Every writer and reader I know has a short (or long) list of pet peeves when it comes to language. My list, I’ll admit, is pretty long, but I’m feeling pretty focused today, so I’ll just talk about two.
I see a lot of query letters and synopses on the sites I follow, and I’ve noticed that many aspiring authors (younger people especially) have fallen into the trap of writing “should of”, “would of”, and “could of”.
I tell you frankly that it makes me grit my teeth.
Now I know that the sound of “should of” is about as close to “should’ve” as you can get, but our educational system is failing the new generation if they haven’t been taught to recognize these sounds as contractions of “should have”, “would have”, and “could have”.
Think about it: what would “should of” mean anyway? (Should = must) + (of = related to). So “should of” means “must related to”. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
This simple mnemonic may help you to remember the right spelling: Should have used should’ve.
Now much worse, as far as I’m concerned, is “irregardless”. Lately it seems that everywhere I go, I’m hearing or reading “irregardless”. And it makes me want to bang my head against the wall.
There’s a question in some circles about whether “irregardless” is even a word, but we won’t get into that here. It’s commonly used, and that’s enough to make it seem legitimate.
Let’s take it apart. We’ll start with the base word, “regard”. The prefix “ir” means “not”. The suffix “less” means “without”. The result is “not without regard”, and the combination of two negatives brings you right back to “regard”. What you wind up saying is that you will consider the argument or statement that came before. Yet no one I’ve heard use it in the past ten, fifteen, or maybe twenty years has meant to agree with a point.
The word that negates the previous statement or argument, is “regardless”.
Regardless says: “All the stuff and fluff you said/heard before is meaningless, and I’m about to tell you why.” (Although it does say it a little more nicely than that, or at least more professionally.)
I believe the confusion arises because “irrespective” is a synonym for “regardless”, and people have created a mash-up of the two words. But if “irregardless” has crept into your vocabulary, my best advice is to squash that bug the next time you say or write it!
(Unless, of course, you’re writing a poem and need a word to rhyme with “irrigationless”. Which again brings me to a mnemonic: Don’t irrigate regardless.)
Now, what bugs you about grammar?