Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: You Mean It's Not...?

Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?


Language is fluid. It evolves and changes as generations add their own words to the mix. Many people write like they speak, which causes trouble when certain statements have been uttered incorrectly. A word I have heard many people mispronounce is “acrost.” There is no such word as “acrost.” It is always across.

Watch out for these words or phrases in your writing.

Incorrect: Chester drawers.

Correct: Chest of drawers.

Chester drawers? Is he any relation to Chester Cheetah?

Incorrect: For all intensive purposes.

Correct: For all intents and purposes.

Incorrect: I could care less.

Correct: couldn’t care less.

I bet if you tried hard enough, you could care less. Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference reminds us to be sure to make it negative for it to be correct.

Incorrect: That’s a mute point.

Correct: That’s a moot point.

Mute means silent and incapable of speech. When something is moot, it is debatable, doubtful or has little or no practical value, which is what the speaker wants to say, right?

Incorrect: Nip it in the butt.

Correct: Nip it in the bud.

The phrase refers to stopping something while it is in its early development, not while it is up someone’s posterior.

Incorrect: bob wire, barb wire

Correct: barbed wire

Unless they are your neighbors down the street, bob wire and barb wire do not exist. The fencing material is called barbed wire.

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These five books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2016 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition
The Bugaboo Review: A lighthearted guide to exterminating confusion about words, spelling, and grammar


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


Anonymous said…
Barb Wire is correct if you mean the movie or the comic book series of the same name. :)
R. Doug Wicker said…
You just hit upon many of those misused phrases that drive me insane whenever I see them. Good job, Karen.

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