30 Copy Editors Tell Us Their Pet Peeves

“Oxford comma or not … can’t we just get along?”

Pixsooz / Thinkstock

More than 500 copy editors (over 500 copy editors? does it really matter?) attended this year’s American Copy Editors Society (ACES) conference, which took place in Pittsburgh from March 26–March 28. (Yes, a conference for copy editors actually exists, and yes, it’s really, really fun, in case you were wondering.)

We thought this presented a great opportunity to find out what really grinds the gears of some self-professed word nerds. The conclusion? Opinions as split as infinitives and a lot of support for the singular “they.”

We asked a room full of copy editors and copyediting aficionados, “What’s your grammar or word pet peeve?” Here are their responses:

1. There were strong feelings about “impact” as a verb.

“Impact as a verb.”


“‘Impact’ is not a verb! (Try ‘affect.’)”

3. And acceptance of the singular “they” was a running theme throughout the conference.

“Opposition to the singular ‘they.’ Writers have used it since the 14th century. Get over it.”


“Accept the singular they!”


“Embrace singular ‘they.’”

6. To split or not to split? Things got real.

“Feel free to audaciously split infinitives.”


“I want to boldly banish the split infinitive.”


“Folks, it’s okay to split infinitives. (Context matters!)”

9. Some debated whether “whom” should pack up and leave.

“Let’s get rid of ‘whom.’ ‘Who’ works fine. And no one uses it correctly anyway.”


“Who and whom. We need both pronouns, people!”

11. Others were incensed by phrasing that’s just plain wrong.

“‘Would of?’ No.”


“‘Try and…’”

13. There was this slayer of redundancy.

“Skip ‘reasons why.’ ‘Reasons’ are sufficient!”

14. …this champion of proper dash usage…

“Using en, em dashes and hyphens interchangeably.”

15. …and every teacher’s nightmare.

“Your teachers didn’t know what they were talking about. You can end a sentence with a preposition if you want to.”

16. Others decided to focus their disdain on specific words.

“‘Alright’ is not all right.”


“Arguably. (It’s problematic.)”


“Death to ‘synergize.’ *Blech*”


“Avoid using ‘that.’”

20. A few hated on slang.

“Stop saying ‘woot woot.’”


“Stop with ‘adulting’ already.”


“Bae. ‘Before anyone else?’ No! It. Means. Poop. In. Danish!”

23. And some got fired up by misuse of certain words and phrases.

“Stop using ‘probe’ when talking about an investigation. It’s just wrong.”


“‘Due to’ ≠ ‘because of.’”


“Don’t use ‘issue’ to mean ‘problem.’”


“Don’t use ‘comprised of.’ Please!!”


“Versus, not verse!”


“Stop trying to make ‘said that’ happen. It’s never going to happen.”

29. There was the anti–Oxford comma activist.

“Oxford comma.”

30. And finally, this kind peacemaker, who simply has the right idea.

“Oxford comma or not, we’re all correct! Can’t we just get along?”

All photos by Emmy Favilla for BuzzFeed.

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