I'm going to do something I rarely do. A close examination of some of the comment threads on this blog, particularly the longest ones, should show that this is rare. I have very high standards for exactitude in spelling, grammar, and style when it comes to writing and often speaking, but I refrain from making a big deal about it with others online except when it leads to unclarity.
Those who have known me the longest can testify to this. I've reigned it in quite a bit since high school, but it's a fight. In my younger days I would deliberately point out things that, if taken literally, would mean something extremely unusual. It was a sort of joke, and for some reason most people don't understand just how funny it is to think about what our words would mean if we meant them literally. In fact, they somehow found it annoying that people might enjoy thinking about such things. That's something I'll never understand.
Anyway, in the interest of good discussion I don't bother to spend time talking about mistakes in commenters' or other bloggers' writing (unless it really affects the meaning or unless it's in response to someone who is being a pedant themselves). I do find a number of things to be at least a tad annoying, though, and in many cases they're innocent things, so holding my tongue, or as it were my fingers, is desirable but hard. Since I allow myself in my milestone posts to do things I don't normally do, I've decided to use this, my 950th post, to express some of my blogging pet peeves.
This is not directed at any individual, and I don't have a hit list of those who read my blog who have done these things. Perhaps this will give you a reason to change your behavior if you do any of these, but I'm not doing this to complain about any particular person or act. Some of the items in the list are incredibly annoying and thoroughly immoral, and don't think I intend to classify the minor in the list as morally similar merely because they're in the same list. This is just my outlet to express things that I wish people didn't do.
Some of these have to do with simple issues of writing, whether spelling, grammatical, or stylistic. Some are about the meaning of words. Some are about the things bloggers or commenters might do that I really wish they wouldn't do. I'm giving them in no particular order. Well, it is a particular order, since it is an order. It's not an order based on anything important. There are surely other things I could list, and some of them are more important than some of these. It's just that these are the ten that came to mind first as I was trying to think of things that have bothered me in the process of having a blog.
1. I've noticed that a lot of people seem to prefer to call a blog post a blog. A blog is a weblog. It's a website that collects posts together. A post is one item in a weblog. Also, I sort of cringe when I see a blog post called an article, because I think of an article as something much longer and published in a journal. This one seems more of a stretch, whereas the first one just seems wrong, but it's something I find unfortunate.
Similarly, my sense of the proper naming of things is thrown off completely when someone refers to an email list as a site or a website as a list. It's a similar enough issue when people call my blog a sight. It's true that you look at a website with your vision, and thus it's understandable that someone might think it's called a websight. That doesn't mean the word came from anything to do with looking. It came from the word for location that sounds the same. It's a website.
2. I'll occasionally write a long blog post that spends a good deal of time dealing with an issue. The post will include presentations of and responses to certain objections. Then I'll discover that someone has commented on the post, and the substance of the comment is to present the objection that I had already explained and responded to in the post. This is annoying. It shows that the person didn't read the post, apparently thinking thinking they were familiar enough with the issue not to read it more carefully.
In some cases, it's even a long comment complaining that the post ignores the most obvious objections to the view the post takes, when in reality the post included a detailed rebuttal of that very objection, but they hadn't bothered to read it. That is more than annoying. I'm sure I've done it myself, but being on the receiving end shows me why it's worth avoiding.
3. I've been getting about 10-15 referrals a day from Google searches for 'homo sapien'. Presumably these are people who think the 's' is the plura ending rather than the final letter of the 'ens' ending of the present participle in Latin. 'Sapiens' is the Greek word for wise, and it's an adjective resulting from a verb form. That participial form is a standard Latin ending. It's 'homo sapiens'.
4. I've noticed that a lot of people have trouble capitalizing the 'G' in 'God' when using it as a name. Sometimes it's better to talk about a god (which requires the indefinite article 'a'). Sometimes you can even talk about the god (e.g. of a monotheistc religion or of a location or concept). Those are common noun uses of the term 'god'. When using it as a name, it should be treated the way all names are treated in English. You capitalize it.
