The Grammar Bitch Takes On the Internet

“I go online sometimes, but everyone’s spelling is really bad. It’s depressing.” ““Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I spend a lot of time online. I read lots and lots of articles and stories and blog posts and all sorts of things that aren’t easily categorized, and I keep coming across the same misspellings. It’s odd, because I only seem to come across most of these mistakes online. I never see them in print or in creative writing or term papers. The Internet holds many interesting and enjoyable things to read; I just wish people would avoid these common mistakes. Let’s jump in:

Lose/loose: This is probably the most common spelling screw-up I’ve seen lately. I’m not sure why this one is so pervasive, but it’s everywhere. And the error is always people using “loose” where they mean “lose.” It probably has something to do with the double vowel sound, but it’s inescapable.

So, to simplify: You lose weight. You lose your mind. A screw comes loose. Once you lose weight, your pants are a little loose.

Definitely: Notice the definite lack of the letter “a” anywhere in there. The word “finite” is dropped right in the middle of “definitely.” No “a.” Ever.

Ridiculous: There is no “e” in “ridiculous.” There is no “e” in “ridiculous.” There is no “e” in “ridiculous.” If you type “ridiculous” enough, it starts to look ridiculous.

Dining: I have no idea why so many people want to spell this word “dinning,” but there’s only one “n” in “dining.” “Dinning” would rhyme with “sinning,” which is what you’re doing when you put extra letters into words.

Shiny: Same deal as “dining.” Everyone seems to want to add an extra “n” and make this word “shinny,” which would rhyme with “whinny,” which would just be wrong. (That was to the tune of “Trouble” from The Music Man. I feel it’s important that you know that, mostly because I don’t want to be the only one with that song stuck in my head all day.)

Peak/peek/pique: In fairly basic terms:

Peak: The highest or most important point of something. (The mountain peak; the peak of her athletic career.)

Peek: A quick look or glance. (She took a peek through the curtains.)

Pique: To excite or provoke; almost always used with “interest” or “curiosity.”


Heal: To make better or restore to health.

Heel: The rear part of the foot, or part of a shoe.

Truly: Truly, there is no “e” in truly.

Faze/phase: Oh, this one. This one is everywhere, and it’s a weird one for people to mix up, but they do. If something disconcerts or disturbs you, it fazes you. You remain unfazed by crazy shit happening around you. Save “phase” for talking about child development or Star Trek.

How about you, readers? Are there any common spelling mistakes that drive you nuts?


Previous Grammar Bitch posts:

Getting Started


Nerd Fights

40 replies on “The Grammar Bitch Takes On the Internet”

A bit late to the post (I’ve been making my way through the archive for the past week and a half), but wanted to add my favourite: “defiantly”. A house-mate misspells “definitely” as “definatly”, and then makes the above typo. “I’ll defiantly be at dinner tonight.” <- because she objects to my use of lentils? Heheee.

I’m not going to lie, things like this really annoy me. Probably just as much as misspelled words and confused homophones annoy you. We get it, you’re smarter than everyone else. You guys never make mistakes with this incredibly difficult language of ours. And if you do, they’re not the common ones that those poor saps who have not had access to the same quality of education as you may make. It doesn’t matter that the function of language is to communicate and unless someone’s grammar/spelling is so atrocious that is contains no meaning, there is no *real* harm done.

Language contains ideology and this sort of policing of language serves no real function other than to establish a distinction between people of quality and those who lack such distinctions. In academic settings this policing makes sense in a way, because a large point of education is to train people to operate within a particular section of society. But I find it frustrating to see this prescriptive attitude so enthusiastically enforced on the internet, a place that–at least rhetorically–is supposed to be a bastion of democracy and free exchange of ideas. But these sort of lists, these pet peeves that I’ve encountered on many sites that are aimed towards the educated, bourgeois classes only proves that even virtual spaces are classed and elitist.

In summation, prescriptivists can suck it. Descriptivists, represent!

I agree with you on this point regarding spoken langauge (prescriptivist representing here!) but I think written language is often held to a different degree of scrutiny.

Although, you make a very valid point that this is the internet. I’ll agree with you that the internet, and its free exchange of ideas, should not be held to the same standards that other written and published media should be.

Nevertheless, I still get irked when “professional” work on the internet contains spelling errors as such. I assume this work has been proofread or copyedited by someone, and that is just sloppy to let it get by like that.

