Many of us have grammar or English usage pet peeves. One of mine is just between you and I. Having a pet peeve is fine. If you plan to go around ranting about it though, you might want to make sure it’s wrong.
I once knew a man who was skilled at flying airplanes, but his pet peeve was the construction, “I gave her a present.” He proudly insisted it was incorrect grammar and should always be, “I gave a present to her.” Apparently they don’t teach you about indirect objects in Airline Captain School.
Paul, a former co-worker of mine, disliked the superfluous of, as in “He’s so good of an editor that we should hire him.” He cleverly worked one into every email as a joke.
The superfluous of goof occurs in a noun phrase when you compare something using as, too, how, or so. The word of follows the adjective in the phrase. But of is a preposition, and it has no function in a noun phrase. Although it sounds awkward, most of us aren’t sure why it’s wrong—or worse yet—what to do about it. That’s the sticky wicket part. In most cases, you just leave out the word of. But that creates a sentence that, while correct, sounds uppity or pretentious to some people:
He’s so good an editor that we should hire him.
How do you express the same thought correctly without sounding pompous? Here are some problematic sentences and a few ways to improve them:
She’s as good of a dancer as any of the others.
She’s as good as any of the other dancers.
She dances as well as any of the others.
How great of a quarterback is he?
How great is he as a quarterback?
As quarterbacks go, how great is he?
You have too negative of an attitude.
Your attitude is too negative.
Try to be more positive.
We had so good of a time at the concert!
We had such a good time at the concert!
What a good time we had at the concert!
The superfluous of is one of the easiest sticky wickets to write around. Don’t get stuck in an imaginary corner when the way out is so simple.
This one’s for you, Paul. So funny of a guy!
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