I suspect people have this problem when they don't believe in a divine being, and they somehow think treating the word the way all other names in English work somehow lends credence to the existence of the being people generally refer to with that name. That's a silly idea, but even if it were true it wouldn't require abandoning the conventions of the English language.
5. It should go without saying that trollish behavior should make the list, so this one covers all of that. There's a wide range of trollish behavior. This includes hijacking a discussion to make it be about your pet issues, calling people names or otherwise insulting them in the place of offering arguments, insisting on interpreting things people say in the worst way possible, repeating the same claim or question over and over again when it's already been answered, etc.
6. A lot of people like to use an apostrophe followed by an 's' to indicate a plural. This is never the correct plural ending in standard written English, no matter how the word ends. Some irregular words have no change or a really idiosyncratic change between the singular and plural. Most simply add an 's'. Some add 'es' or double the last letter and add 'es'. Nothing adds apostrophe and then 's'.
Bad: John F. Kennedy and John F. Kerry are both JFK's.
Good: John F. Kennedy and John F. Kerry are both JFKs.
The first one makes me wonder which other JFK they belong to.
7. The most annoying behavior related to blogs, of course, is spamming. There isn't a lot that I can say about spammers that I'm willing to put on my blog without being more creative than I really want to be at the moment. At least there are ways now to deal with most of the spammers without having to delete comments constantly, but only a multi-level protection grid together with some watchfulness will really do it. Trolls, on the other hand, are much more difficult to decided what to do with. Since some trolls don't intend to be malicious but are just ill-mannered and ignorant, spamming is probably more evil, even if trolling is more annoying to deal with.
8. I can't do this without mentioning scare quotes. Quotation marks are for quoting someone's exact words. I see people using them in indirect discourse, when they're usually inappropriate. For instance, suppose someone doesn't like Dick Cheney and called him a fascist conniver, as someone I know did this week. If I take issue with that description, I might say:
Dan called Cheney a "fascist conniver".
Dan called Cheney a fascist conniver.
The first might be ok if the reason I'm using quotes is to indicate that I'm giving his exact words, though the second is also perfectly fine. Since I'm simply stating that he said it, I don't need the quotes. I could have said that he called him a liar. It seems excessive to me to say that he called him a "liar". Why do that if the expression is two words instead of one? With longer discourse, this makes some sense, but not with short terms like this. It just gets worse as the number of these things piles up. If the sentence makes perfect sense without the scare quotes, don't use them.
9. Some people have email lists where they send out emails every time they post something new on their blog. I asked to be on a couple such lists before I was using a newsreader to aggregate the blogs I read all in one place. Not everyone who does this sort of thing has been willing to wait until someone asks to be on the list. I realize that people who send out blog updates via email genuinely appreciate the people on their mailing lists who have left them comments and said good things about their blogs, but saying something good about someone's blog once or twice and leaving comments now and then does not amount to a request to be on a mass email list.
When someone has a good post they want me to look at, I welcome their desire to inform me about that. That's fine when someone knows enough about me to suspect that I might want to read that particular post. I may or may not actually like it, and if I like it I may or may not consider it link-worthy. When it's a few a week, that lowers the significance of each email, and when it's at least daily I usually just delete them unless some really catches me in the description. I can get 30 emails a day on a slow day and up to a few hundred when things are busier. I'm not angry at people who do this sort of thing. It's just not a very effective way of promoting a blog to overload people with impersonal messages at great frequency, and some people with very good blogs do this. I just pay attention less to those who email me more often with something that's important enough to be just one of many.
10. The thing I find most annoying about the comments sections of top blogs is the low signal-to-noise ratio. The noise is this case is mostly trollish behavior, but there's on sort of thing that might sometimes count as trollish but isn't necessarily. I reserve that term for repeat offenders. Some people just like to chime in their two cents without really contributing. I think that's ok when someone just wants to indicate agreement in supporting what someone says. I'm not sure why someone would bother to do it when disagreeing if they aren't going to explain why.
It isn't actually very helpful to me if I explain my reasoning on an issue and someone shows up and tells me that my post is stupid without saying why. This doesn't happen that often on my site, though some of my race posts have generated enough traffic that there were people leaving such contentless criticisms. What is someone trying to do by doing this?