10 Heartfelt Sentiments for National Grammar Day

Today marks an important day for word users and language speakers everywhere. It’s National Grammar Day! There are all kinds of ways to celebrate this special occasion: Proofread an e-mail message before you hit “send.” Show some Facebook friends you care by correcting their grammatical mistakes in the comments section of their posts. Read a grammatical page-turner, like Woe Is I or Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Try your hand at a quick Facebook editing contest hosted by Grammarly, called “Edit This.” Or, for goodness’ sake, just take care to craft a structurally sound sentence with all your commas and apostrophes in the right places.

In honor of the holiday, here are 10 heartfelt sentiments to send to someone you love. Enjoy!









Funny Somewhat Topical Ecard: Punctuation is everything. 1. 'Woman, without her man, is nothing.' 2. 'Woman: without her, man is nothing.'


In honor of the day, tell us—which grammatical mistake makes your skin crawl?


Add yours
  1. 5
    Jenny @ Reading the End

    Mixing up “less” and “fewer” is not my favorite thing — but I’ve gotten more relaxed about grammatical mistakes as I’ve gotten over. I always knew intellectually that English was an evolving language where colloquialisms become the rule over time; and in the last five years or so, I’ve gotten better about truly believing it as regards specific grammatical errors.

    • 6
      Lady @The Snail on the Wall

      I think we’re all going to have to get more relaxed about both grammar and spelling, as texting, tweeting, and social media continue to change the way we communicate. I’m struggling between not wanting to be a dinosaur but also wanting to preserve good language. It’s tough these days!

      • 7
        David Tankersley

        Amen. I’ve stopped preaching, rather, I simply try to write correctly myself. And, I DO NOT believe in correcting people on Facebook or other public arenas. I find that rude and inappropriate. [But, if I’ve made a mistake here, go ahead and point it out.]

  2. 14
    larry trasciatti

    I bitterly loathe all liberal ideological newspeak, inclusive language etc. I also can’t stand internet slang, abbrevitations, “quote/unquote”, 24/7, & pointless use of the word , actually. The list goes on & on. This is quite a fine post.

  3. 19

    I’m guilty of over-using words such as – Actually, Obviously, Seriously and Well. I don’t know exactly where commas go so I throw them in here and there. I try not to let grammatical errors by others bother me because I know somewhere out there mine annoys someone.

      • 21

        I also overuse literally and generally. I seem to have a thing for words ending in ‘ly’.

        I think my biggest pet peeve is using text-speak. I use ‘lol’ ‘brb’ and a few others, but I hate it when someone needlessly misspells or shortens words. Wuz, u, ur, bcuz, whud (what), that one I had to ask because I couldn’t make it out. – just to name a few.

  4. 30

    I agree with your post however it scares the crap out of us who aren’t the best at punctuation and/or spelling. I would sure hate to give up on my blog because I’m scared I’ll be judged for incorrect grammar. I do what I think is correct but I know it’s wrong some of the time. Good thing the nuns who taught me in grade school are either dead or don’t own a computer or I’d get smacked on the hand with a ruler.

  5. 31
    Lady @The Snail on the Wall

    That’s why I like making a joke out of it. We’re all scared of the grammar police, and I don’t pretend to be an officer of the word. Imagine my fear at replying to all of you on a post ABOUT grammar — it’s intimidating to say the very least!

  6. 34

    I enjoyed these even though I saw most of them before. I had no idea it was National Grammar Day, thanks for letting me know!

  7. 53

    For me, it’s absolutely the “their, there, they’re” error. I see it *all the time* and it never fails to irritate me. Seriously, folks, this is stuff we learned in 3rd grade. It’s NOT that hard. All you have to do is care. (And put in a tiny bit of forethought/effort)

  8. 62
    Jaime Shine

    How fitting: National Grammar Day is on my birthday! That’s only appropriate as grammatical errors naturally jump out at me. The typical there/their/they’re and its/it’s are frustrating, but my main frustration is the complete lack of spelling, punctuation and grammar that some people use in any digital communications. I’ve actually stopped reading insightful blog posts mid-post because all of the errors made it difficult to read. Thanks for the post!

  9. 86

    Oh, dear.. I’m nervous writing a comment. Afraid of making a mistake. I don’t speak English. The only way I learned the language is because my heart and brains use it to communicate to me.. Nice piece of writing though 😉

  10. 94

    Text speak is my ultimate pet peeve. To me, it is the total ruination of the English language. I like to text, don’t get me wrong, but I like to do it correctly!

  11. 98

    I have a menagerie of grammatical pet peeves. Any variation of “between you and I” irks. Someone I know starts a sentence with “him and I”….I don’t even know what the rest of the sentence is after I hear that.

