Sunday, November 1, 2009
Grammar mattars or Grammer matters
Ages ago (around 1834) I was working as an accounting assistant for a "hotel alternative" in San Francisco. That was my primary job, but they soon discovered that I was pretty good at doing other stuff, which was good for me as it gave me more hours. Among that other stuff, I made some floorplans of their apartments. (I also designed their website, and I was smart enough to charge freelance rates for that one. Ummm...no pun intended.) Another thing that they had me do was write letters for all sorts of reasons. Most of them were to people who hadn't paid their bills, but I know that there was some other stuff. At first, my boss would read over my letters to make sure that I was using the proper business verbiage, but eventually she didn't even bother reading them any more, as it got to the point where she was just saying, "That's fine" and she'd hand it back to me.
When she corrected them, she never had to point out things like misplaced apostrophes or the fact that I used the wrong version of "there" or "your". Why is that? It's because I passed the third frikken' grade, that's why. I remember that there was another woman who worked there who would frequently get things like that wrong in inter-office communications. I would point it out to her with a "Didn't you pass the frikken' third grade?" tone in my voice, and her reply was, "I have other things to do. I don't have time to correct everything."
I was in my early twenties, but even then I was smart enough to leave it alone at that point. Really? Not enough time? Do you have to stop and reason it out for about twenty minutes before you know whether it's "there" or "their"? (Or is it "they're"?) Must it be submitted to the President of the International Grammar Institute for a ruling each time you consider using an apostrophe? Is it really that hard? My guess? Unless you have some sort of genuine learning disability, no, it isn't. It has more to do with the fact that you just don't care.
Of course, this is the kind of thing that you see all the time on the Internets. Before I go on, let me point out that I'm aware that my blog posts are hardly error free. Still, I write a lot, and for the most part, I don't make dumb mistakes. I'm sure that I've goofed and used the wrong "there" once or twice (in 400+ blog posts) out of sheer carelessness. The sort of mistake that I make more often is that I find a splendid little adjective and then I use it in a sentence only to use it yet again in the next splendid sentence. Sometimes I even have entire sentences that just don't make sense. In those cases, I start out thinking that the sentence is going one way, and then I get distracted and continue it moments later only to have the first part and the last part not really match up. With all that said though, when I do catch these mistakes, I edit and fix them. Why? Because I care. I don't have a lot of readers, but if people are going to read what I wrote, then I want to show enough respect by making myself as clear and error-free as possible. Of course, I'll notice this sort of thing in the blogs of other people, and generally speaking, I just let it go.
This is not what I'm talking about though. I'm referring to people who can't even do a one-sentence Facebook status update or comment without making some careless mistake. You see it all the time.
"I drank five tequila's!"
"Your right!" (Even worse - "Ur right!")
"Wen r u gona pass thurd graed?"
"I AM GOING TO EAT ALL THE PANCAKES."
"I hope I don't loose Blog a Day Month again!"
I could probably do an entire post on dimwits who feel the need to use all capital letters. Oh, only capitalizing the first word of every sentence is SO much work! I'm just going to leave the caps lock key on! That should save me hours of time!
The really funny thing is that when you point out errors like this to people, their response is usually along the same lines of them not having the time to make sure that their posts are error free. I find this amusing because things like Facebook are a time-wasting distraction by their very nature. You're already doing something that shows that you have too much time on your hands. Why not take an extra second and show the English language some respect?
Obviously, I'm not referring to deliberate errors like: "I loves me some Internets!" Things like that are done for effect. Putting an apostrophe on a plural noun is due to the fact that you either don't know the difference or you don't care enough to take the two seconds to think about what you're writing.
Or...you know, you didn't pass the third frikken' grade.