I'm not sure it's the best of luck to start the New Year peeved, but when it's a grammar pet peeve, I cannot resist. Here are two pet peeves from Laura Gillenwater, both of which I end up covering in every writing class:
Let's start with the first one: You are so right, Laura! Using the word utilize is overkill when the word use will do just fine. Although the dictionary does indicate that utilize is a synonym for use, utilize does have a more specific meaning that goes beyond the plainer verb use: you utilize something that was previously going to waste or not being used for the purpose you now propose. A sentence like this would be a specific place where utilize is more specific than use:
We used three reams of paper to print the phone directory.
On the word impact, however, I like to allude to the impact wars of the late 1980s. Sorry, Laura, but those of us insisting that impact is a noun, not a verb, long ago lost that fight. Webster's dictionary now lists impact as both a verb and a noun and has done so for at least 15 years. Not that many of us in the writing and editing business don't still protest that decision. When I double-checked Webster's just now, I saw a comment by a reader complaining that impact should be used only as a noun.
Yep, many of us are still bitter over this. But we lost. Webster's is a widely respected dictionary, but it is descriptive, rather than prescriptive. That means it tries to reflect how people are actually using a word, rather than how people should use a word. And right now, Webster's solidly supports impact as a verb. Sigh.
Nevertheless, I could not agree more with Laura's opinion here:
It's "business-ese" stuff like this that really annoys me. If people would just write more naturally, more like they talk (but with correct grammar), most of their writing would really be much better.
Michael Stein adds a new category to the pet peeves parade:
Post your pet peeves below. I've got a bunch more stored up, and now we have the new category to add to: pronunciation.