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4 Editorial Red Flags

Every editor has certain things he or she seems just naturally attuned to detect. Encountered often enough, those things could even become more than mere irritants, turning into pet peeves. Whenever they encounter them, they get a feeling akin to what some people suffer when someone scratches his fingernails on a chalkboard. Red flags pop up in their minds, and they suddenly become unsympathetic, irascible editors.

[Okay, I know I'm dating myself with that analogy of the chalkboard. My Millennial readers probably can't relate because they don't even know what a chalkboard is. (It's a large, flat, green--it used to be black, but that fact dates me even more--board attached to the walls in classrooms and on which teachers used to write.) In case someone still doesn't get it, just imagine whatever major irritant sends chills of terror or anger through your system and makes you want to pull out your hair in exasperation, and you might be close to the feeling editors get.]

But back to my point.

Whenever I read something or hear someone spake, I often encounter certain grammatical errors that exasperate me, especially when the flow from the pens (or off the tongues) of otherwise educated people who should know better.

So what are some of those egregious violations of correct communication?


"The police arrived and busted down the door."

"I knew I had to rescue the child from the fire, so I busted out the window."

We might expect to hear such wording from the local redneck (and all areas, north and south, east and west, have them), but we expect better of trained, professional reporters. I've often heard this bad choice of words from even the pros. Why not say it correctly?

"They broke down the door." "I broke the window and rescued the child."

A whole nother matter

"We could talk about overpaid athletes, but that's a whole nother issue."

What in the world is a "nother?"

What the speaker or writer should be saying is, "That's another matter" or "That's a different issue."


"Irregardless of what you might think, politeness still counts for something in this world."

This is a needless redundancy. the prefix ir- is a negative, as is regardless, so combining the two is nonsensical. There are proper instances when it's okay to use the ir- prefix, but this is not one of them. For example, if something can be resisted, it's resistible; but if something cannot be resisted, it's irresistible. It pays to know when it's okay to use the ir- prefix.

You and I as objects, not subjects

"He gave the handouts to you and I."

For the life of me, I can't understand why this is a problem for so many people, even many educated people who should know better.

Whether one uses me or I with you depends solely on whether the words are used as the subject or the object of the sentence being written or spoken. If it comes early in the sentence, chances are that it's probably the subject; later, it's usually an object.

The simplest way to solve this problem is to break the sentence into two sentences thus:

"He gave the handouts to you."

"He gave the handouts to--I?" Absurd! I hear you say under your breath. And you're right. No one would be so foolish as to say I in that second sentence example. The obvious word to use is me. And it's no different when you combine the objects: "He gave the handouts to you and me."

The problem with these four examples (and many, many others) is that when we allow them to intrude into our writing or speaking, they interfere with the communication for which we strive. They distract intelligent readers (or listeners). They spotlight our carelessness at best or, worse, our ignorance.

Every such problem that you can avoid in your writing will make it easier on your readers, including that editor who must decide whether to accept or reject your submission. Make it easy for your editor to say, "YES!" to your writing. Avoid these errors.

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