I know that I am not perfect. I sometimes use poor grammar or use a word incorrectly. Still, there are examples of word misuse in many blogs and bulletin board chat rooms that I feel compelled to correct. Since very few people care about this subject, I do not call it to someone’s attention directly on his or her blog or on a bulletin board. However, I offer the following rules in case such an offender actually reads this blog. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but these are the mistakes that I have noticed recently. I offer this as constructive criticism, because I want everyone to sound as intelligent and polished as I do. (Wait a minute, didn't I use the phrase 'totally sucks rocks' recently?)
Pique – “That piqued (piques) my interest,” not “peeked” or “peaked”
Bated breath – “I wait with bated breath for the next installment,” not "baited" (unless you have a hook in your mouth with a worm on it).
Wreak havoc – not reek, wreek or wreck.
Nonplussed – Meaning perplexed or bewildered, nonplussed is very often thought to mean just its opposite—calm, unruffled, cool-as-a-cucumber (I have seen this also used to mean unimpressed). A common mistake is to think the word means not “plussed,” but no such word exists. Nonplussed originates from the Latin non (no) and plus (more, further), and means a state in which no more can be done—one is so perplexed that further action is impossible. “The lexicographer grew increasingly agitated and nonplussed by the frequency with which she noted the misuse of nonplussed.”
Penultimate – Meaning “next to last,” penultimate is often mistakenly used to mean “the very last,” or the ultimate: “The perfectionist was crestfallen when he was awarded the penultimate prize; the grand prize went to another.” (I admit I didn’t know this one until very recently!)
Inappropriate apostrophes – this one is difficult, as there are conflicting rules on using apostrophes with acronyms. However, the main misuse I see is an apostrophe in the word “its” when used as a possessive, as in “The corndog came with it’s usual accompaniments.” That is INCORRECT. You only use an apostrophe as a contraction for it is or it has: "It's 7:00." No apostrophe is needed when "it" is used a possessive: "The cat swished its tail."
Where to put the punctuation in a quote – always inside the quotation marks.
Less & Fewer – Use “fewer” to describe a smaller number of individual things: This check out line is for customers with 10 items or fewer. Use “less” to describe a smaller quantity of something: This store carries less stuff than the other store. “Fewer” usually takes a plural noun; “less” usually takes a singular noun.
Complement & Compliment – “Complement” with an “e” is a form of the word complete: She used a red hat to complement the outfit. “Compliment” with an “i” is to praise: I wanted to compliment her outfit.
Affect / effect – Effect is usually a noun that means a result or the power to produce a result: “The sound of the falling rain had a calming effect, nearly putting me to sleep.” Affect is usually a verb that means to have an influence on: “His loud humming was affecting my ability to concentrate.” Note that effect can also be a verb meaning to bring about or execute: “The speaker’s somber tone effected a dampening in the general mood of the audience.”