Friday, November 27, 2009

Grammar Rant

I'm a writer, a storyteller and a reader.

I attended a tiny Catholic school, and grammar was an important part of every school day. I could diagram one sentence and use a whole page doing it.

We corrected commas, conjunctions, prepositional phrases, and spelling. We had daily spelling tests and weekly spelling bees.

All of these things made me what I am today: a grammar freak.

My writing is not perfect, and since moving to West Virginia where the spoken language is more, ummm, relaxed, my grammar is not what it used to be. It's a lot more colorful and I'm satisfied with that trade-off. I still use the grammar check in Word religiously, and I do my best to avoid glaring errors. I know that there are times that I use a sentence fragment for effect, but as a good writing friend says, you need to know you're breaking a rule before you break it!

I am amazed every day at the grammar errors I see in print. Some are in reputable (supposedly) places like newspapers and books; others are on online writers' blogs and websites, for heaven's sake. Facebook is a world unto itself when it comes to language use, I've learned, and some of it is frankly mysterious. IDK? What's that mean? (I figured it out after a while, just as I figured out that WTF does not mean Wednesday-Thursday-Friday.)

Here are some of the errors I see almost daily that grate against my senses like fingernails on a blackboard:

1. To and too: This is rampant on Facebook, but I see it regularly in newspapers and online sites.

2. "Had went" to indicate that someone went somewhere: When did this ever seem like good grammar? Am I out in left field on this? Is "had went" is suddenly correct usage now?

3. Run-on sentences: I see these so often in books that again, I wonder if the rules changed when I wasn't looking.

4. Apostrophes: "It's" means "it is; "its" indicates ownership. The two are constantly used incorrectly, in every print media in existence. Even signs will use the apostrophe incorrectly; I believe some people stick them in at random just in case it might be needed!

5. "I've did": Hunh? See number 2 above.

6. "Your" and "you're": This is another Facebook favorite, but this mix-up occurs regularly everywhere words are put on a page. Like "It's" and "Its," one indicates ownership and the other means "it is." It seems to me that a simple read-through of the sentence would make this error glare at the writer, but that does not seem to be the case. Spell-check won't catch it either.

My list could be a lot longer. I wonder how many of you have your own Grammar Rant? Is there something that drives you nuts when you see it on the printed page or online?


Rowan said...

I also grew up in a time when English grammar was both a separate lesson and examination subject and in the national exam at 16 I got a Grade A. I am by no means as precise as I was but I do know where to put apostrophes and hearing people say things like 'had went' etc makes me cringe. Spelling errors leap out at me - here and hear and their and there are constantly used incorrrectly. Yes, I know just what you mean:)

Janet, said...

As you know I am not an expert at grammar. My spoken language is 'relaxed', too. I think sometimes people don't care. I usually read my blog post over and over again before I publish it, but I still find mistakes later on.

Granny Sue said...

I'm the same way, Rowan--which makes me blush when I find errors in my posts after I've published them! I try to use the spell-check for each one, but some things still slip through--especially, as you noted, the words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly.

Granny Sue said...

I do too, Janet. Isn't it annoying? As careful as we are, mistakes still slip through. I wonder, however, if grammar is even taught now? Maybe that is why there are so many people writing and making errors that seem blatant to those of us raised in the time of strict rules!

I wonder, too, if the rules themselves have changed and we're just behind the curve?


Sister Michael drew long complicated sentence diagrams on the black board in the front of the classroom. I loved to diagram sentences. I think they were my first drawings. And I still think about sentene structure that way. A few years ago I had a temp job as a proof-reader, reviewing proposals for a local firm, and I was appalled. The authors may have had PhD after their names but they could not write correct English. Sad.

Granny Sue said...

I loved diagramming sentences too, Ellouise! Maybe it was a Catholic school thing?

Country Whispers said...

