Stop the insanity – Using the right words in the right places

It’s RBI not RBI’s

I’m not big on posting boring lists, but today, I’ll make an exception. We all run across words, phrases and issues from time to time, that don’t make a lot of sense. Okay, I’ll come right out and say it, they are flat out WRONG. I don’t consider myself an expert on grammar or proper use of words so I’ve kept an ongoing list of the top pet peeves/mistakes I’ve made in the past. Here we go and, hopefully I hope, you’ll find a couple that will help.

Let’s start off with my biggest offender in the early days. My first manuscript was full of this one.

1. Hopefully. Hopefully means in a hopeful manner. “I hope to finish this manuscript,” is usually what is meant which is very different from, “Hopefully, I’ll finish this manuscript.” (which is saying you’ll finish the manuscript, with a hopeful attitude.)

Nine times out of ten, we really mean, “I hope.”

2. Literally. Literally means “actually” so if you say, “I literally laughed my head off,” then your head should be lying on the ground, which it would be hard to imagine that you would be laughing. What you probably meant to say was, “I laughed my head off.” An acceptable illustration as to how hard you laughed.

3. Comprised of. Comprises means includes. When you are trying to use the word, substitute “includes of” and see if it works (of course it won’t.) “A list of my favorite things to do in the summer includes of swimming, barbequing and drinking! Comprises is the correct word, but all good things to do in the summer!

4. Merge together. AAAHHHHHH. Sorry for the scream. There are many examples of redundant phrases like this that drive me crazy. You really mean “merge”, once—one time, not merge merge. Want more? Free gift—it wouldn’t be a gift if it weren’t free. Absolute necessity—puhlease. The best, “a pair of twins” *sigh* unless of course you are my friends David and Kat Whiteley who actually have two sets of twins, we refer to them as a four-pack.

5. That/Who. This is a good one, have you ever said/wrote, “A person that works hard, plays hard.” Nope, wrong. Humans are always—who. “A person who works hard, plays hard.” Here’s the catch, everything else is a “that” including animals, except in the case of our resident hero, Mr. Pish, that dog is definitely human.

6. Lay/Lie. I know, you’ve heard this one before. It’s never, “I want to lay down.” It’s, “I want to lie down.” The words are not interchangeable,  LAY requires an object, “I want to lay my head down.”

7. RBI’s. For you baseball fans out there—this one’s for you. One of my biggest pet peeves. RBI stands for Runs Batted In, a statistic used in baseball referring to how many people have scored based on a players at bat. Notice the first word, RUNS, with an S. It can’t be listed as Runs Batted In’s. That’s just plain wrong. It should be like this, “Jesus Montero recorded four RBI for the Seattle Mariners in the 21 to 8 walloping of the Texas Rangers last night.”

That’s all for now, if I get wiggity about this in the future maybe I’ll dish out a few others. Do you have any that bug you? Leave us a few choice ones in the comments below.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Stop the insanity – Using the right words in the right places”

  1. I can't tell you how happy I am to see somebody in your great nation explaining the difference between lay and lie. Could you please pass on your wisdom to all the LA scriptwriters who seem hellbent on corrupting the Queen's English across the globe with lines like "I need to lay down." And other similar howlers.

    Just by the way – have you any idea of the televisual garbage spawned from the series Jersey Shore? All over the world, countries are filming their empty-headed, self-absorbed youths and inflicting them on our screens. And here in NZ we see ALL of them!

    I hope it ends soon.

    Signed hopefully 🙂

  2. My mother is the only person I knew while growing who would tell a go "lie down" rather than "lay down". I used to think it was because she was Canadian, but it turns out, she was just right. So whenever I see a post about lie/lay, I think of Mom. =)

  3. Oh, no, Jim, I could go on all night with these! But here are a few:

    "Try and…" instead of "Try to…"

    "Completely destroyed" (Destroyed is no more. It is gone. There's no "completely" about it.)

    "Mother-in-laws" and the like instead of "mothers-in-law."

    Thank you for the post. And Mr. Pish is human. I'm certain of it!

  4. Actually, some "persons" are "thats". For example, you can say, "The engineer that" but not "the man that". It is "the man who".

    Overall, you offer good advice. However, I did "lay" down yesterday.

    Sorry, I can't help it. I used to teach English.

  5. I'm with Laurie on the mothers in law – only one law multiple mothers.

    My biggest is courtesy of the food channel.

    with au jus. The au means with @#!!!! so when you say with au jus (Guy Fieri – I'm looking at you) you are saying with with jus.

    I feel better now. Thanks

  6. I'd like to add that the news readers (we rarely get real journalists on the TV news) are in the habit of saying "may of" when they mean "might have". ARGH!

  7. I’m totally with you. Except for the lay/lie thing–and only because I’ve heard it wrong so many times that it always sounds wrong or always sounds right. I can never remember which way it goes!

  8. Great post and all really good points. I have to add to your #4. People keeping saying two twins; twins means two so why put the number two in front of it? Like your example, two twins means two sets of twins.

  9. Oh Dear–I hang my head!! In all sincerity, Thanks for the useful information. Hopefully I’ll remember it–OMG– old habits are are hard to break. Let me rephrase that—I hope I will remember it and practice it!

  10. Some of these are examples of tautology – like 'merge' – there's also descend down – descend is to go down……I just wish I knew what the verb from tautology. I don't think one exists. So I've made one up. I tautle, you tautle, he tautles…..

  11. Thanks everyone for the comments. Ya'll bring up some great ones. I've been out of commission for a bit and I apologize for not being able to respond to each of your comments individually. I'm back now and I really appreciate all your support.

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