I hate it when people misuse the possessive "s". What is with that? It's like an epidemic. I regularly get e-mails from library patrons asking if they can borrow "video's". I see cafe chalkboards advertising "cake's" and "sandwich's". Today, while doing research on hiring policies at large organizations, I found the following on the Smith College website: "Candidate's whose application [sic] are reviewed by the hiring manager and not selected for an interview" bla bla bla. Smith freaking College! Aren't they, like, one of the so-called Seven Sisters and like, totally prestigious? I actually took the time to write an e-mail to the webmaster pointing out the error. Yes, I am that anal.
There are other stupid mistakes that make me grit my teeth. Today, while reading the Globe and Mail over lunch, I almost choked on my chocolate mousse cake when I came across the following sentence in an otherwise touching obituary on the Facts and Arguments page:
"Their first child, Sara, was born in 1960, and Shelley began her full-time career as a mother. Returning to Winnipeg in 1960, she later gave birth to myself in 1963 and Marnie in 1966 ."
Arghhh! No no no! That's terrible grammar. The whole second sentence is a grammatical disaster. The highlighted sentence should read "she gave birth to me", not "myself". "Returning to Winnipeg" looks suspiciously like a dangling modifier (it just seems irrelevant to the rest of the sentence) and poor Marnie sounds like an afterthought, in more ways than one.
I have such a hard time reading newspapers these days. Even some fiction is difficult to understand - I read and re-read the same sentence over and over, trying to make sense of it. Like, "Marge didn't know three women, or even many children, who couldn't drink him under the table" - a sentence which I found in - I confess - a paperback thriller/suspense novel somebody left in the laundry room. Even so. What the hell is that supposed to mean? And how did it get past the editor?
I used to think I was just too stupid or dense or distracted, when I came across sentences I couldn't understand. But more and more, I'm convinced that a lot of people just don't know how to write clearly. It drive's me crazy.