I have a confession to make. I’m a grammar snob.
In most areas of day to day life, I am a very tolerant person. I easily forgive the little things that make us sigh as we move through our lives. I strive to show gratitude for all good things, and even to find things to be thankful for about the bad ones. There are very few things that really make me groan.
Bad grammar makes me groan.
A friend of mine has a tee shirt that says, “I am silently correcting your grammar”. I really should ask her where she bought it. I need seven of them.
I’m one of those people who has to sit on her hands to resist correcting the butchery of the English language that is rampant today. The rapidly-declining linguistic skill of the English speaking world is not evident, of course, only in online forums. It’s everywhere: signage, newspaper and magazine articles, even published books. Some of those books are self-published ( * ), but (sadly) not all.
I even see school teachers handing out assignments full of spelling and grammar errors.
When I see the all-too-frequent graphics that circulate around the Internet riddled with mistakes, I’m tempted to download the image, correct it in my graphics software, and re-post it with a gripe in the description.
(Here is another confession: I actually did that once.)
Oh, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I slip up occasionally, too. Often, that is due to the fact that I type faster than I think, and (like many writers) I then miss my own mistakes when I proof-read.
At least I proof-read. At least I try. I suspect that, much of the time, people who post blatant errors haven’t a clue that they’re even making a mistake.
There are, of course, some usage errors that were common even when I was a kid. (We won’t say how long ago that was, okay?) The old “There – their – they’re” confusion has been around for a long while. However, I’m seeing frequent errors that I don’t recall seeing ten years ago. Do these look familiar?
“I seen my doctor yesterday.”
“There are a dozen apple’s in the basket.”
“My dog got lose from the yard.”
“The child lead her daddy to the toy aisle.”
And this one is my biggest pet peeve of late:
“All of the sudden….” (or even, “All the sudden.”)
Good lord, people, it’s “a sudden”. “All of a sudden.”
(Give me a moment while I get my blood pressure under control.)
It’s getting worse. The fact that these errors are making their way into publication (and not just in blog posts) means that even some editors who are paid to prevent them don’t know the grammar rules of the English language.
I wonder if the same thing is happening in other languages. I (to my own shame) don’t speak any others well enough to look for them. (This is probably a good thing for that blood pressure.)
I don’t have children in school any more, mine are grown. Both, in fact, are writers, and both have a fairly firm grasp of language skills. My eldest is as obsessive about it as I am. The younger, at least, knows where to look up the rules if uncertainties arise. Are our schools still teaching good old fashioned English classes? I remember writing papers, even in the early grades, that were handed back with red marks. Those marks meant “fix the problems and try again”.
Is grammar no longer a priority in our school system? Or has the human brain simply grown so lazy that it can’t think beyond what fits into a text message?
I (jokingly) said to a friend recently that I wish I knew how to program viruses. I would create a trojan that would infect cellphones, tablets and computers to prevent text with blatant grammatical errors from being posted until the user corrects the mistake.
Well, I was half-joking, anyway.
So, if you’re one whose writing is full of errors (whether that’s because you are simply lazy or you honestly don’t know the rules of the language), even though I might hide it fairly well, do be aware that behind the scenes:
“I’m silently correcting your grammar.”
(But don’t worry. I love you, anyway.)
* – Don’t misunderstand, I’m all for self-publishing if it’s right for a certain project; I even sometimes go that route myself
Here are a few tools for those who care about proper grammar and usage:
- Grammarbook.com is a great website that contains many English grammar rules. I visit it often, and encourage anyone who writes, for whatever reason, to bookmark it. The author of the site (who passed away recently, though her editors keep it updated) also has a wonderful book out that contains more detail, as well as quizzes to help you polish your skills:
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
- Mignon Fogerty is “Grammar Girl”. She has an entertaining and educational website and has published a number of good books on the subjects of grammar and punctuation.
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is a fun way to learn more about punctuation, from an author who is even more obsessive than I am.
- Of course, there are always the old stand-by references, such as The Elements of Style and the Chicago Manual of Style. Everyone who strives to produce the written word should have these on the shelf (and actually use them).