Archive for the 'grammar' Category

Writing goofs

When I was at school (a very long time ago) I was taught how to write. I don’t mean just how to form letters; I mean how to put words together so that their meaning is clear and unambiguous. And I was taught that it is important to spell correctly, to observe certain rules of grammar and syntax, and to punctuate in a way that aids understanding.

So deeply were these rules ingrained that, to this day, I just cannot help wincing when I see them broken.

I am aware however that, in the intervening years, a more relaxed approach has come in. Younger people have been encouraged simply to express themselves, and not to worry about ‘correctness’. Indeed, the pendulum has swung so far that oldies like me are made to feel like fastidious old pedants, fussing on endlessly about things that don’t matter.

I was particularly glad, therefore, to come across Joanna Young’s blog at http://coachingwizardry.typepad.com/confident_writing/. She, it seems to me, has the right approach. She advocates the correct use of language, not for its own sake, but for what it says about you and your organisation, as well as for that clarity and precision that we all strive for.

Her ‘five common grammar mistakes’ chime precisely with those that most commonly make me wince these days. They are:

  • Confusing it’s and its
  • Confusing they’re, their and there
  • Confusing your and you’re
  • Using apostrophes to try and create a plural
  • Forgetting to use apostrophes to show possession
The first and last of these are, of course, linked. People write “the book and it’s title” because they think the apostrophe is needed to indicate possession – forgetting that “its” is a possessive pronoun in its own right, just like ‘his’ and ‘hers’, whereas “it’s” is just an abbreviation of “it is”. Yet one sees this error in the copy of major advertisers, whose (not ‘who’s’) agencies really ought to know better.
So – thanks, Joanna, for highlighting these points. I’m on your side!
Oh – and one more thing that makes me wince: the creeping use of lower-case”i” for the first person singular.
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Another rant

Well yes, all right, I’m a grumpy old fogey who’s behind the times, but I do get cross – and more than cross, sad – at the way our language, the language of Shakespeare and Shelley, is constantly being debased and impoverished.

I mean, have you actually noticed how many people keep saying ‘actually’? Except that they don’t actually say ‘actually’; they say something like ‘atcherly. I heard a girl on the radio the other day, and I’d swear she said it seven times in the course of one sentence. It seems to go along with ‘basically’.

And another thing: remember how we used to laugh at foreigners because they couldn’t pronounce ‘th’? Now, every second youngster pronounces it as either ‘f’ or ‘v’. Least, I fink that’s what they’re saying. Eiver that or somefing very like it.

And don’t even start me on glo’all stops and the disappearing ‘t’….

It’s not that I want folk to talk ‘posh’ ; I just think there’s too much lazy speech around. Knowwo’Imean?

A grumble

I’m in ‘grumpy old man’ mode, and feel like a rant. And the thing I’d like to take issue with is . . . the word ‘issue’. Time was when people would write or speak of ‘subjects’, ‘topics’, ‘matters’, ‘faults’, ‘questions’, ‘problems’, ‘difficulties’ and so on. Now, every bloody thing – whether it’s a software defect or a political crisis – is an ‘issue’. It’s a perfectly good word, of course; but why impoverish the language when there are so many alternatives?

While on language – why can’t people say ‘yes’ any more? Nine times out of ten it’s ‘absolutely!’ – which takes four times as long to say and is quite unnecessary.

Also, why has the verb ‘to say’ fallen into disuse? It’s all “and he goes . . .” or “and I’m like . . .”, neither of which seems to make any sense to me. Not that anyone is going to care what I think – or ‘go’.

A final conundrum. Can anyone tell me why Clark Gable, speaking his last line in “Gone with the Wind” (“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”) stressed the word ‘give’ instead of the ‘damn’?