2023 Top 10 Pet Peeves
In the tradition of the top ten movies or books of the year, I’m proud to unveil my own top 10 list featuring the writing and communications mistakes that caused me the most angst this year. Some of these make the list annually, because they seem to be ever-present while others are making their first appearance.
In no particular order, here we go:
1. Misuse of include.
If you’re listing all options, use areinstead of include.
- Wrong: The three colors include red, green and white.
- Right: The three colors are red, green and white.
2. Misuse of single quote marks.
In U.S. English, single quote marks should only be used within material already being quoted, like this:
- “When confronted with an obvious lie, she said, ‘you got me.'”
3. Misuse of their.
Their refers to people, not businesses.
- Wrong: The company released their annual report.
- Right: The company released its annual report.
4. Misuse of its and it’s.
When its is used to denote possession, it doesn’t have an apostrophe – 100% of the time, it’s is short for it is.
- It’s a real shame the company’s latest product doesn’t reflect its storied history.
5. Incorrect capitalization. Non-proper nouns shouldn’t be capitalized.
- Wrong: The Bank’s Founder is still around.
- Right: The bank’s founder is still around.
6. Overuse of that.
When you start paying attention to your use of that, you’ll find it can often be deleted without affecting the sentence.
- Okay: The books that we collected are great.
- Better: The books we collected are great.
Misuse of that.That should never be used to refer to people.
- Wrong: People that are gluten-free have plenty of options.
- Right: People who are gluten-free have plenty of options.
8. Client versus customer.
Choose which you prefer and use it consistently; including both in the same communication can cause confusion.
9. Unnecessary use of upcoming.
Only use upcoming when a specific date isn’t mentioned.
- Okay: Please attend our upcoming seminar on December 20.
- Better: Please attend our seminar on December 20.
10. Off-the-mark personalization.
Do your homework to ensure you’re not wasting resources by sending sales pitches to those who aren’t your target audience. I’m a sole proprietor who has received countless queries regarding my fleet, my HR needs and my janitorial needs – none of which I have.
Are you aware the dictionary is always evolving, with new words being created and existing words getting new meanings? Merriam-Webster, publisher of one of the best-known dictionaries, recently announced the addition of a whopping 690 new words. Here are some of the additions, with more to come in January.
Food and how it’s prepared
- stagiaire – usually an unpaid intern working in a professional kitchen as part of their training to be a chef
- cheffy – characteristic of or befitting a professional chef
- emping – a slightly bitter cracker or chip popular in Indonesia
- jollof rice – a West African dish of rice cooked in a sauce of tomatoes and onions seasoned usually with garlic, thyme, hot pepper and other spices
- smashburger – a hamburger patty pressed thin onto a heated pan or griddle at the start of cooking
Climate and the environment
- carbon capture and storage – any of various methods of removing and storing carbon dioxide produced by industrial processes to keep it from entering the atmosphere
- forever chemical – a toxic substance and especially a synthetic chemical that persists and accumulates in the environment
- nurdle – a plastic pellet usually less than 0.2 inch in diameter or length that is the raw material from which plastic products are manufactured
- green chemistry – an approach to designing and creating chemical processes and products that are safer for humans and the environment, minimize waste and are energy-efficient
Award-winning writer/editor Adrienne Moch is passionate about words. Whether she’s writing a blog post or editing a book, her focus is the same: ensuring copy isn’t just competent, but compelling. After graduating from Western Illinois University, Adrienne was a journalist, corporate communicator, and PR professional until 2004, when she went freelance to use her talents to assist clients with their writing and editing needs. Learn more at adriennemoch.com.