Sunday, November 8, 2009

Grammar Matters

With the rise of facebook, twitter, and blogging I read a lot of...unedited prose. And I'm good with that, most of the time. There are several blogs I love to follow, several people I'm perpetually amused by.

I just want to change their grammar.

So to take a break from the monotony of "No, I'm not contagious but I still have a concerning-sounding cough"-type prose, I thought I'd take a minute to share my top 10 (or so) grammatical beefs.

1. Your vs. You're. Drives. Me. Crazy. I see it much more often than I should. Whenever you're writing either, take a moment to say, "can this sentence be said properly if I say 'you are'." Because if it can, you may need to make a change.

2. Yay/Yea/Yeah/Ya confusion. This one's a biggie, so we'll take a minute to define each one.

Yay: Interchangeable with "Hooray." A spoken/written cheer.
Yea: A sign of affirmation. "Yea" is the opposite of "nay."
Yeah: informal form of "yes." While not a cheer, is often more emphatic than yes (oh, yeah!)
Ya: even more informal form of "yes." I would discourage this one.

3. Their/There/They're. An oldy but goody. I see less of this one than the your/you're issue. Maybe that's a sign of progress.

4. O/Oh confusion. It happens. "O" on its lonesome can be short for "of," as in, "bowl o' goodness," when telling time (four o' clock), or when praising God (O Magnify the Lord). "Oh," on the other hand, (according to the Encarta Dictionary) is used to express or introduce a strong emotion or response, used to show thought, or attract attention.

5. Its/It's. Another oldy but goody. Again, see it less than #1. Or maybe it just bothers me less.

6. Farther/Further. Farther is distance. 'Cause it starts with "far." Further deals with non-physical things: "Push the concept further, see where it will take you."

7. Non-plussed. Pronounced "Non-pluhst." Means baffled. Most people think it means unfazed. They're wrong.

8. Texting language. You've seen in. Ur instead of your. R instead of are. There is no reason for this. Because a.) you should be able to spell all of these words correctly, having exited from grade school, and b.) the shorted forms arose from lazy texters, but now we have smarter texting functions on cell phones (have for a few years now), so go ahead. Splurge. Spell the whole word. I dare you.

9. Than/Then. Than is used in comparison (fall is wetter than winter). Then is not. Got it?

10. Gender-neutral pronoun issues. This one's a bit trickier to explain, but we've all seen it. "If your volunteer is late, sometimes you need to show them grace." Okay...there's only one volunteer. The trouble with English is that we don't have a proper singular gender-neutral pronoun. If you try to say "it," it makes your volunteer sound somehow inhuman. Writing he/she, him/her is too cluttered. Just pick a gender. You may appear sexist depending on which pronoun you choose, but at least you'll be accurate.

Okay. There are other problems out there, but these are the ones that bug me most when it comes to grammar.

Here's the thing. The internet's big, people. You write something, and most likely, more people will see it than you think. So go ahead. Make a good impression. Spell things correctly. Most browsers these days have automatic spell checkers. If you see the red squiggly line, consider it a sign of a problem, not a decoration. Write things correctly. You never know when it might be useful to look like you know what you're doing.

Coming at some point in the future: Words I hate, words I love. I've been working on that post for a LONG time. This may come as a surprise, but I have strong feelings about certain words...and words in general.

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