After exploring Southern sayings and words we love to use in recent Grammar Guru installments, it’s time to return to some grammar basics by way of embarrassing blunders to avoid. I polled the StyleBlueprint team to dig up their most cringe-inducing grammar pet peeves. Are yours on this list?

Misusing “utilize”

“One that’s been driving me crazy is people using the word utilize when it doesn’t fit. Utilize means you’re using something outside of its original purpose. I feel like people use the word utilize to sound smart when it doesn’t fit! It drives me crazy.” — Brandon Smith, Nashville & Regional Sales

Grammar Guru weighs in: LOUDER! Utilize and use are NOT the same and cannot be used interchangeably. You use a key to unlock a door. But you might utilize an old key to scratch off a gift card bar code.

“Also too”

“It makes me twitch when people use this redundant phrase in conversation.” — Alissa Harb, Managing Editor

Grammar Guru weighs in: These two similar adverbs don’t need to be smooshed together … even in conversation. Say also at the beginning of a phrase or too at the end.

“Very unique”

Unique means one of a kind. Something is either unique or extremely rare.” — Jay Graves, COO

Grammar Guru weighs in: Beware of marketers, copywriters, and influencers who tout anything as very unique. There isn’t a spectrum of subjectivity in uniqueness. Would you call something somewhat one-of-a-kind? Nope!

Ending a sentence with a preposition

“My number one grammar pet peeve is ending a sentence with a preposition! In school, I would have received an automatic ZERO on a paper if I had made that single grammar mistake, but in the real world, you can’t give people a zero for that horrible error.” — Melissa Thompson, Regional Sales

Grammar Guru weighs in: There are many instances in which ending prepositions are egregiously horrible. (Where’s the concert at?) But there are also some instances when it’s acceptable. Revisit my episode on this weird rule.

Apart vs. A part

“I see this mistake regularly on social media, and it drives me crazy because being apart of someone’s life makes no sense.” — Madison Husky, Digital Account Coordinator

Apart is not the same thing as ‘a part’ as in ‘a part of.’ This is commonly butchered on social media and in PR pitches to us. I would guesstimate that 65% of all PR pitches have this one wrong.” — Liza Graves, Founder & CEO

Grammar Guru weighs in: I have dedicated an entire episode to this one, so it’s clearly one of my personal biggest pet peeves. You are happy to be a part of a team. You are sad to be apart from loved ones. A part means together, and apart means separate.

Lose vs. Loose & Angel vs. Angle

“Oof. Such avoidable mistakes.” — Katelyn Caughron, Client Relations & Social Media Manager

Grammar Guru weighs in: Some baffling word pairs are sneakily close in spelling and sound. A blouse can be loose. You could lose a blouse at the dry cleaner.

Dangling modifiers

Splashing vibrant colors across the horizon, the woman gazed at the sunset. While I love the somewhat poetic visual of a woman splashing colors across the sky, I think it’s fair to say the horizon was the one doing the splashing here. A better way to say this would be, The woman gazed at the sunset’s vibrant colors, splashed across the horizon.” — Jenna Bratcher, Nashville Lead Writer 

Grammar Guru weighs in: Dangling modifiers happen when the subject in the introductory phrase is not stated. Take the sentence: Before finishing breakfast, the eggs grew cold. The eggs can’t finish breakfast. It should be: Before I finished breakfast, my eggs grew cold.

“Should of” instead of “should have”

“Sentences like I should of grabbed more food before they closed the buffet get me every time. When young children say it, it’s understandable. It’s a tough pill to swallow when adults say it (or, God forbid, write it). Correct: I should have grabbed more food before they closed the buffet. — Jenna Bratcher, Nashville Lead Writer 

Grammar Guru weighs in: Should of, could of, and would of are just plain wrong, wrong, and wrong. Just because it may sound like of when spoken does not mean it’s spelled that way. Have is the verb here.

It’s vs. its

“It breaks my heart when I see its and it’s being used interchangeably. It’s is a contraction, while its indicates possession.” — Brianna Goebel, Associate Editor & Sponsored Content Manager

Grammar Guru weighs in: In the world of too-fast typing, captioning, emailing, and texting, this error is made by even the smartest of writers out there. But it, like many of my discussed missteps, bears some attention. All you have to do is ask the most straightforward question: do you mean it is? If the answer is yes, you have to have the apostrophe.

What are your biggest grammar pet peeves? Email me at [email protected]!


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Zoe Yarborough
About the Author
Zoe Yarborough

Zoe is a StyleBlueprint staff writer, Charlotte native, Washington & Lee graduate, and Nashville transplant of eleven years. She teaches Pilates, helps manage recording artists, and likes to "research" Germantown's food scene.