  12. 109
    Miranda Rae

    I had NO idea March 4 was National Grammar Day…I find this ironic, as my birthday was yesterday, and I’ve been called a “grammar snob” more than once. Just recently, I bought this laptop that I’m using. On one of the prompts that popped up from HP, a word was misspelled: “simultaneusly”. I’m not kidding you, I literally smacked my forehead after I caught it. I despise seeing bad grammar, misspelled words, ESPECIALLY in a professional-type letter or, in this case, a prompt from a well-known computer company. I’ve caught errors in letters from physicians’ and lawyers’ offices, restaurant menus, even billboards…drives me crazy!! I love your post! :)

  13. 112

    Somebody else has already written this, but I’ll add my vote to “Could care less.” …Really, so you do care, then? I can swallow the mistake (somewhat) when people I’m talking to are the ones making it, but it really bothers me when I see it in published books!

  14. 114

    I abhor seeing ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ as well as ‘accept’ and ‘except’ being written improperly into a sentence. Although, “can I axe you somethin'” makes me want to utilize a throat punch option from time to time.

  15. 122

    Brilliantly amusing and I’d been trying to remember the exact wording for the penultimate one for months so now I’m feeling rather pleased with myself. It feels like a little, personal riddle solved.

  16. 131
    Miranda Rae

    Example one: “Let’s eat grandma.” Example two: “Let’s eat, grandma.” Commas save lives! Sorry, couldn’t resist commenting again with this. It’s too good not to share!

  17. 137

    Yeah, I tend to agree with you. On the other hand, I’m a pretty enthusiastic reader and writer. You don’t hear music lovers correcting people who hum a little off-key. That may be comparable…

  18. 139

    Oh, goodness. Where do I start? This is such an amazing, funny, and sorely needed post! This has already been mentioned, but “effect” and “affect” are two of my greatest pet peeves. Even teachers make this mistake (and more than once)! And “your smart” makes me want to reply, “Yes. My smart and so obviously not yours!” but that might be considered mean.
    Oh, and “exited” and “excited” seems a good example to add to the list. This got me really worked up (and I’ll be celebrating National Grammar Day from now on).
    Did I mention spelling mistakes? I hate those too. Ah! To/too/two, yet another one. I’ll stop before I get too carried away.

  19. 142
    Jane Maxwell

    I was bothered by one of the above cards that referred to putting a comma between “I’m sorry, I love you.” Isn’t that two sentences?

  20. 156
    walt walker

    “Would of” instead of “would have” makes my skin crawl. And using “which” as a connector of thoughts, as in “She said [x], which doesn’t that just make you insane?

  21. 160

    “These ones” and “those ones” aren’t as efficient and streamlined as “‘nuther,” but chances are when you hear someone say the superfluous “ones” after the word “these” or “those”, they are likely not going to say the “a” in front of “‘nuther.” What’s that about?

  22. 164

    I hate it when people use the wrong word. For example: “I pacifically asked for the pink roses.” It’s specifically. It’s got nothing to do with the Pacific Ocean. “I defiantly want the pink roses.” Defiantly? Who are you defying with your choice of rose? Is there someone you know who has banned you from ever choosing pink roses? Oh! You mean definitely! Well why didn’t you say so?

  23. 175

    Sometimes, a fear of grammar can really put people off wrting, which is a great shame. Language is always evolving as you mentioned and I don’t think it is ever kind or good manners to point out somebody’s grammer errors. Some people have had a better education, family life, advantages than others and mostly we all really do understand what somebody is trying to say, so it can almost become a one upmanship, as In I’m more knowledgable than you, you uneducated oaf!! The only exception to this is children, some correction there is important for big glaring errors but in a way that isn’t obvious so that they don’t give up talking to you! I enjoyed this article very much.

  24. 194

    Reblogged this on allicanblog and commented:
    Love this. It’s totally unfair that we, as non-native speakers are tortured with all those grammar rules when I experience daily that a high percentage of native speakers either don’t know their own grammar, or don’t bother — so why should we?

      • 196

        I can’t really judge on the degree of difficulty of English. I never had any trouble learning it (although I have to admit that some things–like prepositions– are tricky). Personally, I never managed to learn Russian properly. And I can imagine that German must be a beast of a language to learn, so I admire everybody who learns it. :)

  25. 199
    Julie S.

    These are great memes! Using an apostrophe to make something plural is so annoying. Also the your/you’re and there/their/they’re. Always makes me want to tell people to go back to school lol.

  26. 209

    I love this! I agree with all of them! Additionally, I can’t stand it when someone confuses “to” and “too.” Thanks for standing up for correct grammar! I’m not always perfect, but I at least try.

  27. 218

    The worst for me is when people who brag about the superior education that they received in the North say/write, “I could of went ….”

