Learn The Language

Illustration of a scribe writing

Today we revisit my roots as an English teacher. I know – hard to believe, right? Well, this old teacher is mortified by the state of writing across the web. Not that I expect everyone to be Hemingway or even Hunter Thompson. But I’m not talking about style or even substance. It’s the grammar, stupid.
Here is a headline from a fairly well-read blog:

“How To Tell Your Failing At Social Media”. Now, had the piece gone on to discuss your specific failing, it would be one thing. What, however, the piece was about was how YOU ARE failing. Or, properly contracted, YOU’RE.  Let’s continue in that post:

…the biggest drawbacks of social media is making a connection with millions of people…

Drawbacks is? Not “one of the biggest drawbacks of social media.” Maybe a typo. Maybe laziness.  Maybe the spell-check didn’t raise an objection (why would it – nothing is misspelled) so the author didn’t notice.  This is an example of technology softening the brain.  Here’s another:

The primary difference, when you break them down, is where your money goes!


“It’s” is another fave of mine. That famous wandering apostrophe. “Its” is already possessive. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is”. Try to get through a day where you can’t see them used wrongly. Let’s not even get into “fewer than” (things you can count, folks) vs. “less than” (quantities or qualities than you can’t count one by one).  Fewer law suits result in less litigation.  And when you applaud (hear, hear), don’t announce your location (here, here).  My college-educated, CEO friends make those mistakes and I worry about the financial well-being of their companies each time they do.

Bad grammar gets in the way of your message.  It’s the written version of an open fly – no one is paying attention to what you’re saying because you’ve distracted them.  I’m not going to get nuts about punctuation (see the classic Eats, Shoots, & Leaves for that) but PLEASE, good people.  This is stuff we all learned in the fifth grade or thereabouts.

And now, ding me with all the comments on whatever errors I’ve missed in my proofing.  But if you find them, at least you were careful!

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1 Comment

Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Reality checks

One response to “Learn The Language

  1. Jonathan Levy

    My dad had me read a digest version of the days news. After reading it I told him I didn’t care about it because it was lacking in proper grammar and uninteresting in style – both sentence structure and visual style (bolding things that should not have been so highlighted and such). We got into a big argument about how I find it very difficult to separate content from how a piece is written. If someone doesn’t care enough to put 5 minutes of though into editing, then why should I care about what he has to say?

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