Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review, Revise, & Respect (the language!)

I've never posted a rant about grammar before, and I don't want this to be a rant either, but I can't help noticing that grammatical and spelling errors are becoming increasingly common on the web, in the news, and even in advertising. Where are the copy editors of yesteryear? And why do people continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again?

Some of these (like using should of, would of, or could of as a substitute for should have, would have, or could have) are so easy to spot and correct that I never cease to be amazed when they quite regularly are not spotted or corrected. I mean, this is pretty basic stuff, right? Adding to my annoyance is the frequent interchanging of such words as affect and effectyour and you'reit's and its, there and their, which and thatless and fewer, say nothing of using I as an object when me is the right choice or throwing in a whom where it doesn't even begin to belong.

Agreement errors are common, too, including tenses that change within a sentence, subjects and verbs that should never be seen together, and pronouns that have nothing whatsoever to do with their antecedents. Dangling participles, split infinitives, and sentences ending in prepositions are also commonplace. Using different than instead of different from and forgetting that you bring it home and take it away are less obvious errors, but that doesn't stop either one from being pet peeves of mine.

Even the use of commas has run amok, as evidenced by this example of a fractured quote, taken directly from an article in a "prestigious" newspaper: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing." You can be sure that poor old Edmund Burke would be chagrined to see a comma arbitrarily placed before his verb. (And by the way, please note that all commas and periods are now placed inside quotation marks, with no exceptions.)

We all make mistakes, myself included, but it appears that not all of us actually care about them. And that's where my worries lie, because preserving the English language in all its glory, eccentricity, and inconsistency is important to me.

So what do you think? Am I a nit-picking old fussbudget (aka elitist linguistic dinosaur), or are ya feelin' me?


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Joyful Noise said...

Too much to handle! It drives me crazy when someone misuses to, too and two!

Sarah~Magnolia Surprise said...

Ha! I'm feelin' ya!! My pet peeve is "irregardless."

Terra said...

Some common errors jump out at me. Its and it's and your and you're are often used incorrectly, and I know I make a few boo boos from time to time. I am now converted to allowing prepositions at the end of sentences, "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put".

Terra said...

Winston Churchill is the one who said "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." This sentence always makes me smile :)

Eva Gallant said...

I agree....though I fear that texting will be the end of spelling and punctuation!

jen said...

Definitely feeling ya. However, I have slipped back to read a few of my posts only to discover a few mistakes of my own.
Now that hurts!

Gail said...

I completely agree. Effect and affect are words I look up every time. You would think I could learn.

I agree with many of the comments here. One teacher always answered the question "Where is it at?" with "Hiding behind the at".

Naperville Now said...

My degree in journalism makes it impossible for me to not copyedit, so your rant makes complete sense to me.

Dixie Mom said...

You have a point. I believe I may be found guilty on all charges. I practically failed all my English classes throughout school and college. I don't remember learning one thing.
So, I'm just ignorant! :)

Judie said...

Sue, this is an absolutely wonderful post! There is a company that sells tee shirts with various wording on them, and one of the shirts says, "I am correcting your grammar in my head." I love that shirt, and just might give one to my son, Joey, who teaches AP English.

Having said all that, I have found that the older I get, the more mistakes I make where grammar is concerned. It is very frustrating!!

yaya said...

I would love to comment. I'm too, two, to scared to. I do get it though.

Annesphamily said...

This is terrific! I work with two women who always say "Can I help you?" Drives me truly insane! I love it here!

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Man, I am the worst at this! Everytime I read one of my posts a week or so after I originally worte it, I usually find at least 3,478,223,785 grammatical and spelling errors. It's so embarrassing!

Oh! And I never exaggerate either.

Just saying. :D

Brian Miller said...

oh my...well maybe i should start begging forgiveness grammar is not the it creativity at work...hehe...err...

Cheryl said...

You have nailed almost every single one of the grammatical errors that, quite literally, make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

If you look a bit more closely, you'll find there are exceptions to the quotation mark rule. There aren't many but they do exist.

When I read "people that" instead of "people who" or "companies who" instead of "companies that" I want to scream. This particular foible has become the norm in almost everything I read. It's this normalization of so much of what you pointed out that frightens me.

Like you, I love language. Bearing witness to its decline into something barely recognizable hurts my heart.

Sue said...