I laugh sometimes at the things that I read. I make many mistakes myself & use lots of WV slang so I can't really rant about it but I do believe that schools of today don't focus enough on the basics. Whether it be in English, Math, Writing or any other subject they just don't learn what I think they should.

Brad Mills said...

I went through your list and said to myself, "Yes, that's a pet peeve of mine... yes, that one too... yes... yes...." Thank you so much for validating my opinion, which is increasingly in the minority these days.

Granny Sue said...

I think the same thing, Jessica. Then I wonder, "Am I now one of the old fogies who sits around saying the world isn't as good as it was in the old days!"

Brad, I'm glad to know it is not just me. Sometimes I read messages on Facebook and wonder if I'm actually reading English. And again wonder if the times are leaving me behind as I shake my head.

Susan at Stony River said...

Oh boy, this is a post after my own heart!! My staff once made me a nametag and replaced mine in my drawer (I wore it a whole hour before someone pointed it out to me, d'oh!) that said "Conan the Grammarian". Yup, that's me. And the errors that appear in newspapers and on commercial signs is just a disgrace.

Oh oh oh, I'm in Dublin tonight, so have a television, and just as I was typing that comment, the news comes on that the White House's Christmas Tree is from West Virginia. Well how cool is that? A strange bit of synchronicity.

Mary said...

I have been known to make corrections on signs, or ask the workers to do so, and I just noted a penciled correction in a library book with relief because it means I'm not the only one who does it. I love the little book _Eats, Shoots, and Leaves_. If this makes us old-fashioned, so be it!

mary said...

I do think it's harder to catch everything on-screen, though. For important work, I print it out, and then ask another person to double-check it.

DGranna said...

Oh, yes, these are on my list too. My family calls me the "Apostrophe Queen", but I'm noticing they send me papers to proof !

The height of my obsession? I ordered a Noah's Ark afghan for my classes, with large squares showing many animals around the border. But they were all spelled "Lion's", "Tiger's", etc. So I took yarns and stitched over the apostrophes, making them blend into the background. I wouldn't want anyone to think I approved of such an error.

Granny Sue said...

That's funny, DGranna! I would have been just as annoyed at such an error. In the scope of things, the misplaced apostrophe is a small matter. I just wonder why this error seems to be so prevalent now?

Elizabeth said...

Yeah for sentence diagramming! I'm trying to bring it back.

See my website if you'd like a little blast from the past!

:) Elizabeth

Lainie said...

Hey there! Check out the apostrophe protection society:

Be said...

For some strange reason I feel like an attendee at an AA meeting: I too am a grammar Nazi. My pet peeve is the ubiquitous use of good instead of well. Come on mainstream America, it isn't hard: good is an adjective and well is an adverb. Just ask my kids - they can be good only if they do well.

And since when was irregardless a word?

Effect is a noun and affect is a verb.

These examples seem pretty simple to me only because I, too, learned proper grammar and know how to diagram a sentence.

I am with you on all of these, though I can understand the misuse of "it's" (properly a contraction) for its (the possessive form of the noun it) only because it's really an exception to the rule.

I can also understand and frequently use colloquialisms. Having been a Texan most of my life I can properly use expressions like y'all, and understand that the plural form of y'all is all y'all. Like you said, in moderation literary license can and should be used only when you know it isn't proper grammar.

Having said that, knowing proper grammar and spelling and being consistent 100% in daily use are two different things. I often think faster than I type and am prone to typos.

Of coarse, wee awl no that spell checkers do knot pick up awl errors!

It worries me that the misuse of the language is so prevalent, not just in slang culture, but in organized and structured media.

As one last example, let's (ha ha - improper use of an apostrophe)extend this to simple mathematics. Am I the only one who knows that this year is not the end of a decade? I understand that football players aren't the shiniest bulbs in the chandelier, but I finally had to turn off the game last night because I got so annoyed at Chris Berman telling me this was their last Monday night game in the decade. Of course my wife and I appreciated the empty hotels on New Years Eve December 31st 2000, a whole year after everyone else celebrated the new century!

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