Thursday, March 3, 2011

National Grammar Day: A Day of Communication and Knowledge

Happy National Grammar Day!!!!

So what if it's an arbitrarily created holiday? Grammar is worth celebrating!

Usually, I don't promote web sites that claim to know "correct" grammar with a cartoon as their mascot, and although some of the things on this website are pretty darn silly (such as their "Grammar Song"--yikes), it seems like this website seeks to educate people about appropriate grammar.

I studied literature, language, and editing in college. I am a trained editor. I see misspellings in menus, on signs, in books, on Facebook, and in papers and manuscripts all the time. It astounds me that some people can't catch missing letters or rearranged letters before sending their work to the press and sharing it with everyone.

Marital and martial are different adjectives--although I suppose in some unfortunate cases, they could both be true.

Public and pubic shouldn't ever appear in the other's context.

Your and you're are different. So are two, to, and too. And they're, their, and there. And its and it's. By the way, Word most often won't catch the wrong usages of these words.

People just don't seem to realize that their computers can't catch all the complexities and nuances of the English language. People, you still need to know English grammar in order to communicate clearly and effectively.


I sometimes wince when people jump to criticize or "correct" others' grammar, mostly because they are typically what everyone calls the scary "Grammar Nazis." Ironically, the grammar these Grammar Nazis so passionately enforce comes from another language and has been outdated for about fifty years. For some reason people keep clinging to old grammar. Catch up, people! The language train moves fast!!

The word e-mail has undergone changes within the last ten years from electronic mail to E-mail to e-mail, and some dictionaries have switched to email. Small change? Yes, but it's still represents a language change.

One thing I like about this Grammar Girl web site is that they have a Grammar Myths Exposed section. Here are just a few. (Bold denotes the myths from the web site.The italics are for my comments on the myths.)
  1. You shouldn't start a sentence with the word "however." BULL!! And you can start a sentence with "and." Go and tell your seventh grade English teacher that for me, will you?
  2. "Irregardless" is not a word. I am still learning to accept that grating sound, but it's true. Merriam-Webster has added "irregardless" to the dictionary. If you don't like it, don't use it. To be on the safe side, you might want to avoid using it in writing and formal conversations, but otherwise, you can feel guiltless in using this word.
  3. There is only one way to write the possessive form of a word that ends in "s." Consistency is a huge concept in deciding this. Just make sure that whether you choose 's (Gus's pineapple) or s' (Gus' pineapple) that you are being consistent throughout the piece of writing.
  4. Passive voice is always wrong. For those who don't know what passive voice is, go here. If you want to emphasize the actor (thing/person doing the action) then use active voice. If the direct object (thing/person receiving the action) needs to be emphasized, then use passive voice.
  5. "I.e." and "e.g." mean the same thing. i.e.= that is (meaning a renaming or clarifying statement will follow); e.g.= for example (used for . . . well . . . examples of a concept)
  6. You shouldn't split infinitives. This is an old, old, old rule from . . . wait for it . . . Latin. Yep, a completely different language with different rules and constraints. An infinitive is the basic form of a verb (in English with "to" in front of it: to abscond, to flounce, to canoodle). Latin is the origin of romance languages (not languages of love, although they can be romantic, I guess). In Latin, verbs are one word. It is impossible to split an infinitive in Latin. But this is English. They are two separate words. My personal policy for my own writing is that I write what sounds good. If it sounds better to split it, then I split it. Does it sound better to say, "to boldly go where no man has gone before" or "to go boldly where no man has gone before"? You decide.
  7. You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition. Again, a odd borrowing from Latin. I personally don't like hearing, "Where are you at?" Where already implies location, so "at" is superfluous. But people will use it anyway. Most of the time though, I'm fine with prepositions at the end of sentences. Winston Churchill (it's questionable if it was actually him or not) is often attributed as saying this about prepositions at the end of a sentence: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." Again, go by clarity of communication.

There are at least a thousand more where these came from.

Guess what, people? Language evolves. Get used to it!!! There are some changes I don't like, but as long as a language is living (or used by native speakers), it changes whether we like it or not. Therefore, grammar rules change too.

Give it a rest, Grammar Nazis. You're making grammar intimidating and dry when we should be celebrating our grammar's idiosyncrasies and abilities!

Yay for grammar!!!


  1. This is the best blog post in the history of the world. May I have permission to post a link to it on my Facebook? Notice I did not ask, "Can I have permission..." as this would be an inquiry referring to ability instead of authorization.


  2. What a wonderfully refreshing post. I miss the good old editing days. I concur with your comments. Reading about grammar again totally made my day. Although I'm still having trouble with the whole "irregardless" thing. And I use superfluous prepositions at the end of sentences more often than I'd like. Oh, well!

  3. I always considered YOU to be my Grammar Nazi, in an affectionate way. It started in, oh, about 3rd grade! Thanks for keeping up with the changes. We are counting on you. (Please edit my punctuation.)

  4. I used to be a Grammar Nazi until BYU converted me to descriptivism!