Some Grammatical Pet Peeves

So, I’m grading papers now, which is not my favorite part of adjunct teaching but is a hazard of the job.  Along the way, there are, of course, grammatical and stylistic mistakes that drive me a little mad.  Here are some:

Too Many Commas: some writers seem to think that an overabundance of commas is a good thing.  While I tend to be a fan of the comma, and use it a lot in my own writing, it’s important to place them in the right spot.

Too Few Commas: complex sentences demand commas.  If you’re writing one, you must set off the introductory dependent clause with a comma in order to cue your reader that the clause is over and the sentence proper is beginning.

Rhetorical Questions: it is, in my humble opinion, lazy writing to begin or end an essay with a list of rhetorical questions.  I’m reading your essay for answers, not questions.

Rhetorical Quote Marks (a.k.a., “scare quotes”): while appropriate for Bennett Brauer, rhetorical quote marks are rarely appropriate in an academic essay.

The Academic “We”: sorry, Scot, I’m not a fan.  We’re not going to explore something in this essay.  You are, and I’m going to read about it.

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  • carla jo

    I discovered that in high school, many of my freshmen were told they couldn’t use contractions in academic papers. I thought that was just about the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. No wonder writing freaks them out.

  • rob

    It also amazes me how many people do not know the difference between you’re/your, to/too, and they’re/their/there .

  • I completely agree with all of these.

  • Donald Dunn

    I watched the Bennett Brauer clip several times but “missed” the “academic” relevance.

  • Ryan Braley

    Another one is when writers begin a thought with, “In my opinion…”

    Of course it’s your opinion. I realize that. You are the one writing the paper. Just tell me what your opinion is.

  • CJ, so true. They do not use contractions and as a result I find they are rather awkward writers.

  • Chris

    Man, now I am really “self-conscious”!

    BTW, I forget, does the ! go before or after the “.

  • Melody

    I am ever the spelling/grammar nazi. Having said that, I sometimes would rather they used *too* much punctuation than none at all. Because at least they’re making an effort.
    And I know I just used a fragment. Sue me. 😉

  • Kenton



  • Wayne

    I decided to check in here to see if grading our papers had any impact on your blog posts.

    Looks like it.

    p.s. I lost a couple points for peeves #4 and #5

  • Reinhardt

    Do you really hate rhetorical questions?

  • rules were meant to be broken… I’m surprised in the age of pluralism that Grammer Nazi-ism is even tolerated. I want to hear good ideas, not discount an author because of their use of punctuation. The rules change, read any book thats a hundred years old.

  • Marjorie

    I should have never put the headphones on…