Tuesday, September 12

List: Pet Punctuation Peeves

All you persnickety proofreaders, please participate!

Ready for another cooperative list? This one is a list of common punctuation annoyances. If you aren't as uptight about punctuation as I am, you can call them mistakes, if you prefer. I'll start; you add your peevish items in the comments and I'll put them on the list.
  1. Possessives. Why do they cause so many problems? My mother's pet possessive peeve had to do with surname signs. A sign for our home, for instance, ought to say The Starks, not The Stark's. It's the Starks (plural) who live here, not the Stark's (possessive).

    In the same vein, just this morning I saw a possessive mistake in the caption to a photo on the home page for a radio station. Over a photo of a young woman, it read, "This young ladies name is Jen." That's the plural form of lady, when what was needed was a possessive--lady's--since the name belongs to the young lady. (Here's a fun test of your plural and possessive skills. Update: Jeremy points out a mistake in this test. I was so focused on getting the plurals and possessives right, I didn't notice.)

  2. Ian McKenzie adds more apostrophe peeves: it's instead of its, or their instead of they're.

  3. Tom Gilson and Kim in ON don't like the overuse of commas. To quote Tom, "One thing that bothers me is, too many commas."

  4. Amy's biggest peeve is using too many exclamation points.
    I was taught to use them sparingly, and sometimes I feel like the person is "screaming" at me through their writing.

  5. Waterfall seconds the misuse of possessives as a pet peeve, and says she once saw a bathroom sign that read "LADIE'S".

  6. Comma splices also annoy Waterfall. (A comma splice is when two complete sentences are joined with only a comma.)

  7. She also hates when people use hyphens when they should use dashes. (American dash usage, by the way, varies from usage in other English speaking countries.)

  8. Peppering writing with ellipses is another of Waterfall's peeves. Rey misspells ellipses as elipses, and then casts a stone at himself.

  9. Amanda lists run-on sentences as a punctuation error that bothers her.

  10. Scott McClare adds a few:
    My two biggest pet peeves not already mentioned (in addition to, the misuse of commas and apostrophe's):

    1. Why do so many people not end questions with a question mark.

    2. The overuse of ellipses.........with no good reason.......drives me batty.

  11. Scott is also driven batty by North Americans who use single quotation marks. (I'm not sure I understand this one, so maybe he'll come back and explain for us. Update: His response is here. Read it and learn something.)

  12. Rosemary adds a produce market mistake that drives her crazy: the apostrophe in signs like Apple's for Sale.

  13. Jeremy Pierce adds run-on sentences, one of the things that annoys him most when reading students' papers, and gives the specific example of putting two sentences together with only a comma between them. (Item 6 deals with this, too.)

  14. Waterfall is back with more: using quotation marks for emphasis.

  15. Kim of Hireath point out a problem with the usage of ellipses.
    Ellipses are formed using three "dots" unless the ellipse is at the end of the sentence and then there are four, the first being the period to end the sentence. There should be a space between the dots of an ellipse.
    Oops, this is one I do wrong!

  16. Candyinsierras adds the usage of less instead of fewer as one of her peeves:
    "less carbs" rather than "fewer carbs" or "less calories" rather than "fewer calories"
    It's not a punctuation peeve, but it's one of my grammer annoyances, too. It's fewer carbs, but less fat.

Now I'm feeling the need to explain that I am not perfect in the punctuation department. Noop, I make careless mistakes all the time, and I hate them, because bad punctuation looks unprofessional. When you see punctuation mistakes on this here blog, feel free to point them out, because the only thing that I hate more than making mistakes in the first place is leaving them there in perpetuity.

Okay, now it's your turn.