Over the years, I've developed an intolerance for certain common grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. What follows is a list of these common errors, and my comments.
- The apostrophe indicates possession, as in "The car's hood was open." It is also used as a contraction (i.e. to denote a missing letter), as in "I wouldn't talk to someone who can't use an apostrophe correctly." It's not used to indicate plurality, e.g. "Look at all the dog's!", except in a couple of unusual circumstances, which you can read about here, under the section on apostrophes. Also, the apostrophe is not used to indicate the the third-person, singular conjugation of a verb. I've actually seen people write something like "That person really know's what he is doing." Ugh!
- The semicolon is used to join two related, independent clauses in a sentence. An example might be something like "I didn't put gas in the car today; the prices at the pump were just too high!" I can't even begin to list how many ways I've seen this wonderful but widely misunderstood piece of punctuation abused.
- "Irregardless" isn't a word. It's a double-negative, which makes it an affirmative. I suppose it is a word now, sadly, since it's so commonly used. It went and got itself a place in the dictionary!
- The words there, their, and they're all have very distinct meanings. The first denotes location, the second indicates possesion, and the third is a contraction of the phrase "They are". America, please stop bungling this one.
- I had a stuffy ninth grade Honors English teacher who told us that using a split infinitive is incorrect, as in "I'd like you to quickly summarize the book." I've read differing opinions on this subject, but I've decided that it bugs me. I'm not sure that I like the sound of "I'd like you to summarize the book quickly," but I can't bring myself to split the infinitive. In summary, I don't get too upset about this one, though it does tend to throw me off when I encounter it. I will say that I cannot stand the phrase "To better ..." Replace the ellipses with your favorite verb. Actually, don't, or I might kill you. Really.