Friday, March 5, 2010

Your Grammar Would Be Proud

This past Wednesday night, tired of reading poorly written personal ads (and unaware that the next day was National Grammar Day), I posted this message as my Facebook status:

If you're so interested in taking advantage of all that life has to offer, you should--in between romantic walks on the beach, quiet nights at home and outings to concerts and museums--take a basic grammar course so you'll know the difference between "your" and "you're,” be able to distinguish among "there," "their" and "they're," and use each one correctly in a sentence.

Almost immediately, Carol commented: “Very timely suggestion, as tomorrow is National Grammar Day! :)”

Before I fill you in on the rest of the conversation as it unfolded, I’ll share the corny old joke that came to mind when I heard that:
A traveling salesman knocks on the door and little Joey answers.
Salesman: “Is your Ma home?”
Joey: “No, she ain’t here.”
Salesman: “Where’s your grammar?”
Joey: “She ain’t here either.”
Now, back to the conversation, which actually evolved into a list by grammarians of their biggest pet peeves about our language and how people use—and misuse—it.

Pet Peeve #1 is from Peggy: “How about s or 's. That drives me crazy.” Strunk and White would agree. It’s the very first rule in their classic volume.

Her sister, Marianne, chimed in with Pet Peeve #2: “than vs. then!!” According to S&W, "than" is used to express comparison. A concise explanation of the difference between the two—and when to use each—can be found here.

Next came Bonny (please, not Bonnie), with Pet Peeve #3: “When I was hiring an editor for a book proposal, so many of the applicants spelled my name wrong!” Indeed, correct spelling and careful attention to detail are as essential as proper grammar and usage.

Pet Peeve #4 came from David, who had this to say: “How about ‘it's’ and ‘its’ while you're at it? They are misused far too often.” Yes, they are, but at least they’re real words, unlike its’, which I see everywhere!

Back to Marianne for Pet Peeve #5: “Here's one that bugs Facebook notification reads 'So-and-so commented on their status.’" LOL! Here’s what The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has to say about this matter.

Pet Peeves #6, #7 and #8 come from my buddy Larry, who said, “Between you and I, my pet peeve is the total breakdown in differentiating among who and whom, of which the New York Times and The New Yorker is frequently guilty. P.S. I count three on-purpose errors in my previous sentence -- but maybe I missed something.” Grammar Girl (that's her up there in the top left hand corner of the page) can fill you in on proper use of the pronouns “I” and “me” and the prepositions "among" and "between." Click here to read about the nuances of “who” and “whom,” and here to brush up on subject-verb agreement.

Carol, the person who launched this whole conversation in the first place, piped in with Pet Peeve #9: “One of my pet peeves is that no one (in the media, ironically) seems to realize that the word ‘media’ is plural. They always say, ‘the media IS...’ Grrr. (Same for data and bacteria!)” Click here to see the singular forms of these and other words with irregular plurals.

And finally this: Although not exactly Pet Peeve #10, it deserves special mention if only because it crossed my desk yesterday, National Grammar Day: “I officiated at his wedding this past July and him and his wife are both now members.”