I’m not all about the abuse of apostrophes. There are other things that make me twitch.

I wanted a cheap ebook to download to my Nook last night–just something light I could read before falling asleep. I found a collection of six novels that sounded interesting, and the set was only $1.99. The first book is funny and engaging–heavy on the dialogue, but it’s snappy dialogue–but the writer has used “effect” and “affect” incorrectly every time so far. At the moment, I can’t remember the main character’s name. But I can remember this misuse of two words. Anything that takes your reader out of your story matters, so don’t shrug at the rules of language. If you don’t respect your writing, why should anyone else?

If you’re publishing your own ebooks, it’s important to find yourself an editor or proofreader. I’m expensive–and worth it!–but I’ll bet you could find an English major (either in school or someone who graduated long ago) or English graduate student in need of money who’d be willing at the very least to correct the grammar in your manuscript for a modest fee. You’ll be repaid when readers keep buying your books.

I just brought this up on Twitter, but I can elaborate here. If you never took a logic or debate class, then maybe you don’t know what “fallacies” are. Simply put, a fallacy is a flaw that renders an argument invalid. There are many fallacies that can ruin your chances of making a sound argument, and one of those is called “begging the question,” that is, drawing a conclusion in an argument by merely repeating the premise. This fallacy has NOTHING TO DO WITH A QUESTION.*

Here’s an example of how to use the term “begs the question” INCORRECTLY:

“Even the highest speed limit on U.S. roads is eighty miles an hour. This begs the question: Why do U.S. automobile manufacturers build cars that will go 120 miles an hour?”

I repeat: “Begs the question” is used incorrectly here. What is meant is, “This raises the question.” If you mean raises, prompts, provokes, encourages, invites: SAY SO. Don’t say “begs.”

Here is what “begs the question” actually means.

When you say, “I was late because I didn’t get there on time,” you are begging the question. You’ve proved nothing except that you speak in circles. The conclusion is the same as the assertion, so nothing has been proved logically. A logical statement would be, “I was late because I overslept.” This is a simplified example of a fallacy that can be quite complicated, but I’m not trying to give a logic lesson here. I’m trying to show that “begs the question” is a phrase that doesn’t mean the same thing as “raises (or invites) the question.”

When did people start using “than” when they mean “from?” One thing is different FROM another thing, not THAN it.

When you mean two things are unalike, use “from”:

My house is different FROM yours.
My language peeves are different FROM yours.

When would “than” be correct? When characteristics of things are compared:

The rooms in my house are smaller THAN the rooms in your house.
You may think my language pet peeves are more pedantic THAN yours.

Note: Use THAN for comparisons, not THEN, which means time or a sequence of events. But that’s a whole ‘nother pet peeve, as they say.

*If it has nothing to do with a question, then why is the word “question” used? The Latin term for this fallacy is petitio principii, a translation of the Greek to en archei aiteisthai (“at the beginning to assume”), but aiteisthai literally means “to beg.” I suppose at its simplest, the debate raises a point of contention that demands someone question its veracity. I can provide more illustrations of this, but someone is sure to get miffed if his or her own particular faulty logic becomes my example.


11 thoughts on “Peeves”

  1. The landlord left a note saying they are going to do a “census” to see which apartments have been renovated. The first thing that popped into my head was, “You mean, you don’t know?” Fortunately, I’m moving out near the end of December to another apartment, preferably one with a traffic light to the main highway. Power that stays on during hurricanes and ferocious wind storms would be nice too. Having the power outlet NOT directly above the kitchen sink and directly next to the fridge so that nothing can be plugged into it without putting the toaster into the sink (or on the fridge) would also be nice. Yes, this was a renovated apartment, full of quirks.

    They did stop thanking us for patients, though, which brought a whole new meaning for me and that Gun ‘n’ Roses song.

    1. Some mistakes are quite entertaining! One of my all-time favorites was when my parents parked our car outside a store where a sign in the window advertised “Necklesses for Sale!”

  2. I always thought my spelling and grammar wasn’t too terrible, but after reading this post I’m wondering if I say things that amuse other people. 🙂 But I do find a lot of mistakes make me twitch, just like you do, so I’m hoping I’m not doing too badly.

    1. Three people are reading A Coventry Christmas again and commenting about it. I’ve forgotten some of the things they’ve talked about, so I decided to reread it. There are plenty of things in it that I’d change now! I think I even found a “than” when I should have used “from.” Plus Tim is always correcting Hanley when she uses “got” instead of “have,” and there are so many “gots” in that novel that I can’t believe he didn’t circle and tell me to change when he edited it. We all make mistakes, but I don’t remember ever noticing anything in your writing that makes me twitch! I mostly get on these rants after a few weeks of reading mistakes from people who are professional writers.

  3. I must admit I’m not very good at using effect and affect.

    One of my pet language peeves is misuse of the word ‘literally’.

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