Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Incomplete Education

I love web comics, mes auteurs, more than I love most people and some varieties of whisk(e)y. It should come as no surprise, then, that the intersection of books/grammar and web comics in the Venn diagram of my life is a most wond'rous and magical place.

I therefore present to you my top ten grammar pet peeves—in web comic form!

1. "Alot." "Alot" is not a word. Or, if it is, it refers to an animal that's better than you at everything.

2. Semicolons. I'm not a big fan of them; Kurt Vonnegut once labeled the semicolon a "transvestite hermaphrodite representing absolutely nothing," insisting that "all they do is show you've been to college." If you insist on using them, however, here's how to do it.

3. Mondegreens. Here's a definition; here's a visual guide to some common ones pertaining to English idiom.

4. Misuse of the word "literally." If you're guilty of this, I'll literally send you a strongly worded e-mail/figuratively explode.

5. Confusion of its/it's. Especially on the Internet.

6. Misuse of apostrophes in general. Thankfully, there is a cure: flowcharts.

7. Misspellings. Here are ten you should avoid.

8. Internet comments. This is more of a video than a comic, but it gets the point across: 99.9% of the people on the Internet are functionally illiterate, some of them hilariously so. (I've spent countless hours laughing at seething, near-incomprehensible rants on YouTube.)

9. People who think they can out-grammar me. Sometimes I lay traps for them just for fun.

10. People who smugly correct other people's grammar. It's just kind of a jerk thing to do. Me? I'd do it subtly via blog post.

Also, in case you were curious:

How many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight?

Created by Oatmeal

Many thanks to Hyperbole and a Half, Dinosaur Comics, and The Oatmeal for their fantastic comics.


  1. Ha, awesome. This was fun to read, really. And all I need to do is smack me the one true Bieber for me to be happy. Gotta say, I don't like him, I don't know why...

  2. The word, alittle, is also not a word and it is often used in comments. I am far from perfect in the grammar world, but I do at least try to not be an offender.

  3. I read every one of these web comics...ALOT!

  4. Can we please take a moment for fewer vs. less? It's 5 items or FEWER. Less sugar equals fewer calories. Why is fewer dying? WHY?

    And I can take 29 Biebers. Woot!

  5. Ugh! I hate the semicolon, it's just not pretty.

    I'm afraid that I'm not qualified to comment on Justin Beiber. I actually have in my possession a ticket stub from a 1990 New Kids on the Block concert. Clearly, my taste in music can't be trusted.

  6. I especially appreciated Vonnegut's description of the semicolon because 1) I've never heard it and 2) I couldn't agree more.
    I think the internet will soon do away with lots of apostrophes. People are just too lazy to put them in. I'm one of those lazy people, so I know.

  7. Re: Mondegreens. When I was a kid, I thought "dog-eat-dog world" was "doggy dog world". Neither one really made sense to me, but I liked dogs.

  8. It's one of the more irritating iPad features, its inability to recognize "its" as a word without tossing in an apostrophe. So if one is typing first thing in the morning, before the caffeine hits the eyeballs, Facebook ends up spattered with inadvertent it'ses. It's irritating, it is.

  9. Two best mondegreens: first was the guy who misheard "a girl with kaleidoscope eyes" in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as "a girl with colitis goes by," but didn't think much of it because, after all, it WAS the Beatles. The second, and best one I've ever heard, requires knowing that the 20th century Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly's last name is actually pronounced "KO-DIE." Apparently (and a true story), someone called up a large British music publisher asking for a copy of a song called "Could I But Express in Song." The clerk couldn't find it, as he was looking for a non-existant composition called: "Kodaly: Buttocks Pressing Song."

  10. Awesome. Thank you, from a grammar geek who enjoys the graceful use of the semicolon. I'm for keeping it. It's a slippery slope once we start doing away with things we don't understand.

  11. Love this! My students used to struggle with past and passed.

  12. One of the funniest posts to read in a long time! I love Hyperbole and a Half (a LOT--ooh la la, I used it right!) and Dinosaur Comics. I need to read more Oatmeal stuff, judging by this post. THANK YOU for this.

  13. Oh, and I meant that last comment, on which I hit "Post" too soon, literally.

    I do disagree with Vonnegut on use of the semicolon, though; it's one of the few things about which I'm at odds with him. Like Laurie Boris above said, it needs to be used in a graceful manner, though.

    I want to show these to all my friends, even the ones who aren't writers.

  14. Love, love, LOVE! Thanks for sharing this. (One of my faves is "home" vs. "hone" -- those two can trip people up.)

  15. I hope they'll do a comic someday on "could have cared less." That's my biggest grammar pet peeve! Because if you could care less, it must not be so bad...

  16. Haha. Number 10 beats 'em all! ;)


  17. Thats alot of pet peas. Think of grammar as descriptive (describing how meaning is conveyed), rather than prescriptive (how meaning might best be conveyed) and you'll be past off lest.

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