  28. 234
    Kim Matkin

    Love this post, but I have to say: Correcting someone’s Facebook grammar in the comments section isn’t going to do anything but make you seem obnoxious, in my opinion. Most likely, the person who made the mistake isn’t going to learn from it, but will instead be offended, and his or her Facebook friends will just think you are a jerk. If you really think the poster CAN learn from your comment, send it in a private message. Thanks for the post :)

  29. 251

    I love this it’s so funny. I’m a teacher and I’m not sure how many times a day I have to correct “Miss do you got a pencil/pen/paper?” Glad I’m not alone.

  30. 253
    Donna Cook

    I have many grammar peeves. The top two: I’m done instead of I’m finished and and go further instead of go farther.

  31. 258

    People think they are being so clever and proper when they say things such as “Give Susan or I a call…” or “This is Susan and I in front of the Eiffel Tower.” NO! Would you say “Give I a call?” or “I in front of the Eiffel Tower.” People just don’t think anymore, and I overthink everything so it drives me insane! Thanks for the post. Glad to know I’m not alone.

  32. 263

    haha, this is funny.
    Yeah, actually there are many grammar mistakes which annoys sometimes. One of them is full-stops. I don’t know why some students can’t use them properly. Additionally, the incorrect use of commas and the overuse of “also”.

  33. 267

    1. I find it irritating that people end sentences with prepositions. I find it equally irritating that some people see nothing wrong with doing so..

    I’ve always enjoyed the error that illustrates the rule: “Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.”

    I also love Winston Churchill’s “… up with which I will not put.”

    2. It makes my skin crawl every time I see people trying to “standardize” irregular past participles. e.g. “He lighted the candle,” instead of, “He lit the candle.”

    • 269

      The ‘rule’ about not ending sentences with prepositions originated in prescriptive attitudes to grammar several hundred years ago.At that time,many grammarians took classical latin as their stylistic model and thus for notions of ‘good grammar’.In latin,it happens that the preposition nearly always has to be followed by the phrase it governs,and so grammarians over here decided that english structures should follow suit,despite the fact that a sentence-final preposition is an entirely natural construction in english as well as other germanic languages.
      The fact that one language approaches a construction from a certain angle while another does things differently is not a matter of right or wrong.

  34. 271

    This is great! I was an English Teacher for a spell and the grammatical errors I’d come across when marking were astounding! Somehow, I blamed this on the school’s standard and the region but then I found out that even supposedly educated people made these mistakes too. I especially hate it when I see a sentence such as “Am a Teacher” or the use of ellipsis in this way “…………” (which disqualifies it from being an ellipsis anyway) or the use of these in place of this and vice versa.

  35. 275

    I hate it when people use “amount” when referring to a number. For example, “the amount of people on the train”. No. If you do insist on using that word, the correct way to word it is “the amount of person on the train”. Additionally, when people say “I could care less”, it isn’t really an insult, is it? I mean, isn’t it intended to mean you don’t care about the particular issue? In which case, it should be “I couldn’t care less”.

    (Please excuse any grammatical or spelling errors in my post. I’m not perfect either!)

  36. 277

    I loved this post. I teach English, but not grammar, as my students are non-native English speakers. My peeve is when people use the term ESL (English as a Second Language), as I have never had students who didn’t already know at least two languages before attempting to learn English. The proper term is TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

    I don’t get very far in the grammar department. We always get stuck in pronunciation, as these kids still cannot tell the difference between “th” and “d.” I’m also afraid to get into verb tenses, as the native language here (Thai) has absolutely no verb tenses (if you can believe that). It made it easy for me to learn Thai though.

  37. 279
    Jeff Jones

    I am a firefighter/paramedic and am more of a math/scrience kind of guy. I had a FANTASTIC upper division grammar class in college and the professor was great at helping people like me understand when to properly place a semi-colon, comma or hyphen. My favorite showcase grammar mistake is the difference between:

    I’m hungry. Let’s eat, Grandma. and

    I’m hungry. Let’s eat Grandma.

    Have a great day!

  38. 283
    Amos M. Carpenter

    As Fezzik said, “Hello, Lady.” Great post, thanks for sharing :-)
    As a grammar freak, I had a little rant of my own at http://amosmcarpenter.com/2014/03/03/10-common-mistakes-writers-shouldnt-make/ without being aware that it was National Grammar Day in the US recently, and had some points in common with your ten.
    Can’t help myself: I need to point out that your number 10 is missing something: “Some days, I wish I[‘d] had a crappy education so your grammar wouldn’t bother me so much.”
    Who else noticed? 😉

  39. 287

    My current hobby horse comes mostly from advertising, a repeat offender against grammar. When did adjectives come to replace adverbial comparisons? Things don’t “work stronger” or “run softer;” they “work more strongly” or “run more softly.

