Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pet Peeves Are Subjective

Jennifer might be wrong...

Last week, I discussed my pet peeve with the word “over” vs. “more than.” Several people responded (thank you, I love responses!) with examples that disproved my point. Since we don’t live in “Jennifer World,” their reasons are just as valid as mine—I hate when that happens! J

In fact, the American Copy Editors Society just got rid of the distinction between “over” and “more than” last week! http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/244240/ap-removes-distinction-between-over-and-more-than/. How annoying is that?

But here’s the thing. Pet peeves are subjective. What bothers me, doesn’t bother you necessarily. You might have a huge hang-up with starting sentences with the word “and.” And I might not be bothered by that at all. J

Most rules are offered as guidelines. Sure, you can’t mess with subject/verb agreement, but other rules are not as strict and may, in fact, change over time. It’s up to the writer to understand the basic rules, so that we can choose which ones to follow and which ones to strategically break. We are always going to run into people—editors, reviewers, writers, bloggers, etc.—with pet peeves. And we’re probably going to infringe on those pet peeves once in a while. That happens.

The key is moving on from it. And acknowledging when you’ve made an error. So, in light of the ACES’ new rule (or would that be one less rule?), I’m no longer going to judge people who use “over” rather than “more than.”

However, I still refuse to do it!


  1. Some things seem to grate with us more than others. I didn't have a problem with over and more than, but I do have a problem with splitting the infinitive. I was taught never to split an infinitive, which was why 'to boldly go' always made me cringe at the beginning of each episode of Star Trek. Although it is now acceptable, I still refuse to split my infinitives!

  2. That's really funny, Paula! But like I said, I won't judge. :)

  3. The instructor of my Writer's Digest course insisted that I change, "Pull the blanket up" to "Pull up the blanket." I came to grasp that the latter was grammatically correct, but I had only heard the former in speech. I have since come to alter how I think about placement of an adverb modifier in narrative sentences. But in dialogue, I think the former is used more--especially if the UP is emphasized.

  4. Ana, there are many times you can ignore grammatically correct phrases in dialogue. People are frequently ungrammatical in the way they speak, and to make all speech grammatically correct would often result in stilted and unrealistic dialogue. I bet not even English professors always use grammatically correct language!

  5. I agree with Paula. I rarely follow the "rules" for grammar when my characters are speaking because I want it to sound natural.