10 January 2010

The grammar Nazi

From a FB status:

"If your selling a car on Craigs list make sure you spell at least the name of the car correctly or you make yourself look stupid. Chevy isn't spelled Chevie..."

I suppose that people who cannot properly distinguish between "your" and "you're" don't make themselves look stupid at all. (Not to mention the fact that Craigslist, last time I checked, wasn't two words, but that's less egregious of an error.)

Which brings me to a question/pet peeve. Why can't the average native English speaking, college-educated, monolingual adult in this country use proper grammar/spelling at a fifth grade level? I don't mean making occasional typos or mistaking "your" for "you're" once or twice because you're typing emails at 4 a.m., but really not knowing the difference to the point that you post 14 FB status updates (not that I'm counting), all with the same damn mistakes. Which means that you really don't know that cannot is one word, or that it's is not possessive, etc. I swear we learned this back in fifth grade, or maybe even third grade.
Why aren't they teaching this and drilling this ad nauseum in the schools?

It's not like I expect people to know that peruse actually means "to read carefully" or that comprise, used in this context, is incorrect: "The orchestra is comprised of fifty gazillion trombones and two oboes (oboi, if you prefer Italian)" Or that data is a plural noun. That is a should-I-buy-the-Fowler-or-Garner-style-guide?- level nitpick.
(Aside answer: Get the Garner. It's very practical, and it's not the annoying prescriptive style editing that I find really narrow. It's really ok to end a sentence with a preposition, as Winston Churchill has once pointed out. )

But you're/your? They're/their? Too/to? C'mon people. Every native English speaker over the age of 11 should have mastery of such basic grammatical concepts.

(Update: I am in the middle of exams, so I am not moderating any more comments on this post! Sorry. )

52 comments:

Jerry said...

...and I concur. Sometimes it simply requires paying attention to what you write. Alas...we now have squiggly little lines to tell us how stupid we are.

I enjoyed this.

Jerry

anzu said...

Thanks for visiting. :) I actually did away with auto-spell check (though for cover letters and important stuff, I'll turn it on just to be on the safe side, which means I'm still a slave to it. . ..) and have it turned off, certainly for website forms and emails, and usually for word documents as well, b/c I was sick of outsourcing my brain to Microsoft. I think spellcheck makes us lazy.

NewEraArtwork said...

This made me chuckle. I'm actually studying to be a teacher and I've seen cases of this among Education majors! Perhaps to better educate the youth we need tougher Education programs that beat these basic skills into our skulls while we learn the difference between Inductive and Deductive instruction methods.

Oh, and here's a fun fact for you, friend: in IL you can completely bomb the Basic Skills Test that you take before entering an Education program and STILL BE ELIGIBLE. I may be wrong, but I believe I was told the necessary score one needed to "pass" was 20%. This was from a rather cynical party, though. I may be misinformed. :)

The SecretMaster said...

'To/too/two' is my pet hate.

Ken David said...

LOL
Are you nit-picking?
Ummmm... NOPE!

Drives me insane as well. "Im going too the store two."
I have issues myself with placement, Its,It's, It Is, Its'...
Makes me nuts. Sometimes I have to simply flip a coin.

I'm of the same mind as you on a standard theme for the Blog page. I'm very much into politics, but I'm also very much to the right and you kill 1/2 your audience by writing nothing but Conservative Politics.

I put up some fun videos and links and such and of course, as everyone else is doing; "New World Order" status. (lol)

I like your posts though, I'll be back.

Ken
http://ken-david.blogspot.com/

anzu said...

Hi guys, thanks for visiting. Re: teaching tests--I took the teaching test in my state, and the first level test--well, what constitutes a pass was ridiculous.

I am currently studying in a foreign country, and granted, my sample is a bit skewed, since it is a good school, but there are so many people who speak English as a second, third language, and not one of them make the ridiculous grammatical mistakes that many of my American FB friends make.

I am quite embarrassed that we have so many adults in our country that are college educated and still can't write basic sentences.

Kelsey said...

Sometimes I browse Craigslist just to pick out grammatical errors. I also judge my Facebook friends by their common mistakes. How rude, huh? I just can't stand it!

Anonymous said...