  40. 289
    Phil Snyder

    The “I’m sorry, I love you” meme is wrong. Both of those clauses are independent – containing both a subject and a verb. They should be joined by a semicolon. Joining them by a comma creates a run-on sentence.

  41. 294

    Reblogged this on Sunshinebright and commented:
    I’ve always been interested in grammar and punctuation, ever since grammar school! I guess I had very good English teachers. When I saw this blog, I started laughing. It touches on some interesting twists of meanings, if some punctuations are either omitted or misplaced. It’s fun!

  42. 307
    Bruce Goodman

    “Of” instead of “have” is what gets me the most – I should of mentioned this earlier. It’s getting more commoner and more worser these days. This is just one of many unique examples.

    Great posting thanks!

  43. 309
    Christine Lichti

    My biggest pet peeve is any grammatical error made by my kids’ teachers. Bad grammar is irksome, but bad grammar from those who are teaching the next generation AND should know better? It’s revolting.

    • 319

      From an earlier post:
      ‘People write as they speak. They should of listened in there grammer lessons!!!! Oops!!!’

      Let’s not forget that the purpose of writing is to record how we speak.Writing how we speak is sort of the point :) Writing does not exist to constrain natural language.Not that there’s anything wrong with cultivating a standard form of a language; it’s extremely useful and indeed necessary in this day and age,but one should be aware that preferred forms are selected due to historical accident,not because they’re intrinsically better (the latter concept has no meaning in linguistics).
      Some of the punctuation mistakes on this page are quite amusing (thank you :) ),but people are inevitably straying into the territory of mindless prescriptivism when it comes to points of actual language usage.In the spirit of national grammar day,could I respectfully ask people to forego whatever style manuals and high-school grammars they’ve learned their gripes from and actually read a book on LINGUISTICS.It doesn’t have to be heavy-going,and once you see language clearly as it is,rather than restricting yourself to inaccurate assumptions of right and wrong,there will be much to impress and astound you.The best thing about it is that there’s nothing stopping you continuing to hate various points of usage!! Your preferences are your own,but education and indeed society would be greatly improved if people could lose this notion of one form of speech being intrinsically better than another.It has no basis in the facts.
      Just my random thought for the day…

  44. 320

    The use of or, are, our, hour. People who say “ideal” instead of “idea” totally drive me insane! I was very fortunate to have amazing teachers while I was in elementary school and junior high school. While they were probably the poorest schools in a town of probably 20 elementary schools and 4 junior high schools, they had the most amazing teachers! They wanted each of us to succeed. The high school I went to (in the same town) was just too large for that degree of caring. My biggest pet peeve by far is the typos I find while reading novels. Oh, how I would love to be a proof reader for a large publication company! Thank you for this blog. I found it extremely enjoyable!

  45. 321
    Judith de la Cour

    All bad grammar and misspelling annoys me but the two worst for me are the incorrect use (or omission) of the apostrophe and saying ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’!

  46. 329

    It’s sad to me to read so many of your readers calling themselves grammar “fanatics.”
    No, we are not fanatics, we just care about a correct concern for grammatical FUNCTION and form, and style, and class, and education, and we KNOW BETTER!

  47. 330

    Spelling and grammar errors reflect on the people who make them. I’m afraid I am a snob about this. My mother was an English teacher and I loved learning correct usage.

  48. 332

    While texting today, I noticed my friend had put “u’re” in place of “ur” – a weak attempt to appease my inner grammar-nazi? Only joking hahaha, but thank you very much for the post! Reblogged on peach blogs.

      • 336

        Incidentally, your sentence is perfectly common and valid in some English dialects. So all you’re saying is you prefer one prestige dialect over other less prestigious dialects.

  49. 337

    I used to could speak proper queens england ever since I were a children.

    Don’t get me started on of and off, to and too, or being axed a question!

  50. 340

    Sign seen at Sovereign Hill Class room in Ballarat, Victoria ” A place for everything, and everything in it’s place’ ….. obviously for everything except the apostrophe

  51. 346

    Many times I hear young adults using the word “whenever” inappropriately. For example, “Whenever I went to the store yesterday…”

    • 347

      using “whenever” in this context is a noted usage in particular dialects. It is not incorrect, it is language change.

      • 348

        @toferdelachris -Amen,brother,It’s nice to see there’s at least one other person posting on this wall who actually sees these issues with clarity rather than wallowing in entrenched opinions which have no basis in the facts.
        I posted here the other day encouraging people to pick up a book on linguistics…fingers crossed a couple of souls may be saved :)

      • 349

        I understand that culture plays a part in the usage. I refer, however, to the basic definition of the word itself. See this link to the Oxford definition: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/whenever

        And forgive me, but the inappropriate use of the word originated from poorly educated areas in the South. So if you are willing to accept this as “language change”, then are you advocating the failure of the education system of our nation? We should focus on making sure our children are receiving the highest quality education, not embrace the changes illiteracy and (let’s face it) laziness bring to our language.

