By Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
The sentence, “Irregardless of the weather, we are bbq-ing tonight so take the beef out of the freezer so it can unthaw,” is one of my pet peeves – and it’s not just because I’m a vegetarian (flexitarian, really). Unthaw is not a real word, and neither is irregardless. When I see those, I go “Grrrr!!!” (which may or may not be a real word).
I taught Grade 8 Language Arts for three years, and am always amazed that the writing mistakes my students made are same mistakes I see adults make in business correspondence – or even published articles! It’s not because we’re dense; it’s because good writing takes practice. And, to learn something we have to be exposed to it regularly – and even when we have it down pat we still need to keep practicing.
These commonly misused words and phrases may just reinforce what you already know…or they may open up a whole new world of good writing…
“Could of” – When you say “She could’ve taken the beef out of the freezer”, it sounds like “could of.” However, the correct form is “could have.”
“Same exact thing” – If you’re writing tightly (and you should be!), avoid words that mean the exact same thing! Simply writing “the same” should do the trick – depending on context, of course. If your character is a teenager who is emphasizing what her frenemy wore to school, maybe you do want to say “She wore the same exact hat as I” (not me!).
“Peak/pique/peek” – “After eating my thawed beef, I peeked out of the window at the mountain peak, which piqued my interest in geological rock formations.” That works – but some writers don’t pay enough attention to the peak/pique/peek distinction.
“Out of the window” – in my above example about peeking out the window, I say “out of.” To clean up your writing, nix extra phrases like that. Redundant – even if you’re getting paid by the word!
“Affect/Effect” – I’ve never had a problem mixing up these two – I must’ve had a great English teacher! However, just this week I received a business email that misused “affective” (eg, “she was an affective teacher”). The next time you debate affect versus effect, remember that affect is emotion and effect is a result.
It’s your turn, fellow scribes: what are some of your word and phrase “pet peeves”? I welcome your thoughts and rants below!
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time writer and blogger who created and maintains a series of Quips and Tips blogs: Quips and Tips for Successful Writers, Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals, and Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility. She’s also the Feature Writer for Psychology Suite101.
PS for more on this topic, check out my companion post over at Quips and Tips for Successful Writers: 5 Over-Used Words and Phrases for Writers to Avoid.