Words That Make Me Crazy

Dr. Alf Pratte (whom I called Alf) was a professor of journalism at Brigham Young University, and I had the privilege of taking two of his classes.  He was a man of small stature, who had no problem filling a 300-seat auditorium with sound and personality.  He was also incredibly sarcastic and a perfectionist who expected the best of his students. Alf taught me more about writing than…well…anyone else.

Of all Alf’s lessons, the one thing that I refer to all the time is his “List of Words That Make Me Crazy.”  Maybe it will help you as you write/edit/revise.  (I’m listing these in the order that I can remember them…not like I saved some random scrap of paper for almost a decade.)
  • Kid/Child: A kid is a goat.  A child is a human.
  • That: You can remove 90 percent of the ‘that’ in your writing.  People are never ‘that.’
  • Its/It’s:  The first is possessive (something belongs to it) and the second is a conjunction of the words it and is.  (I mess this one up all the time…mostly because I’m typing too quickly)
  • Than/ThenThan is used for comparisons (i.e.  rather than).  Then refers to the timing of an event. 
  • Beach Speech: Dude, just, like, no way, and really can be used sparingly and in dialogue. 
  • Anyway:  Even though people misuse it in dialogue (i.e.  “Anyways, we went”) it should never be plural.
  • Used to/Supposed to:  Do not omit the ‘d.’
  • For all intents and purposes:  This one actually makes me crazy.  The phrase is not ‘for all intensive purposes.’
  • Precede/Proceed: Something precedes if it comes first. Use proceeds if it follows.
  • Elicit/IllicitElicit is a verb meaning ‘to invoke.’ Illicit means that something is unlawful (or naughty…I like to use the word illicit 🙂
I’m sure there are a gazillion more commonly misused words, but these are the ones I could come up with from memory.  I did find two other lists online here and here that may be useful.

What words or phrases make you crazy, whether incorrectly used or overused?  Help refresh my memory and make a bigger list!

P.S.  It’s totally awesome that I did a post on misused words when the Blogger Spell Check feature isn’t working. 

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