) about substituting the word “me” to see if it was correct. Mary gave the book to me. Therefore, she gave the book to you and me, not you and I.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oooh, that “I see” phrase gives me the shivers! It’s just so wrong!!

      Glad you listened to the English teacher, Debbie. Sometimes a simple trick that make something stick in your mind.

  • Becke says:

    Yep, it drives me crazy-right up until the moment I work out that it’s me that was wrong. My grammar is kind of going with my memory.

    However, if I hear one more reporter use the word hugely, I’m going to throw rocks.

    And then for my medical pet peeve- Surgeons don’t perform a double mastectomy. They perform a bilateral mastectomy. One from each side as opposed to the same one twice.


    Don’t you just love a rant over silly things?

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I do love a rant, over silly things or not. It kind of cleanses the vocabulary pallet!

      Never thought of the mastectomy issue. Thanks for sharing.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    I’m right there with you, Jo. I spent four years as a proofreader/line editor for a daily newspaper and nine as an editor for a craft publishing company so I too am attuned to mistakes like these. I recently read an article in which a reporter described someone as bursting into “bellicose laughter”. Doesn’t anybody learn Latin anymore? “Bellicose” means “warlike”, NOT a belly laugh! I think I’ve mentioned before that my all-time favorite turn of phrase was “he patted her shoulder in condolences of joy.” That one stopped me in my tracks. I also have frequent quibbles with the choices people make when looking for an active verb; I read a historical that had the line “Her full skirts spewed over the garden bench” and all I could think was, somebody threw up on her skirt?

    One of my pet peeves is the constant misuse of Lead/led/lead (the metal). People keep writing “lead” as past tense of “lead” and thinking it’s just pronounced as “led” because “lead” the metal is pronounced “led”. So you get things like “He lead the horse to water” and even some copy editors think that’s correct.

    I have often thought about starting a blog featuring incorrect or poor word choices, but I think too many people would start arguing with me, since the incorrect use is more common and therefore must be right!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I think young copy editors are at a real disadvantage since they often learned tranformational grammar and their “rules” are dominated by what “sounds” right rather than what is right.

      Thanks for the good laughs. I like your explanation of led and lead, always wondered why folks got that one mixed up.

      Another one is loan and lend. Old Mrs. Beane taught us that loan isn’t a verb so you can’t loan someone money. That’s a usage that’s probably gone by the wayside. I’ll have to look it up in a brand new OED!

  • bn100 says:

    It’s annoying to read poorly worded sentences

  • LOL, Jo. I’ll bet I’ve been guilty of a few of those!

    Here’s my pet peeve on a saying said wrong:

    Wrong: “If that’s what he thought, he has another THING coming.”

    Right: “If that’s what he thought, he has another THINK coming.”

    Had to explain that one to a friend not long ago.

    • OH, and it probably has another problem in it, but it’s the words that drive me nuts!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Totally okay in casual conversation, IMO, but in formal written language or from newscasters and people who are supposed to be well educated in lnguaage, it’s irritating to me!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      When I was a girl, I thought it WAS “thing” b/c I’ve never analyzed what the sentence meant. I might’ve picked that up from my mother. Finally I realized she was wrong. Poor momma!

      And didn’t someone earlier mention, “I could care less!”?

  • As a former high school English teacher, I feel your pain. Several of my pet peeves have already been mentioned.

    Another of mine is the assumption one can change the pronunciation of any given letter or combination of letters simply because you want to use it in your child’s name. The pronunciation and spelling of the English language, while less strict than some other languages, is NOT multiple choice. Which is why I have anyone taking a cake order ask the person to write down any names going on a cake. And for God’s sake could they please learn the difference between a hyphen and an apostrophe. I had a customer tell me that this – is not a hyphen! They were adamant that this ‘ is a hyphen. God help me!

    One of our favorites? Pronounce this name :


    Car ah, you say? Nope.
    Kay rah, you say? Nope.

    Car dash ah

    Yep. Who knew?

    One I hear on a daily basis, one that drives me to do all I can to get out of Walmart before I become a screaming grammar Nazi lunatic is this paged over the loudspeaker.

    “Customer assistance is needed TO the electronics department.”

    No. No. No!

    “Customer assistance is needed IN the electronics department. ”

    “I need someone to go to electronics for customer assistance.”

    but NOT “Customer assistance is needed TO electronics.”

    If you hear a news story about some crazy bakery manager beating a telephone operator at Walmart over the head with an English grammar book screaming IN ! IN ! IN ! you’ll know for whom to post bail !

    • Jo Robertson says:

      We’ll all help post your bail, Louisa, and stand up for you at the sanity hearing LOL. Your work surroundings might turn your brains to mush eventually!

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Great post, Jo! English was my favorite subject in school and grammar was my favorite part of English so you can imagine how I feel about these errors. 😉 I’m more accepting of errors on the internet when I know that English is the second language of the writer. But, in reality, many of those ESL writers have better spelling and grammar than native English speakers!

    The lose/loose misuse drives me crazy. It’s my hot button. Lie/lay drives me crazy because I can never remember which one to use. lol

    • Jo Robertson says:

      That’s a hard one, PJ. At least every month my daughter calls me saying, “Explain that lie-lay thing again, so I can tell my kids.” Frankly, I think it’s hopeless.

  • Cassondra says:

    I could care less.

    That drives me batpoop crazy.

    You already hit irregardless, which gives me hives.

    The hard ones, when I’m editing for other people, are the words that did not exist ten years ago–how to determine their management–and the words that are so clearly in flux that they’re half in and half out.

    I have to make a determination about which one will be most understandable for most readers in that context, without causing them to hesitate and go “Wait, wut?”

    It ain’t no easy call ta make.

    *ducks flying fruit*

    • Jo Robertson says:

      That’s so true, Cassondra. Sometimes it’s the CORRECT usage that pulls the reader out of a story because they’re so familiar with the wrong usage. What a dilemma!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Thanks for everyone’s participation on this busy Sunday. Look for the three winners of “The Watcher” audible book Tuesday night.

  • flchen1 says:

    Oy. These all drive me bonkers. The usage that’s creeping in that I’m finding it hard to combat is the use of “their,” “them,” etc. with anyone, everyone, and other singular nouns… English doesn’t have a singular generic pronoun, so it seems that people are making do with what exists 🙁

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yeah, that’s a problem in a society that’s trying to be non-sexist. I imagine “their” will eventually dominate even though it’s plural and the antecedent (usually “everyone”) is singular.

  • Laine says:

    My favorite example was in a regency romance. There was a picture of lemonade at a picnic. As an ex teacher it all drives me mad too. It throws me out of story trance.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, I thought they had lemonade during the Regency, Laine. Don’t they talk about the watery lemonade served at the girls’ coming outs?

      • Laine says:

        Yes, they had lemonade, but a picture of it would have left them thirsty. Much better to take a pitcher.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    LOL, you caught me on that one, Laine! I misunderstood your comment.