From all I've read, the comma and period rule in the US is now "no exceptions," but the British usage still retains the old rules.

Not sure why we left the British rules behind...I sort of liked them better, as they more more sense to me in some situations...


Anna M said...

I am feeling you, sister. Most definitely.

Except I do disagree with the commas and periods being *always* inside quotation marks. That rule is commonly followed in American style, but many guides, editors, and publishing houses still follow British style where "all signs of punctuation used with words in quotation marks must be placed according to the sense." (Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage)

Love your grammar quote. What a useful tramp!

kaykuala said...

Most educational Sue! I would try to have my postings as near to what I know of the rules of grammar. But it can be shocking to see some silly mistakes upon reading them again later. That sometimes happen!


Grandma Honey said...

I agree with you for the most part but sometimes the rules change and how are we suppose to know that? When I was in school we put the commas and periods outside the quotation marks.

And I am forever getting 'take home' and 'bring home' confused. And I know I am not suppose to begin a sentence using And but i like it. Sometimes my husband will correct my grammar in my blog and I will tell him, no, I like it my way instead. I'm stubborn like that.

Having said all that, I think texting is the death of grammar and punctuation.

Emma Major said...

It's so great to know I'm not alone in my fastidious with grammar; thankfully the English School system also values the importance

Darlene said...

I was beginning to think that I was the only one left in our country that cared about good grammar. I hate it when any one makes a glaring mistake. When I was in Junior High, I had the most wonderful English teacher, Mr. Barrett. I learned so much from that man. He had us really learn how to diagram sentences. I don't think they teach much grammar in the schools these days, because our kids don't seem to be learning it.

I wonder where all the good editors have gone.

karen said...

It's actually one of my pet peeves. Reading common errors like that in publications annoys me like no other. The other thing that drives me crazy is when people say "jew-lery" instead of "jewelry."

Terra said...

Grammar was never one of my strong points, still isn't. Thanks goodness for editors!

sarah said...

I am from the Philippines where English is our second language. Sadly not all of us can converse and write that well. Though I am guilty of making incorrect sentences, I also cannot understand why some people tend to get away with bad grammar glaringly written or said. In our country we have Senators, teachers,beauty queens, athletes, writers and bloggers who are well known for their consistent grammatical slips. Heck I also cannot understand why a blogger who came from a well known university and can write in straight English prefers to insert gay lingo on her posts yet advertisers and followers visit her site by the thousands. Now I am ranting.

By the way, it would be great to make a follow up post on this one.

anitamombanita said...

feelin' ya...but then who am I? I've stopped using "I" at the beginning of most of my sentences, not to mention capital letters. :) Nonetheless, other than for texting and sometimes Facebook, I do still believe in the use of proper grammar.

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Oh dear I am guilty! Most of the time I click publish before checking my grammar or spelling.
I need to slow down and remember to click on the grammar button.
Thanks for the reminder.
Hope your having a good weekend.

Splendid Little Stars said...

Nope! not at all!
I agree!
One of the biggest difficulties is avoiding putting a preposition at the end of a sentence.
The "me" and "I" thing annoys me. Rant on, dear Grammar!

Judi said...

My friend Micheline would applaud your sentiments! It is her mission in life to protect and serve the dignity of the English language.
She IS the grammar police incarnate.
With red pen in hand, she corrects memos and announcements on our community bulletin board with unbridled enthusiasm.
I am guilty of too many misplaced comas, and my overuse of explanation marks is legendary! I apologize for my blog site's inadequacies but strive to improve:-)
I welcome any and all corrections.
All I can say is Thank God for spell check!

EG CameraGirl said...

No, you are not nitpicking. And I know I should be more careful.

I have a few pet peeves and the longer I live, the more I see the no-nos of yesteryear have become the norms of today.

I fear that I often make grammatical errors, some of which I catch right away and some I see a few days later if I happen to reread a post.

Jenny said...

I had a hard time reading this because I was so busy cracking up over your graphic!

I get in a hurry and grammar goes by the wayside, sometimes.


Who am I kidding?

I am the master of starting sentences incorrection and using ... to create the longest run-on sentences in the history of the world...



Oh darn.

I'm doing it again.

Let me just finish up here before I put my foot even further in my mouth!

A+ for you.

I shudder to think of my personal grammar grade, though.



(BTW, shudder is, too, a complete sentence!)