The Grammar Police Strike Again

The Grammar Police Strike Again


Grammar Police

Have you ever used a word and then wondered whether you’d used it the right way?

You know, that nagging feeling you’re making yourself sound dumb but no one wants to tell you.

Or, perhaps you use words and don’t even realise you’re misusing them.

Or maybe you just don’t care.

Well … I care … and I notice – and take notes –  when I hear or read words that don’t seem right or seem out of context.

I can’t help it.

It’s my mission in life to protect and uphold the English language.

There are a lot of us out there, stumbling around, handing out violation notices and shaking our heads in dismay.

They whisper our name in hushed tones …

The Grammar Police.

Here are five more words that have come to my attention because – I think – they’ve been used incorrectly, and that just plain annoys me.

Turns out I’m not always right – who knew?


People often say ‘from whence’.

As in …

‘You annoy me when you pick on my use of language. Go back from whence you came.’

But ‘whence’ means ‘from where’.

So what they’re really saying is, ‘Go back from from where you came.’

It’s a bit like saying ATM machine or PIN number. You don’t want to get me started on those things. Trust me, you don’t.


An alternative is another option besides the original one.

Alternate usually means every other one, or to go back and forth between states, condition or actions, as in …

‘She alternates between caring about language use and not caring at all.’

However, the word ‘alternate’ is being widely used instead of ‘alternative’. As in …

‘He used an alternate word because the Grammar Police were listening.’

This is now so common that it has become acceptable as an alternative to ‘alternative’.

English is a living language and, even if it’s wrong, if something is used by enough people for a long time it becomes right (she says through gritted teeth).


Even I am guilty of saying ‘less’ when I should say ‘fewer’.

It’s not wrong so much as inaccurate.

Traditionally ‘fewer’ is used for small numbers or things you can count, as well as plural nouns.

For example – There were fewer people messing up today.

Or – I make fewer grammar blunders than the average chump.

While ‘less’ is used for things that can’t be counted …

My writing has less humour than usual.

And for singular nouns …

I wish I spent less time worrying about grammar.

Or, in other words, fewer means a smaller number of, or not as many …

While less means a smaller amount of, or not as much.

But if you were to say, ‘There are less illiterate idiots around these days, don’t you agree?’ it would be quite acceptable and people would know what you meant.


Here’s one that never fails to irritate.

Is it ‘a myriad of’ or just ‘myriad’?

I have a myriad of problems or I have myriad problems?

I have always thought it was just ‘myriad’, an adjective, and seeing ‘a myriad of’ or ‘myriads of’ would see me shaking my head and lamenting about the downfall of the English language.

In ancient Greek, it means ten thousand. Now we use it to mean a great many or various.

But is it a noun or an adjective?

Turns out it’s both.

So it’s perfectly ok to have ‘a myriad of ignorant people’ and ‘myriad ignorant people’ or even ‘myriads of uninformed folk’.

And all this time I thought …


I’ve only noticed this one recently, and only in spoken form.

People are using the past tense, drowned, when they mean the present tense, drown.

But what happens when you’re using the past tense in the present and you want to switch to the past tense?

Wait, no, what’s that now?

If you’re already using ‘drowned’ changing to past tense will make it ‘drownded’. Isn’t that what little kids say?

I haven’t heard anyone do this, but that’s only because they stayed in present tense.

What I often hear are things like, ‘If you fall in the pool when you’re drunk you might drowned.’


‘I’d had a bit to drink and when I fell in the pool I thought for sure I was going to drowned.’

Drown is present tense. ‘Don’t fall in the pool and drown.’

Drowned is past tense. ‘She fell in the pool and drowned.’

And don’t forget ‘drowning.’

‘I’m drowning in a sea of apathy.’





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