Common Mistakes: Correcting people’s speech

December 23, 2008: Issue 270

Dear Style on the Go:

     I’ll be having Christmas dinner with my extended family, none of whom have strong grammar skills. My uncle, for instance, has a habit of misusing “hopefully.” His wife does the same with “literally.” My cousins say “I feel so badly about that.” And my great-grandmother starts every other sentence with “just between you and I.” When I try, gently, to help them improve their language, these relatives act as if I’ve insulted them. My younger sister says holiday gatherings aren’t the time for English lessons. When is it proper to correct someone’s speech?

     Signed,
Rudimentary Grammar Matters to Me

Dear Rude:
It is proper to correct someone’s speech when he turns to you and asks “Did I say that right?” Otherwise, have a bite of figgy pudding and hold your tongue. Happy holidays.

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