One answer to your...you're...yer...question is that grammar isn't important these days. Creative and free-flowing writing is the current trend. Why should we bore ourselves with details when like spelling and subject/verb agreement??? AGH!!! Cursive writing isn't even taught these days. Sixth grade students routinely count on their...there....they're fingers to find the answer to 6 x 4. Disgusting. What is the word coming to?
Sincerely, A Frustrated and very tired teacher
P.S. Gazillion isn't really a valid number! Sounds good, though!

Anonymous said...

Yikes...the tired teacher made some mistakes. Strike the word 'when' after the word 'details'....and change 'word' to 'world'. Sorry. Tired teachers should not be critical.
Sincerely, me again.

This Doesn't Make Any Sense said...

Agreed!

velvetmonkey said...

i agree with what you're saying, but is it really that important when one is just writing to write. look at me right now. i've just gotten into the habit of not punctuating correctly, cause i'm in a hurry. who cares? i guess you do and my sister, mary. i do like that you wrote about it though. look at my blog - it's about whatever comes tomy mind.

Cody said...

Lamebook.com is a great place for screw ups like this.

Computer literacy may be the downfall of traditional literacy. haha

The Writers Blog said...

okay but
did you understand
it?

and the purpose of
education is to?

BA English
MA Education
MA Linguistic Anthro

Hmmm?

MaSmart said...

Hi.

SilvaInWonderland said...

that was quiet...interesting, liked it, even for a not native english speaker^^

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

This was great fun reading. Why? Because it so true. People have lost the ability to communicate well and as others have noted to pay attention to whay they are writing. Thanks for expressing it so well. Hope that your studies are going well.

anzu said...

Thanks guys. :)

carlos de la parra said...

That's an easy one.Because they don't read as much as they watch ball games.Sports are the current opium of the masses.Governments like it that way;because people watchig sports don't keep their minds on issues that they prefer that be handled by politicians.
And see what they did.

Tidi said...

haha.

Lou Mercer said...

I am amazed at people who can write a complete paragraph and never even space between the words. Nor do they use capitals, or punctuation marks. What amazes me most is they actually expect me to respect their opinion! You go!
Lou

Miguel A. Megias said...

Although English is not my native tongue (or should I say language?) I enjoyed your comments. Or, as Jerry says, I concur...
Really, are americans as ignorant of their language (or should I say tongue?) as not to comprehend the difference between to, too and two?
As Shakespeare would say "...it bogs my mind".
Keep trying, good effort, best wishes!
Miguel (not Cervantes, please)

MzBurnz said...

Word.

Kris said...

I love this because it covers my exact sentiments. Well said!

SAFFIRE BLUE said...

Very true, the grammatical errors are the key ingredient to, what i believe, a perfect writing, no matter wherever posted.

Brubaker said...

What's worse is that when you point it out to them it completely goes over their head or they will actually argue with you.

Sator Arepo said...

Goodness gracious, anzu! What happened around here?

Robert said...

....and if it was two words it would be "Craig's list" with an apostrophe. Yes you should write some more.....I enjoyed it.

Robert said...

Hey, as a school principal I have had to completely rewrite one or two teachers reports as even after a third attempt they do not make sense or are not even a proper sentence.

anzu said...

Hi Sator, long time no talk. I have absolutely no idea what "happened". Now that I have no time to write, I have random readers. . . :)

Thanks to the others for the compliments and for stopping by. I wish I had more time to write, but school (so-called despotic regime studies), takes up 75 percent of my time (sleep the other 25 percent).

margotlorena said...

to - too
should have - should of
without further ado - without further adieu

and I'm not even a native english speaker. BTW, same thing happens in spanish:
a ver - haber
ay! - hay - ahí

Laura said...

Eye no exactly what you mean inn you're blog. I cannot believe that people are that illiterate. ok just kidding, but I really agree with what you say, I teach 4th graders who don't seem to get the point of proper grammar. I think I'm blaming it on Twitter and text messaging, everything is so short and abbreviated nowadays.

Mellodee said...

There are more of us than one would think by looking at nearly any written material on FB or any other Internet networking site. It makes me absolutely crazy when these same kinds of mistakes are noted in post after post after post! Every teacher I ever had (no matter what subject), would have marked these errors and would not have tolerated them and the grade received would be lower. And so we learned! Once learned, it becomes automatic, you really have to work at unlearning it!!!

