Summer is quickly approaching, but don’t let your brains go on vacation. Grammar Guardians must work throughout the year to make sure people write and speak English correctly.

On the whiteboard in my classroom, I have a list of words my students are not allowed to use. They love the list and derive great pleasure from saying one of the prohibited words, watching me grimace and hearing their classmates groan. It’s been a while since I’ve shared it, so I’d like to do so this month:

1. Barnes & Nobles—How many times have you heard someone say this? Remind them to take the “s” off Nobles. It is Barnes & Noble.

2. irregardless—According to Merriam-Webster online, this word originated in the early 20th Century and appears mostly in speech. Contrary to popular belief, it is indeed a word; however, it is considered substandard. Use “regardless” instead.

3. anyways—I am amazed at the growing number of teens and adults who use this non-existent word. Use the correct word, “anyway.”

4. Illinoise—This is my home state, so I know how to pronounce it. I tell my students there is no “noise” in Illinois. Pronounce it “Ill-a-noy.”

5. mischievious—When pronouncing this word, there is no “chee” sound in the middle of the word and no “vee-us” sound at the end. The word is correctly spelled “mischievous” and is pronounced “miss-chiv-us.”

6. “at” at the end—Recently, more and more people end sentences with “at.” It is common now to hear, “Where’s Joe at?” “Where’s the party at?” “Where’s the meeting at?” Please don’t end your sentences with “at.” Take it off and the question is perfect.

Recently I’ve received additional troubling trends in written and spoken language. Among them are:

1. return back—If you return, you are coming back. Remove “back” and use “return” by itself.

2. hamburger meat—Hamburger is beef. Beef is meat. Therefore, there is no reason to include “meat” with “hamburger.”

3. exemplarary—I want to remind educators of this one as we await news on TAKS accountability. The second “ar” does not exist. The word is pronounced “ex-em-pla-ry,” exactly how it is spelled.

4. everyday versus every day—When you are talking about something that occurs Monday through Sunday, you want to write “every day.” Everyday is an adjective. For example, we hear commercials that refer to “everyday low prices.” Because “everyday” describes the low prices, it is an adjective. If the commercial said, “We have low prices every day,” you would write it in two words because it is no longer being used as an adjective but as an expression of time.

5. could of/should of/would of—I hear this and see it written all the time. Instead, use “could have/should have/would have.”

I’d love to hear from readers. If you made a list of the five incorrect words or phrases you read or hear that drive you crazy, what would they be?

Have a safe and happy summer. Remember, there’s no time for vacation when we’re busy guarding our grammar.

Contact Chris Ardis at