    • 350

      Dude,that’s totally wide of the mark.Firstly,language not only changes,it’s in constant flux.The purpose of a dictionary is not to set the meaning of words in stone for evermore,it is to record how people actually use the words in a language at the time of that dictionary’s publication.Given the wide fluctuation found in every individual’s speech habits,let alone that found in different dialects or sociolects,a dictionary entry can only ever be an approximation of the variety of uses or connotations a given word could have.The speech habits of the speakers of a language define what words mean,dictionaries record this as well as possible.If certain speech communities use a word such as ‘whenever’ in a fashion at odds with its dictionary definition,it is because the dictionary definition is incomplete,not because the speakers are misusing words.
      Secondly,you’re confusing misusing language with not adhering to the standard language.People from poorly educated areas use language just as well as other human beings.Dialects or sociolects associated with people from these areas have exactly the same ranges of expression,nuances,precision,whatever,it’s simply that they are ill-regarded because they’re at odds with the standard language.A standard language arises when for political,social or economic reasons certain forms within a language become prestigious because they happen to be used by powerful/wealthy/respected etc elements in society.The corollary of that is that forms used by groups on the other end of the social scale are then seen as undesirable and -wrong.But linguistically right or wrong have no meaning in this context,one form is as good as another.The appraisal of their value is based purely on social grounds,not linguistic.
      So yes,this ‘whenever’ issue is a case of language change,it’s natural,it happens all around us every day,and there’s nothing wrong with it,and it happens whether people are literate or not.
      Having said that,a standard form of the language to be used in formal writing,technical or academic contexts,or even for communication between speakers of different forms of the language is obviously very desirable,especially in this day and age.I’m certainly not saying that one should throw it all out of the window and write anyhow.We have a standard language and it’s a good thing.But the point where linguists and less informed people differ is that the former acknowledge that the forms chosen by the standard language are due ultimately to historical accident,and are not inherently better,more effective or precise than non-standard forms.As a linguist,I would love more people to take this on board,as it would save an awful lot of unnecessary snobbery and prejudice.

      • 351

        I’m sorry if my opinion offends you, but who decides the baseline? Who decides what is and isn’t appropriate language? The general population? If so, may I remind you that the majority is often wrong. (Just how did Hitler gain power, anyway?)
        But to every one his own, right?
        Evidently the answer is yes…. unless of course you don’t agree with some people. Then you immediately become biased, snobby, and less informed.

        So thank you, Oh Enlightened One, for your noble attempt to open my poor narrow mind with your rather scathing rebuke (done with much love, sympathy, tact, and respect). Alas, I am too far gone.

    • 353

      Sorry for the long post,and I wasn’t having a go at you as such,so don’t feel hard done by.
      As I teach linguistics at university,I care very much about language and I’m passionate about showing other people how cool it is.That often involves tackling people’s entrenched and uninformed views on the way to helping them to enlightenment :)
      Yes,each to their own…the point of my post was clearly to caution against labelling other people’s speech as incorrect.How you speak personally is completely up to you,and no-one else can tell you otherwise.
      Still,I’m a little upset that you’re still talking about the baseline between appropriate and inappropriate language.There is no line.There are merely the linguistic facts of how a particular language is used.Which ones make it into the standard language or not is simply up to history.Had the north of england been the political and cultural centre of the country for the last few hundred years,standard english would allow all sorts of features which are in fact non-standard.Right and wrong,appropriate and inappropriate as you’re using these terms are social judgements,not linguistic ones.It would be a shame if you are too far gone,I’m not asking you to change anything about your personal tastes and preferences regarding language,just to have a more informed conception of how language actually is and works.It’s not much to ask really.

      • 354

        Then if everything is relative, why do we have spelling tests? Why should I go to your university and pay money to be taught that anything goes? You must have some sort of an absolute in language. The same applies to life. If there is no standard, then there is no structure and anything goes.

        And I’m not going around condemning individuals for misusing a word. I let them continue to use it thus because I (unlike other people) can hold my tongue and allow another person to exercise freedom of speech. It still annoys me, though. And I was merely using this post as a means to vent that frustration without offending any particular people.

        If you back up and look at it, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse me of! I, person A, say that person B saying phrase B is annoying and less educated. My opinion. You, person C, come on scene and proceed to tell me that I, person A, annoy you by saying phrase A about person B and phrase B. And also that saying this shows I am less educated than you, person C.