As for Velvetmonkey, who cares?? I care! All of these other people care!! Other literate and interesting people care!!! Don't you realize that it becomes so easy to assume that the writer is uneducated and not too bright. So why would anyone care about what a poor writer has to say when the writer isn't willing to respect his audience by taking the few extra minutes it would take to write properly.

(Like I said, the whole thing makes me CRAZY!)

BillyJeanJane said...

I love this post on grammar - Eats Shoots and Leaves appeals to us greeks ('grammar geeks').

Check out mine on http://billyjeanjane.blogspot.com

Miguel A. Megias said...

Well said. I have exactly the same comments in spanish (I live in Venezuela, a spanish speaking country). Not only they write poorly (bad grammar, bad spelling) but they use new, invented, words that mean nothing (to me, at least), most of them from "broken english". As an example, they write "broda" for brother, "cul" for cool, and so on...
Lets keep our languages clean! The spanish grammar nazi, Miguel

amshuman.r said...

The title of the post is very apt. Now even though I am prone to agreeing and even sponsoring to your views I have to say that these days the thought/idea is what that counts. If you are able to understand then the objective of the message/article/story has been achieved. Look up communication and you will see "passing the message"

P.S: I have to confess that I read the post real closely and was waiting to pounce on an error...:P

Sincerely,
Amshuman from India.

Jesson said...

this is very
MS office vs. OPen Office

kay said...

Beware of spellcheck and grammar check! They both regularly get spellings wrong, especially the usual bugbears - their/they're, etc. It amazes me that not only do people not know this stuff, but somehow Word doesn't either! I suspect a lot of mistakes that we see on the Internet are because of this - people trust their checkers to put everything right. Not that i'm impressed by the literacy levels of the average person...

Nobody Special ~ Just Me said...

Three Cheers!

I was raised in a very strict manner by a father who was an English Major.

I can remember being harshly taken to task for using the word "talk" as a noun or the word "can" when "may" should have been used.

I walked up to my father one day and asked "Can I talk to you?" and immediately cringed at how vehement his response!

To this day I use the word "speak" as the verb, and "talk" as the noun, and find that so few people do.

My father was too harsh in the way he dealt criticism; however, I am thankful to my father for having so deeply instilled in me proper vocabulary and grammar.

I am curious, however, regarding your statement that cannot must be one word. Is it not also correct as two if one so chooses to separate the words?

I always believed one makes the same choice when either using can not, or can't... does not or doesn't... etc. If one chooses to type out can not, is that not also correct?

If you should choose to visit my blog, please do not be discouraged by the adult content disclaimer. I simply address some topics that are sensitive in nature.

Agnes said...

How about "should of" instead of "should have" ? :-D

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pjk said...

Mostly it occurs because of our fault. And that is human error.

Silver Strands said...

Here! Here! Well said :)
Denalee

Joygazmic said...

I think I may have fallen in love with you after reading this article.
I have an ex-gf who was unable to distinguish between to/too/two, your/you're, etc.
It's hard to respect someone as an equal when their use of words disgusts you.

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Griot said...

As a new educator, I have to say that the standards are falling everywhere. There is a lack of consistency among educators on what is and is not accepted. My collegiate students expected to be graded for what they intended to write as opposed to what they wrote (grammar, spelling, punctuation and tense issues should be overlooked). They informed me I was being harder than their other teachers and no one else was challenging their poor writing styles.

Great post!! Sticklers Unite!

Dana de Jong said...

You typed "OK' as "ok" when really it should be capitlized as it is an old slang abbreviation for "all correct".

Selina Gasolina said...

This comes from the simple fact that actual proofreading is seldom one of the steps between thinking and publishing. Being older than dirt, I remember when every published thing that I read was subject to a slow and detailed examination by a professional copy editor. Now, anyone with a keyboard has a world stage. UR a victim of the computer age. You're language are belong to us.

Marcia Miner said...

There is no such thing as "proper" grammar. It is grammatical or ungrammatical.

strugglinglife said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Esther said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lane Savant said...

As James Joyce once put it;
"Guinness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel fin?"
And I for one agree.

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