Grammatical Pet Peeves

Since pet peeves are just some things people do that other people think are annoying, I won’t say that what I consider pet peeves in grammar are wrong. But pet peeves are pet peeves for a reason, right? There are aspects that people don’t think make sense or are reasonable. That’s the way I feel about these grammatical pet peeves, and I’ll do my due diligence and give reasons to support that sentiment .

Words that have the same ending but do not rhyme

It’s great that “would”, “should”, and “could” all rhyme, but there are plenty of cases when that doesn’t apply. Simple examples:

  • Food, good, blood
  • How, blow
  • Height, weight
  • Have, wave
  • Wand, hand
  • Steak, weak
  • Cough, through, dough
  • And here’s the kicker: “read” and … “read”. Spelled exactly the same, but you can’t tell how to pronounce it unless used in context.

It would be a lot easier for beginners to learn English if it were more predictable and consistent. It seems that it should be more like Spanish, that if a word ends in an “o”, you would know exactly how to pronounce it, like “zapato” and “hermano”. So the reason for the pet peave here is simple: it’s not consistent!

Sentences written without the serial comma

The serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma, is the one placed before the last “and” in a sentence. I think it’s absolutely deadly (and hilarious) to omit it. Take this classic example, which is an actual dedication printed in a book: “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” (without serial comma), and “To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.” (with serial comma). Without the serial comma, Ayn Rand and God could be misinterpreted as the parents, but with the serial comma, all three are credited separately, and having it really does help with clarity.

Not only does the serial comma provide clarity, it also helps with correctly grouping terms, which improves clarity even more. If I were to omit the serial comma, I could write “My favorite explorers are Columbus, Lewis and Clark and Magellan.” But my intention was to group Lewis and Clark together as a pair of explorers, not to include Magellan as part of that group. By simply including the serial comma, all crises are avoided: “My favorite explorers are Columbus, Lewis and Clark, and Magellan.”

The serial comma benefits in another way: providing a consistent cue on when to pause when reading a sentence out loud. If, like me, you interpret a comma as a sign to pause before reading the next part, then you would not have a problem correctly pausing with the presence of a serial comma. I would read the example above as “… Columbus, [pause] Lewis and Clark, [pause] and Magellan.” Each comma is responsible for cuing you to pause. On the other hand, without it, you might say “… Columbus, [pause] Lewis and Clark and Magellan.” There is no cue to pause before “and Magellan”; if you do pause, then you are essentially placing an implicit serial comma there, and therefore you are subconsciously approving of its use!