Skip to content

What We Love to Hate: Language Pet Peeves

2 January, 2008

We all have our pet peeves about how others use–or misuse–English. Below, are some language usages that set people’s teeth on edge, taken from Yahoo Answer and Kathy Schenck’s blog, Words to the Wise.


Although I agree with some of the pet peeves, I also point out that we should not treat language as a fossil. As wordsmiths, we need to stay current with language as it changes. I’ve commented on this issue in a previous post.


When you read through this list of pet peeves, try asking yourself:

  1. Which ones am I willing to be flexible about, knowing that people never communicate perfectly when they write or talk?
  2. Which do I see as so overwhelmingly wrong that the perpetrators of these mistakes should be consigned to one of the lower levels of Hell?
  3. In the last five years, have I changed my mind about some of my pet peeves? Or do I change only in increasing my list every year?


And my current pet peeves? Here they are:

  1. Overuse of I think. It seems overly precise or legalistic to identify that you are giving your opinion. E.g., I think the election will be close and I think the voters have to consider what they want.
  2. Overuse of the response, Pleasure, at the end of an interview. What’s wrong with a simple thank you?
  3. Using the word lose but spelling it loose. The two are pronounced differently so why is it hard to tell them apart?
  4. Using gender-specific terms unnecessarily, e.g., man-made instead of artificial and mankind instead of humankind. Using he throughout a piece instead of alternating it with she. I could keep going about this but will save it for a separate post.


List of Popular Pet Peeves in the English Language


  • There/they’re / their
  • To/two/ too
  • You’re / your
  • No/ know
  • Whose/who’s

Word & Phrase Choices

  • Then/than
  • Lots of/ many
  • Affect/effect
    Not The affect of the weather…. but The effect of the weather….
  • Got/have
  • Preventative / preventive
  • Waiting on / waiting for
  • Alot for a lot
  • Alright for all right
  • Less instead of fewer when referring to countable items
    E.g., not less pencils, but fewer pencils
  • Whomever for subject/actor in clause, instead of whoever
    Not I looked, but whomever threw the ball had disappeared, but
    I looked, but whoever threw the ball had disappeared.
  • I could care less instead of I couldn’t care less
  • Irregardless instead of regardless
  • Begs the question instead of raises the question
  • An historic instead of a historic
  • Anxious instead of eager
  • Literally instead of figuratively
    E.g., not: I literally died on the spot
  • Predict instead of forecast
    A forecast is based on data and experience: I forecast rain tonight rather than I predict rain tonight
  • At this point in time instead of when
  • Ironically when meaning coincidentally or strangely
  • Instinct applied to something learned or practised
    Not his instinct in placing the ball but his skill in placing the ball


  • Passive voice
    The parcel was brought by the postie when it should be The postie brought the parcel.
  • The word event, e.g., rain event, or situation, e.g., a hostage situation
  • Jargon in government, law enforcement, business, sports
  • Clichés, e.g., think outside the box

Miscellaneous peeves

  • Splitting infinitives
  • Joining two sentences with a comma, called a comma splice or run-on sentence
  • Ending a sentence with a preposition
    **But remember Winston Churchill’s famous comment: That is something up with which I will not put.
  • Using between you and I rather than between you and me.
  • Using negative size comparisons
    Something cannot be 10 times smaller or 5 times slower than something else. It is 1/10th the size, 1/5 th as fast.
  • Putting the word only in the wrong place


One Comment leave one →
  1. 4 August, 2009 10:15 am

    Think you’ve heard ’em all? Check out these Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves, but warning… you may cringe on a few that you have misused.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: