I couldn’t let National Grammar Day go by without stepping on the stump to promote the use of proper grammar. I’m sure I’m going to sound older than my age when I tell you that I find the state of grammar today criminal. Grammar and punctuation seem to have fallen by the wayside in this culture of emailing, texting, and twittering and the premium it places on brevity, abbreviations and slang. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to use perfect grammar and complete sentences in a text message. However, I do believe people should treat email and other forms of electronic communication, including social media, the same way they would a written letter. It’s the only civilized thing to do.
I understand that some of the grammar rules are tricky and difficult to get right all the time – affect vs. effect, for example, or who vs. whom or lay vs. lie. Avoiding split infinitives can be challenging sometimes. For example, “We are better able to help people if we have more volunteers,” is a split infinitive because “are” and “able” are split by placing the word “better” in between. A fix requires a full sentence restructure along the lines of, “If we had more volunteers, we would be able to help people more efficiently.” Lucky for me, my first boss had it in for split infinitives big time. At that job, every two weeks I had to write a 20-page analysis of banking and financial policy developments in Washington. We referred to this tome as “the client letter.” My boss edited as we went along, but since so much of it was written the day before the letter mailed (this was pre-email), most of his editing was done in the wee hours of that same night. I’d come into the office at around 6:00 a.m. the next morning to input his edits, and if there was a sheet of paper sitting on my chair, I knew I was doomed. Those were missives of editorial outrage over sloppy writing and, more often than not, my tendency to split those damned infinitives. I certainly became a better writer in those years, and I have never – and I do mean never – split an infinitive since. (News Flash: Just yesterday a friend of mine told me that it’s no longer against the official grammar rules to split infinitives. Figures! There’s a whole bunch of lost sleep I’ll never get back.)
Compliance with some grammar rules can be challenging, but many of the common mistakes just seem downright lazy. Here are a few of my top grammar-snob pet peeves.
- Possessive vs. Contractions – IT’S not that hard people. “It’s” is a contraction, short for “it is.” “Its” is the possessive of it. For example, “The cat licked its paws.” The paws belong to the cat=possessive. Same with YOUR and YOU’RE. If you want to say, “YOU ARE an excellent grammarian,” please use “you’re.” “I like your shoes,” is possessive. Shoes belong to you.
- There, Their and They’re – Similar to #1, “THEIR” is the possessive for a group, as in, “Their quest for gold ended in a loss to the Canadian hockey team.” THERE is a place. Over THERE. “I want to go THERE.” “They’re” is another one of those contraction thingamajigs, short for “they are.” “They’re going on a trip together.”
- Ending sentences with an unnecessary preposition – “Where is she at?” easily becomes “Where is she?”
- Irregardless – It’s not a word. Look it up.
Do you have grammar beefs you want to offload? Do share!Categories: Former Job(s), Writing · Tags: Grammar, National Grammar Day, Punctuation, Schoolhouse Rock, Split Infinitives, Writing