Faulkner spells it “ya’ll” and although Merriam-Webster may disagree, when it comes to Southernisms, I swear on Faulkner’s grave. Based on the pronunciation of ya’ll/y’all, it seems as though “ya” is substituted for a more formal “you” and the apostrophe takes place of the a in all. Try saying “ya all.” It naturally flows together. When I read “y’all”, I want to make the y sound short and the “all” its own syllable, while “ya’ll” flows seamlessly.

I know that y’all is the “correct” spelling according to most dictionaries, but it doesn’t match the actual speech patterns and cadence of the dialect.

Interesting points. I grabbed a Faulkner book that happened to be within reach and was unable to find “y’all” or “ya’ll,” but I did find “you all.” I grew up in Texas and don’t recall there being any debate, but clearly there is!

I was going to include it in my original post but decided that not to because I wasn’t sure how totally accurate it was…but I was going to say that I’d noticed that people in the western portions of the south (i.e. Texas/OK) pronounce y’all differently than those of us closer to the seaboard. The Texans I know actually do make the “y” sound shorter like I described. So maybe its a sub-regional preference? I’m from South Carolina and I’ve seen both spellings, but I prefer the “ya’ll” because it makes more sense to me phonetically.

Yeah, I know how to spell and I can be a bit grammar nazi about some issues in professional writing, but on the net most of the time I like to spell words the way I feel they should be spelled. I suppose if a person judges my intellect by that so be it, but I always felt truly looked prettier with an “e” in it. ;)

See, I don’t think you have to be guilty of anything, as those are different “words” to me. “Yay” would be like “Hurray,” (it’s got an implied exclamation point) “Yeah” is an informal word for yes, which technically “Ya” is too (in English, in other languages it is the word for yes), but it invokes a certain accent that, when I know the speaker doesn’t have that accent, just sort of grates on my nerves. Which I fully admit is nitpicky and maybe just a personal thing, since I don’t always mind colloquial spellings online, because you’re more imitating casual speaking than formal writing, usually.

Ya’know? Eh, whatcha gonna do? ;)

‘Necessary’ is my word nemesis. I just had to spell check that to get it right.

It’s the fact that the c’s and ss’s make the same sound that gets me every time. Every time I have to write it my thoughts go exactly like this: “Neccesary, or Necessary? They both look right – Which one is supposed to be the double letter? NOOOOOO!!”

Yes to all of the above, and here are two more that just make my skin crawl: unconditionally using “and I” when talking about pair/group activities (“Here is a picture of Schmooples and I at the fair!”) and who’s/whose confusion (let’s talk about contractions, friends).

This might not be totally related…

But my housemates are all convinced that the word “Foyer” is actually the word “Foray”. They’ll send emails or make post-its that say things like “If your shoes are muddy make sure you clean them off before you enter the foray”, or “The foray table is getting super cluttered, don’t leave your shit there”.

It drives me absolutely crazy. SO much rage! I tried to correct one of them once, but she just told me I was being elitist (?).

Two nit-picky additions:

Uncensored, NOT unsensored. Unless you are attempting to create a word that indicates something was not sensed previously.

Supposed to, NOT suppose to. Not that I’m in love with the usage of supposed to, but at least affix the appropriate suffix.

Oh, and though I am not sure of the proper usage myself, I hate spellings of yeah, yea, yay, yah, ya, etc that don’t fit the way I think they should be spelled in a situation.

For example, yea should only ever be paired with nay as in an oral vote. Not as an exclamation of happiness.

In other people’s writing, “there,” “their” and “they’re” make me crazy. In my own writing, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out “originally” – I really wanted it to be “origionally.” I blame “religious.”

Even worse, phaze – the bastard child of wrongness. You can just imagine the uncertainty as people type: ph…f…no, ph..ase…no..aze..phaze!

I laughed at sinning by dinning. There was an apartment therapy post about craigslist ridiculousness that talked a lot about “dinning tables.”

‘to’. This one drives me nuts more than anything else. I usually see it on Facebook. Someone will say, ‘My new shoes are to tight’. Or, ‘I’m getting ready too take my sister to the store’. People getting those mixed up really, really irks me. That one bothers me more than anything else.

I also hate ‘supposably’, when used to mean ‘supposedly’.

I share your hatred of ‘definately’ – argh!

I do freelance writing for a living and the other day my boss emailed me to say that for the past several articles I’d spelled ‘receiving’ wrong. I had been typing so fast that I made that same typo about ten times and spelled it ‘recieving’. I was really embarrassed.

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