Nitpicking: Lament for English grammar

Is it just me — and other copy editors — who gets annoyed when I see media outlets mangling the English language, especially in headlines?

Sigh . . .

Yes, a headline I came across on the web has got me going this morning. It’s on a CTV News story: “Michaelle Jean named first woman leader of la Francophonie”

What’s wrong with it, you might be asking. Well, if the person were a male who had been named, would the headline read “John Doe named first man leader of la Francophonie”?

Of course not. It would have read “… named first male leader,” or “Doe first man to lead la Francophonie.”

CTV’s headline should have read “… named first female leader,” or “Jean first woman to lead la Francophonie.”

I see the word “woman” misused in headlines often, but never the word “man.” I wonder if the headline writers who are using the word “woman” incorrectly are males? (But I digress)

There’s more.

How about this one? “So-and-so set a new record. He is the first person that climbed the mountain backward.”

What’s wrong with it?

Well, first, if it’s a record, it’s obviously new, yes? The word “new” is redundant, but you see and hear it used in that context all the time. It’s wrong!

And, second, “that” is not a pronoun. People are not “thats.” He is the first person “who” climbed the mountain backward, not “that climbed . . .”


Here’s another one that’s used wrong, though some will dispute this: “a myriad of things.”

Since myriad means “of great number,” simply saying “myriad things” would suffice, yes?

Then there is the “more importantly” phrase when “more important” is what is meant.

And on and on it goes.

How about “closure” when “closing” is meant? A family seeks closure over the death of a loved one; a road closing affects traffic flow.

Speaking of which, people are not “impacted” by the closing; they are “affected” by it. “Impact” is correct as a verb in the packing context, but not in the “affecting” context.

Or “transgendered” when “transgender” is the right word. The word “transgender” is an adjective. Saying “a transgendered person” is like saying “a redded house” when “a red house” is meant.

OK, one more: the phrases “cold temperatures” and “hot temperatures” are wrong! lol. It should be “low temperatures” or “high temperatures.” And you would think weather people on TV would know that.

There are myriad examples of bad grammar in news reports in print and on air. I bet you all have your peeves, even if they are not pets . . .

Do tell . . .

— Jillian

10 thoughts on “Nitpicking: Lament for English grammar

  1. I don’t know if it is quite what you are looking for, but I hate invented words in news stories. One of my least favorites always seems to come up when a sports team has won two championships in a row, and they have the possibility of winning the next. Headlines will invariably ask if the team can “threepeat.” Okay, I admit the meaning of this fake word is obvious, but why can’t they use words that actually exist?


  2. Agree with most of those, but I had to unchain my chair from the desk, remove my “sox” and de-Gelmonize myself (spoiler alert: abstruse Montreal Gazette insider references) when I moved west. While I still refer to the Gazette style guide from time to time, it’s shot through with arbitrary preferences that other self-appointed language experts would reject. And do. The Oxford Canadian dictionary, for example, gives the primary meaning of both closing and closure as “the act or process of closing.” By that definition, it’s not wrong to write about a road or a store closure. Say it ain’t so, Joe.


      1. Hmm . . . I just took a quick look at the link, and will give it closer consideration later. For now, there is a certain art column by “I’d like to propose a test” to handle.



  3. To whom it may concern, when did I last see “whom” other than in my own writing?

    he language has been decimated…! Words are used incorrectly by the media which now spins round the globe in an instant and the mistakes are taken as gospel truth!Decimated was a perfect expression for one tenth lost and that has been turned into total loss which is absurd.

    The majority of examples of bad grammar, NO most examples of bad grammar!

    That horrible word “that” which gets splattered all over every page. It probably came from some nasty computer grammar check programme replacing other words “which” had been used. Text which used to sing has been turned into copy that would be best utilised in the bathroom…

    This cake was baked by my friend and ! There is now a universal fear of using the “me” word, me, I hate it…

    The worst use of bad English is in the Mickey Mouse versions of the bible which are so common now. I am not a great fan of this book but to replace poetic text with cartoon language, often absurd translations of the original King James version, does raise my blood pressure.

    Am I the only one shouting at the radio and TV and press? There was once a time when they set standards rather than destroyed them, gave us correct pronunciations rather than broadcasting something incorrect for everyone to copy!

    Am I “like” bothered? You can bet your sweet ass it bothers I.


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