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Public editor: Five more irritating grammatical errors

Get off of My Cloud: Are the Rolling Stones responsible for the use of consecutive prepositions?

Peter Kemp/Associated Press

Last Saturday, I wrote about readers' pet peeves on grammatical errors and I invited other readers to send me theirs.

A reader in Victoria said: "You will probably regret the flood of e-mails you will get after inviting readers to write to you about grammar. The few drops I would like to add are about consecutive prepositions, specifically ending in 'of'. It seems to be standard Globe style to write that the farm is outside of town or the bowl fell off of the table. hypothesizes that it may have started with the Rolling Stones' Get Off Of My Cloud.

Love this letter. He was right. I was flooded with more than 480 (and still coming in) e-mails from readers annoyed with those ungrammatical slips and ticks.

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But they show how language and grammar matter to The Globe and Mail's readers. The letters were written by those who truly love language and have a bit of fun, as in Get Off (Of) My Cloud.

Here are five more pet peeves to round us out to a top 10:

1. Apostrophes. This is from Ottawa: " 'Its/it's' – a very common error, easily resolved if you try to substitute 'it is' for the word. In fact, the whole use of the apostrophe is worthy of comment. We were in a restaurant this week that advertised 'fish taco's'."

2. Nouns as verbs. "I surely won't be the only one to raise this issue, but how about nouns that have for no apparent reason been reinvented as verbs? People say they have 'referenced' something when they should say they have 'referred to' something; they speak of 'transitioning' rather than 'changing' or 'making a transition'. Everything and everyone these days seems to be 'impacted' or is 'impactful'. One of the worst howlers in frequently found, in all places, on the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, that redundant waste of about $40-million a year: 'inferencing'."

Another reader, thinking ahead to the Olympics in Sochi, wrote: "Nouns as verbs, such as they hope to medal in Sochi. Sportscasters win a medal in torturing the English language."

3. Adverbs. That is, words ending in "ly" modifying the verb. "Where have they gone," one reader asked. "Worst for me is mixing adjectives and adverbs, or as seems to be the trend, dropping adverbs altogether. Adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs, INCLUDING the verb 'to be'." Another reader said: "Using adjectives instead of adverbs, such as 'You did that perfect'."

4. Comparison confusion. Further/farther, less/fewer than, number/amount, between/among.

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5. Clichés. "As for clichés & jargon, like 'moving forward' or 'going forward' … don't get me started!" one reader said.

Coming soon, a blog on mistakes noted by readers in my column and other recent Globe articles. Also, next week, I will come back to more great examples of abbreviations, redundancies and dangling participles.

You can contact me at or on Twitter @SylviaStead

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