        So, in reality, you are also judging me for saying something you find ill-educated. Welcome on board, mate! Glad we are in the same boat.

        “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    • 355

      When you say there must be some absolute in language,you mean a standard of right or wrong,yeah? Why? Is it right or wrong that various sub-atomic particles behave in a certain way? Is it right or wrong that zebras are striped and not spotted?
      As for your spelling comment,I’ve said before that I’m not advocating an ‘anything goes’ policy.All I’m saying is that when people use non-standard forms in day to day life (not in an formal essay,for example,where it would be inappropriate),these forms are not wrong,no-one’s misusing them,because an objective standard for something being right or wrong in native human speech doesn’t and can’t exist.

      • 356

        Yes, I am saying that there must be a standard or right or wrong. I used the word “absolute”. And I used it properly. Is that not what “absolute” means anymore?

        And the ever-so-much-more-educated-than-I linguist has branched into physics and biology as well? Amazing.

        I also notice you failed to acknowledge my greeting to you. Whether or not you choose to accept it, we are in the same boat.

        But you have taught me one very valuable lesson:
        The world has more annoying things than people misusing words. It has people who feel so superior in knowledge and intellect that they must insult another’s intelligence to feel fulfilled.

  52. 357

    Of course grammar is important, but what about silly new words (from Microsoft “submittal”) , pre-order (from Amazon), co-share (this week’s airline crash news), co-conspirator (everywhere), pre-plan (is it a plan of a plan ?), heading (for “going” – if you just head somewhere it is not with the intention of actually getting somewhere). and RIP for all those missing gerunds (a big “ask”, a new “hire”, a relax) etc etc.

    • 358

      but they are only “silly new words” because they are new to you. words are constantly being made up, perhaps now more than ever, between cross-cultural and cross-linguistic exchanges growing all the time. this does not mean these words are wrong or bad.

      similarly, being a stickler for gerunds or whatever else only makes sense in a highly particular prestige setting, where a writer is expected to follow a style guide.

      as language shifts, it generally seems to move in a bottom up fashion, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find gerundation of particular verbs being dropped more and more commonly in prestige dialects and “proper” settings.

      otherwise, ask yourself an important question: is there even a hint of misunderstanding when someone talks about a “new hire” or a “big ask”? There is no situation where their meanings are not immediately available to a person familiar with the language. so what’s the issue? it’s just unnecessary pedantry.

      • 359

        Well, of course they are not new to me: they are commonly used. What you lose is clarity, just as the grammar examples cited in this blog. George Orwell came up with “double speak” in “1984” when any word could be used for anything which achieved the same lack of clarity, but with a malevolent purpose.

        I like the ee cummings punctuation by the way, even though it seems a little affected.

        • 360

          And George Orwell was not a linguist. And he broke tons of his own prescriptive writing rules.

          I don’t see where any of those situations you mentioned actually involve a loss in clarity.

          Unless everyone here is a bunch of copyeditors and proofreaders talking shop, this is really nitpicking and pedantic. Because we both know 90% of the people here (apart from you and me, of course) are just Facebook grammar nazis, tearing people down for writing in a particular register.

          It is very rare that a written grammatical ‘error’ causes that much comprehension issue, in the same sense that a person in colloquial speech uses “formally” instead of “formerly” as one commenter on here mentioned, and no one really bats an eye because we all know what the person meant.

          In fact, the situations described here are almost painfully contrived to lend them a forced air of importance, when sticking to Standard English grammar really isn’t that important in the real world, and no one really does it.

          Let’s take one example that is often a target of ‘grammar nazis’. Their are probably more times than you realize that you yourself mix up homonyms when writing (see what I did there at the beginning of that sentence?). Even from a layperson’s standpoint, that makes it pretty self-evident that most homonyms are pretty much interchangeable. Did the use of “their” instead of “there” even trip you up for a minute on the meaning of my sentence? It really is often an arbitrary change that delineates words, a difference that would never be present in spoken English. And if it can be clear in spoken English without having to pronounce the apostrophe in “you’re,” then why do we whinge on so much about it when it is written without one?

          So, really, what we mean is we don’t like it because we were brought up to believe there was something superior about the way *we* speak English, and the way *we* write English.

          What we’re saying when we look down on people who don’t use Standard English writing habits is this entrenched class (and more often than not, race) dispute. I think you would be hard pressed to find situations of non-standard writing systems that are truly less clear than Standard English.

          Think about someone on Facebook you may know, or may have run across. They write “just saw my 2 fav bands, 1D and miley cyrus! dey are da best! i luv dem!”

