Monday, February 16, 2009

Just For Chucks

I stumbled across this MSNBC article about grammar police, linking activities to stress:

Dale Siegel, a financial expert from White Plains, N.Y., whose spelling is routinely corrected, says she’s definitely noticed a change in people.

“In general, I think people are getting a little bit meaner about correcting others or sharing what they call their ‘observations,’ ” she says. “They’re uptight and stressed out about losing their jobs. And if it makes them feel better to tell me I have a string hanging off my skirt or I used the word ‘your’ when I really meant to use the word ‘you’re,’ then fine.”

Note to Dale: people who notice your work is sloppy with spelling and grammar errors, even in this era of spell-check, also suspect your work is sloppy in other areas, too.

This is a small portion of my all-time favorite rant on misspelling and such, written by Sarah Bunting, who brought us Television Without Pity:
It is too "a big deal." You don't have to know how to spell everything in the dictionary, and you don't have to have the serial-semicolon rule embroidered on a pillow, but if you have reached voting age in the United States, you need to know the basics of English usage, because if you don't, you look like an idiot.

No, don't. Don't start with that "grammar Nazi" business. Don't get all "nobody gives a shit about that crap" and "it's so anal, who cares" and "well, you know what I mean." I give a shit about that crap. I know it's anal, but I care, and so do a lot of other people — people who respect you, but might respect you less when you dash off an email to the effect of "I'll meet you their"; people in a position to give you a job, who won't because you didn't proofread your cover letter and they don't appreciate your addressing them as "Deer Ms. So-And-So." And no, in fact, I don't know what you mean when you write me a hate mail that reads, "You're site sucks," because that doesn't mean anything. Because it's grammatically incorrect. Because you've substituted a contraction of a verb phrase for an adjective, thus rendering the sentence nonsensical. And it makes you look stupid, and therefore I cannot take you seriously.

Sorry, but it's the truth. I do not care that we live in an age of rapid-fire communication, or that the Internet has changed the rules of formal correspondence, or whatever excuse you have for starting sentences with "me and my friend."

And, for the record, I know full well that I break the rules of correct usage in my columns all the time. I can break the rules because I know them cold, so don't write and tell me that you've spotted at least sixteen sentence fragments and think you've scored a point off of me.

Seriously. You need to know basic rules of English usage. You do not have to use them all the time in every single grocery list you write, and not knowing them all does not in and of itself make you dumb or uneducated; you don't have to spend an hour poring over the dictionary just to send me an email. But you have to try to learn the language, especially in business correspondence, and you have to make an effort to use the language correctly. It's your native tongue, and it's worth doing.

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