Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why yes. Someone DID die and make me the grammar police.

Okay - I'm a snob about grammar.

I'll admit it.

I understand the English language is difficult - but it's not THAT hard. I swear, you just need to care to write and speak correctly.

I am not privileged. Neither of my parents ever finished high school, yet my mom was one of the most educated people I've ever known. She taught me that grammar was important. She grew up on a farm in Kansas and was married in 1935. She was poor. Heck WE were poor. But no one ever really knew - because my mom was adamant that proper grammar and spelling would make a difference.

And it did.

And it does.

There is an article on CNN.com by Leslie Ayres today that focuses on this very issue. Here are some wonderful excerpts:

"Bad grammar and spelling make a bad impression. Don't let yourself lose an opportunity over a simple spelling or grammar mistake."

Loose / Lose

These spellings really don't make much sense, so you just have to remember them. "Loose" is the opposite of tight, and rhymes with goose. "Lose" is the opposite of win, and rhymes with booze. (To show how unpredictable English is, compare another pair of words, "choose" and "chose," which are spelled the same except the initial sound, but pronounced differently. No wonder so many people get it wrong!)

Loose = it's not tight, it's loosey goosey
Lose= "don't lose the hose for the rose" is a way to remember the same spelling but a different pronunciation
I never thought I could lose so much weight; now my pants are all loose!

A lot / Alot / Allot

First the bad news: there is no such word as "alot." "A lot" refers to quantity, and "allot" means to distribute or parcel out.

There is a lot of confusion about this one, so I'm going to allot ten minutes to review these rules of grammar.

Between you and I

This one is widely misused, even by TV news anchors who should know better.

In English, we use a different pronoun depending on whether it's the subject or the object of the sentence: I/me, she/her, he/him, they/them. This becomes second nature for us and we rarely make mistakes with the glaring exception of when we have to choose between "you and I" or "you and me."

...suffice to say that "between you and I" is never correct, and although it is becoming more common, it's kind of like saying "him did a great job." It is glaringly incorrect.

The easy rule of thumb is to replace the "you and I" or "you and me" with either "we" or "us" and you'll quickly see which form is right. If "us" works, then use "you and me" and if "we" works, then use "you and I."

Master these common errors and you'll remove some of the mistakes and red flags that make you look like you have no idea how to speak."

My mom was a closet writer - and instilled a love for language and words. Because of her passion toward language, proper spelling and grammar, I managed to get my degree in English and work as a writer for the past 30 years.

I'll step off my soap box now...maybe though...we can become a nation of people who are capable of speaking and writing our own language?? 

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely correct. Someone with poor grammar cannot compare to someone with a mastery of it; good grammar skills make you head and shoulders more marketable. Even engineers that I work with every day get wiped out by "affect / effect" - the two are so different to me, yet they cannot tell them apart.

    In my formative years I learned many words and their use by eye, not by ear, and I remember grammar drills and writing assignments until it felt like the words were oozing out of my ears. I learned the proper use of words, the proper methods of contractions, and why "their" and "they're" are absolutely not the same thing.

    My wife grew up in a different system, one where writing was not as important as learning how to take care of farm animals. Her grammar skills are somewhere between 6th and 7th grade level, and she was the editor of her school newspaper.

    Mastery of the English language requires the right foundation and a lifetime of practice. It also requires an environment that demands success in writing. With the advent of broken sentences and garbled words, popularized by texting, and the willingness of individuals to put up with "garbage" written online, the environment required to nurture strong writers is diminishing. Can we get it back, or is it too late?