          Would this fly on an English paper? No, but who gives a shit, we’re not writing English papers all the time. Not a single thing is unclear about what this person has said, and the stylistic writing choices are highly deviant from standard english. For example, it may irk you that the person wrote “d” where the standard is “th.” But the “d” in this case can likely be a better approximation of the verbal sound this person makes when they say these words. Or, it is also simply possible that it is a stylistic choice (but notice, it is a clearly rule-governed difference, hence the internal consistency, hence the clarity).

          More likely, it irks you because it implies a few things about the person. You might think it implies youth, low-class, low-education levels, and, on the downlow, you know some of those (watch out!) black people might say “dey” instead of “they.” Now, I’m not trying to accuse you of being some overtly racist person. Perhaps you’re black yourself. Instead, this attitude is a symptom of this background race issue involved with language usage and social systemic biases. When we are taught that the way white people speak and interact is the “proper” way, and are similarly told that minorities speak an inferior version of English, this insidious thing happens where we start to associate the people themselves with inferiority. You can see how these biases seep into our view of written language as well, which we then just pass off with a shaky “it’s for clarity” argument.

          I’m going to be done now because I think I’ve written a novel in response.

          If you want to read some more on some of these issues, check out these articles:



  53. 361

    Lost my faith in English teachers the day one of them wrote in my school report,”Phyllida must try and improve her grammar”…. An I was only 13!

    • 362

      There’s nothing wrong with ‘try and’ instead of ‘try to’.If the former construction is used natively by some speakers,then it is part of the grammar of a language.Thus it is grammatical.
      If your teacher had written ‘try must improve grammar her’,then that would be ungrammatical,because no native speaker talks like that.Although it could always become grammatical at some point,if the language changed sufficiently.
      The word ‘grammar’ as linguists use it denotes the set of rules native speakers of whatever language carry around in their head.’ The notion that one construction or usage is better than other has no basis in the facts,it’s just that some features of a language acquire prestige through association with esteemed socio-economic groups in a society.Thus the speech of those in less valued socio-economic groups becomes regarded as undesirable and thus of inferior quality.It is important to realize that this is a social judgement,not one that is borne out by any sort of linguistic analysis.

  54. 363

    “Me and Jane went to the store.” has become a common mistake for “Jane and I went to the store.” This breaks at least two rules of grammar: 1. always put the other person first and 2. use the subjective form of the pronoun in the subject of the sentence.

    • 364

      Linguistically this is actually an incorrect analysis,I’m afraid.If a particular form of a pronoun is used to denote the subject of a clause under certain circumstances,then that’s clearly permissible purely by virtue of the fact that it happens.The ‘rules’ or ‘grammar’ of a language in the proper sense derive from how people use that language,not from artificial constraints imposed by people who interpret how language functions too narrowly.

  55. 367

    “Visit our new store “new name”, formally known as “old name no longer in use (not even for legal reasons)””. Conversely, “This [colloquial term] is also known formerly as [technical term]”.

  56. 370
    Donna K

    My biggest peeve is the way people misuse then and than. They have to be the simplest to knw the difference between, but even journalists are using them wrong these days. Ugh.

  57. 372
    John M

    Here’s another pet hate of mine. Using reflexive pronouns inappropriately. For instance: “Please return the books to myself.” or “John and myself went for a walk.” The word is “me”.

    Despite what you say Tlaloc, some usage is and always and will be wrong. “Try and” indicates an expectation of success. I will try and I will succeed, whereas “Try to” indicates a sense of uncertainty. I will try and I hope to or I may succeed. Since English now lacks a subjunctive case, the distinction here is valid and should remain.

    • 373

      ‘Some usage is and always will be wrong’. Well,that’s a closely-argued point,I can’t really match that :)
      That distinction might be true for you,but it certainly isn’t for me and countless millions of other native speakers,for whom the two constructions are equivalent.Aside from the subjunctive being a mood and not a case (cases are for substantives),not every language has one,and I can assure you that speakers of those languages are capable of expressing differing levels of certainty regarding what they’re talking about.

      • 374

        Oops,missed out the end of the last post: ‘…regarding what they’re talking about’ without resorting to convoluted analyses of constructions which are not supported by any evidence,historical or contemporary.

      • 375

        Currently you wouldn’t get on the course :p You’ve not listened.
        Look at how I’m writing to you now.Standard english,no double negatives,no using ‘myself’ for ‘I’ etc.I wouldn’t take someone seriously if they applied for a course writing in text speak :) As I keep saying,the forms and constructions used in standard english have been selected by accident of history,not because they’re inherently better.Nevertheless,one has to use them if one is to master standard english,and be considered properly literate or educated or whatever.
        The problem is when people confuse non-standard with wrong in a linguistic sense.But obviously there are appropriate times to use standard or non-standard forms -I’ve never disputed that.You must agree with me so far on this?
        The other problem here is when grammarians overreach themselves and proscribe certain usages which are based on personal taste or chance rather than usage.The split infinitive is a good example of this.Or when someone finds two synonymous expressions and decides to invent a reason to differentiate them.You’ve mentioned examples with ‘try and’ and ‘try to’ as well as ‘he’ used as a default pronoun in cases of uncertainty.Where did you learn these from and what evidence did your sources present for taking their claims seriously.If you actually look into it,there will be no good reason whatsoever.

