I’ve never been one to be overly pedantic about English usage. I know that English is a living language that is constantly evolving. Nevertheless, as a person who works with the language each and every day, there are times when I just have to grit my teeth so that I don’t scream out loud when I hear certain things that are said on TV or radio, or written in the local newspaper.
I’m NOT talking here about new terms that have been adopted due to changes in technology, such as: download, googling, browser, cookies, hyperlink, going viral, and the like. Rather, I’m referring to everyday common words, phrases, and expressions that have somehow been distorted through their repeated misuse in the popular media on a daily basis.
Here are a few examples that I hear/read almost every day:
1. “snuck” vs. “sneaked”
Believe it or not, it is still ok to say we “sneaked” in through the back door. In fact, in my opinion, it is better to say “we sneaked in”, rather than to say “we snuck in”.
2. “fewer” vs. “less”
The general rule of thumb is this: if it can be counted, use “fewer”; if it is a quantity use “less”.
For example: There were “fewer” people there last night; NOT – there were “less” people there. (people can be counted).
This one works=> There was less of a crowd there last night. (a crowd is a quantity/group of people).
3. “good” vs. “well”
He played really “well” yesterday; NOT – He played really “good” yesterday.
He played “well”; NOT – He played “good”.
This one works=> He played good tennis yesterday. Or, He played well yesterday.
“Good” is an adjective; It does not stand alone; it needs to modify or describe something else. “Well” is an adverb and it can stand alone as the object of a phrase.
So, when Tiger Woods says “I played good yesterday.” (which he often does say), he really means “I played good golf yesterday”; or, “I played well yesterday”.
4. Bored “with” vs. bored “of”
I am bored “with” school is correct; NOT – I am bored “of” school.
These work=> I am tired of school. I am sick of school.
Why is this one like this? I can’t tell you; the language just works that way.
The above are just a few examples of dubious English usage that grate on my nerves whenever I hear or read them. I’m sure you can probably think of others as well.
English is a beautifully precise language; try to be precisely right whenever you speak it or write it.
For some practical tips on proper English usage in day-to-day written documents, check out my writing help articles:
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