Grammar Curmudgeon

By Sara Hoffmann
Senior Editor

All right, blog readers, I have a confession: I am a grammar curmudgeon.

Dangling modifiers drive me crazy.
Misplaced apostrophes make my hair stand on end.
I cringe when I spot those “ten items or less” signs at the grocery store. (It’s all I can do to stop myself from crossing out less and writing in fewer!)

This obsession of mine goes waaay back. When I was a kid, I’d sometimes grab a pencil to fix punctuation errors I spotted in books. (Note to our librarian readers: I can honestly say that I never once wrote in a library book. I promise!) 

To this day, I sometimes find myself proofreading in my head when I read for pleasure. And some of my special pet peeves are missing commas (or excess commas) and the above-mentioned dangling modifiers—like this one, for instance: “When driving down the street, the scenery was lovely.” (When who was driving down the street?! Augh!) 

Are there any other sticklers for grammar out there? If so, what are your grammar pet peeves? I’d love to hear them.

5 thoughts on “Grammar Curmudgeon

  1. Ann Kerns

    Dangling modifiers are everywhere. News channels and shows are especially bad. Shame on them.

    I'm always astonished at the number of restaurants that can't spell Caesar, as in the salad. I don't know what a ceaser salad is, but I'm not eating it.

    And “try and” instead of “try to.” Arg.

  2. Sara Hoffmann

    Yes, news shows use dangling modifiers all the time. That's funny about the “ceaser salads” too. Oh, and “try and” drives me absolutely crazy! So glad I'm not the only one who notices these things.

  3. Arlo

    It's bad enough when writers and editors at esteemed publications like the New York Times, The Atlantic, and even the New York Review of Books cannot keep straight the difference between who and whom and their cousins whoever and whomever, but when I came across this sentence in Anita Brookner's latest novel Strangers, I was so upset I stopped reading immediately and couldn't pick the book up again for a month: “He had sent his best wishes to whomever might remember him, and made as prompt an exit as decency allowed.”

    Dear Ms. Brookner, if you're reading this blog, please note: the object of the preposition in the sentence in question is NOT the pronoun but a noun clause. The subject of the clause should be in the nominative case. Therefore, whoever, not whomever, should have been used.

    P.S. There's comma splice in there as well, just to add insult to injury.

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