        • 376
          John M

          I’d be top of your class :)

          I see your argument and accept that there is a natural drift in language, mainly to do with the meaning of words as amply demonstrated by Bill Bryson in his book “Mother Tongue”, but without agreement on basic constructs, we run the risk of misunderstanding each other.

          The use of ‘he” in cases of uncertainty. By this I gather you mean the use of the masculine pronoun when both genders could be under consideration. Well yes, we could say “he or she” or we could say “she” to indicate both genders but it is accepted that we don’t. Their remains to me a pleural not a singular word.

          Interestingly, like most native English speakers, I learned most of my English grammar while studying German at school. I’m again studying the infernal language and loving its precision and accepted grammatical rules, all of which provide the ability to express one’s self precisely. So too can English, so long as we follow the rules.

          The local university near where I work now accepts five types of English would you believe, among which mongrel versions is “Texting English”. God save us all :)

          • 377

            I unwisely entered this correspondence not realizing the volume of emails that I would receive.

            I think the argument (GRAMMAR VS LET IT ALL HANG OUT) is perhaps pointless. I like English and would like it defended against the idiocies of other dialects.

            A very good friend – a Frenchman – tells me that there is a language called “Globbish” which businessmen use as a lingua franca. It has a limited vocabulary, established by usage and so would not be much good to use in all circumstances. He tells me about globbish and I tell him about english. Very sane, but I would defend english against globbish, american english and all the other dialects worldwide.

          • 378
            John M

            charlesmarriage, I’m glad you and Tlaloc are in the discussion. We are all obviously interested in language and the opinions expressed lead to thought and reasoned argument. Maybe I am wrong. I’m certainly not a linguist but do consider that my English isn’t too bad in general.

            I think that I get Tlaloc’s point and accept that his is a “linguist’s viewpoint”. It’s like those who purport to enjoy and defend modern classical music. To me it’s cacophony; it lacks rules and structure as does the “English” written and spoken by those who have poor grammar.

            I know that English has changed greatly over the years but am not convinced that all changes have been for the better.

  58. 381
    John M

    Well said “languages are capable of expressing differing levels of certainty” I would add, “if used correctly” What I’m suggesting is that sloppy grammar loses certainty or precision. The example I gave is a good example. I was incorrect to call the subjunctive a case, thanks for the correction.

    Do you, for example, accept the new usage of “their” to represent the singular as in: Everyone should do their best. “Proper English would have us say: … do his best, with the masculine form used by default where either gender may be being discussed. Perhaps another ungrammatical horror becoming normal through the pressure to be politically correct or non sexist.

    • 382

      I’m not in any way politically correct,and I’m dead against all that :) However,the usage of ‘their’ in the manner you’ve described has been going since the 16th or 17th century,so not really a new thing.What is proper english? What some guy’s decided people should say and put in a grammar book? Political correctness aside,it’s quite normal for some languages to have a neutral pronoun of this sort.Of course I accept the usage.If it’s used in the language,then it’s part of the language :) Furthermore,’they’ or ‘their’ used in this sense is found in loads of famous authors and has become commonly found everywhere,so you can’t even write it off as some obscure piece of dialect,it’s simply standard everyday english.Whether you like it or not is up to you :)

      • 383
        John M

        English lacks a neutral pronoun unless “their” now has two meanings.

        Gee, I’d love to study a course taught by you, I and everyone else in the class would always get a 100% mark. Never a grammatical error by anyone since it’s not up to what “some guys put in a grammar book” but whether it’s “used in the language”.

        It looks like we will continue to disagree, and that’s not a bad thing. I do suspect though that those who do follow the accepted rules of grammar, as set out by the guys who write the books, will continue to be taken more seriously than those who follow an anything goes attitude to the language.

  59. 385

    My pet peeve has to be the misuse of “their” and “there” and the use of “me” where “I” should be,
    example; My sister and me
    I know I do this but I’m really trying to stop :-

  60. 387

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  61. 388

    What grates on me is the crazy and very frequent , almost ubiquitous , use of myself as the subject of a sentence and as a direct object. Ex: he and myself went to town. Or. He gave to myself When did it become PC to not say me or I ??? Bill O’Reilly is the only talking head who speaks with out saying myself incorrectly!!

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