Monday, September 12, 2011

An A to Z of Editorial Peeves: Y

Yes, the penultimate* entry in my alphabetical list of editorial peeves is here!

Years of age

"Years of age" is unnecessarily lengthy. What's wrong with saying "he is twenty-five years old"? Or, if you're writing in a less formal style, "he's twenty-five"?

Police spokesmen are the worst. How often have you heard a policeman on TV who is looking for "a Caucasian male who is twenty-five years of age" instead of "a twenty-five-year-old white man"?

Years young

I might feel differently about this when I get older, but I think that saying someone is "seventy-five years young" is pointless prevarication. It's right up there with "negative income" and "being upgraded to 'customer'" (a horrible way to get fired).

One's age means different things to different people; you won't change what it means to people just by saying it in a cutesy way.

Your vs. You're

I like to think the best of people. I like to think that the plethora of you're/your errors that plague all forms of electronic media are just typos — people thinking faster than they type, or vice versa, and just not paying enough attention to what they've written. I know I've made that mistake before (plus leaving the r off of your) when I was working too fast.

Call me naive, but I like to think that people know the difference between your and you're. But just in case:
Click on the image to go buy this shirt from The Bloggess.
  • Your is possessive. It means "belonging to you." Your paycheck. Your intolerable children. Your last chance to cash in on the bad luck of a Nigerian prince.
  • You're is a contraction of "you are." You're reading this blog right now. You're constantly annoying readers with your grammar and usage gaffs. You're not qualified to write for The New Yorker.
This your/you're business reinforces my NUMBER-ONE RULE FOR BETTER WRITING:

Always reread what you've written before you call it final.

So many errors can be avoided with this one little step.

* There seems to be some confusion around this word. Please note that penultimate means "next-to-last." It doesn't mean last, or laster than last, or the lastest of them all.