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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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November 15, 2011



The most common error I see and hear almost every day is using "myself" when they mean "me"!


This may not be a true error, but it bugs me and seems to be redundant, so please advise. Often I see memos written on letterhead which reads something to the effect of "From the desk of Golly Gee, Assistant Redundancy Clerk." I hold that there is no need to include a "From:" line when using stationery with such a heading. The "To:," "Date," and "Re:" lines should be all that is included, I believe. Am I just being too analytical, Lynn?


Neither is correct. The correct word is memoranda.

Randy Averill

I would suggest that the apostrophe used in plurals is an extremely widespread problem. You apparently encounter it more with the word "memo" than with others, but it plagues writing in general. It also happens to be right at the top of my pet peeve list. A neighbor named her business "Photo's by xxx." We're not good enough friends that I can correct her, so it will continue to bother me. But I will seek other professionals to meet my photography needs.


The most common error I see is people responding to "thank you" with "your welcome."

Terry Murphy

Apostrophes in all their guises are responsible for many of the most annoying errors in English today.

your for you're
where or were(other than in wolves) for we're
their or there for they're
should/could/would of for should/could/would've

and what I've just seen beautifully described elsewhere as Gratuitous Capitalisation.

Finally, I do like Kay's response re memos. Very, very good.

Terry Murphy

[note to self: proofread more thoroughly before posting.]

Of course the poor apostrophes have nothing whatsoever to do with Gratuitous Capitalisation and I retract that slur unreservedly.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

What a fine list of errors! Thank you, Karla, Fran, Kay, Randy, Kara, and Terry.

Karla, I too see plenty of examples of the "myself" error.

Fran, if the letterhead lists the writer's name and title--and no one else's--I think it would be fine to omit the "From" line. Perhaps the writer hasn't considered that efficient step.

Kay, thanks for your instructive comment. I don't believe any of my clients would say they write memoranda or memorandums. They write memos (or memo's if they make the mistake described here).

Randy, yikes! What an unfortunate mistake in a business name. I wish she had asked your advice before naming her company.

Kara, "your welcome" IS unfortunate. I haven't see that error much lately. People may be dropping the use of the unnecessary "you're welcome" email.

Terry, thank you for your list--and for your amusing note to yourself.



I dropped by to thank you very much for all your blogs here. They are generously informative. I am looking forward to attend one of your training sessions very soon!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Noor, thank you for your very thoughtful message. I look forward to working with you in a writing class.


John Smith

Agree with the above comment. It should be memoranda as that is the plural form of the Latin, memorandum. However, memo's is not incorrect as it is a contraction of the (still) incorrect memorandums - thus the apostrophe denotes the missing letters (as one would do in words, such as won't; can't; etc.).

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, John. I like the creativity of your suggestion. However, my dictionaries give "memos" as the correct plural of "memo."

Do you have a dictionary that supports your view?



I agree that the word used to be 'memorandum' but language is not static. I, for years, tried to insist that the plural of ‘index’ was ‘indices’ and never ‘indexes’, but even Webster’s is again' me now :)

I am still holding onto that the past tense of ‘to enter a plea’ is ‘pled’ not ‘pleaded’. I can be sometimes heard to say to the announcer on my radio that ‘pleated is something done to a skirt’!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Andrew. I want to recommend to you "Garner's Modern American Usage," by language and legal writing expert Bryan A. Garner.

I believe you would be interested in his detailed discussion of the past tense forms "pled," "plead," and "pleaded." In summary, he writes, "'Pleaded' is the predominant form in both American English and British English and always the best choice."

Thanks for sharing your passion for language.


Business Writing at Word Nerds

Hi, Lynn.

In Australia, I would say that incorrect capitalization is the most common error in business writing. People tend to overuse capitals. For example, "We offer Business Writing, Copywriting and Editing services" and "She has taught Business Writing at several Universities during her career."

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

That kind of capitalization would drive me crazy. I am glad I don't see it in the United States and Canada.


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