Don’t Insult My Grammar (Or She’ll Hit You With Her Buick)

Don't mess with my grandma.You may have read about a survey by Staples of England in which two-thirds of respondents said that they regard simple spelling or grammar errors as ‘shoddy’ and would ‘have no faith’ in the sender.

That led me to go back and reread a favorite post by Brian Clark entitled Five Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb.

I’m a sucker for this stuff– and I recognize that there are two kinds of people, those who love it and those who don’t. For the first kind, to see blog authors obviously not caring a whit for the differing meanings of it’s/its, their/they’re, and who’s/whose is like hearing off-key singing, or listening to screeching fingernails on a blackboard, or being subjected to loud talking during a movie. You suffer, but you can’t call the police.

By now you’re either nodding your head or you’re of the second kind, and probably have stopped reading. That’s OK; those people probably don’t know who William Safire was either.

If you are still reading, here’s a post that you’ll want to check out because it really got people riled up: Why I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar, by Kyle Wiens.

Bad grammar makes me [sic]

It provides a fascinating glimpse into the thinking on the other side, by way of the numerous indignant comments it triggered. Most of the attempted rebuttals were written by bad spellers, of course.

One wrote, “…as someone who works in a highly customer facing environment, id [sic] rather an employee [sic] who can talk and build rapport with a client over someone who can right [sic] well but fails at articulating themselves verbally.”

Another fumed, “To not hire someone purely because of bad grammer even if grammer has nothing to do with their job is bullls**t.”

Granted, if forced to make the choice between a bad speller with people skills and a good speller with none, I would hire the bad speller– for a very limited set of job requirements. However, in today’s economy, with so many well-educated people out of work, I doubt it would come down to just those two. I bet I could find a reasonably good speller with people skills.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have to hear screeching fingernails (and having fantasies about my sweet old “grammar”— who was a stickler for proper English, bless her soul— running people down with her Buick).

Do you have any favorite bad-grammar or bad-spelling stories (or photos)? Tell me about them in the comments section.

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16 Responses to Don’t Insult My Grammar (Or She’ll Hit You With Her Buick)

  1. Chris Jones says:

    People who are seemingly proud of their use of incorrect grammar or spelling — and defend such behavior — are defending the indefensible. Employers who don’t believe that their employees should possess a fundamental command of grammar and spelling are enablers.

  2. Jay Barry says:

    I’m just having a debate with myself about whether “Five Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb” should have been titled “Five Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Stupid”. Since the definition of dumb is lacking the power of speech I would assume that “the power of speech” includes not being able to use proper grammar. If you used improper grammar you must have some powers of speech, which would make the post by Brian Clark stupid.

    • Ken says:

      Jay, you troublemaker, how nice to hear from you. Regarding Brian Clark’s choice of words, I checked dictionary.com and its first definition for “dumb” is “lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.” Definitions two through five list variations on the mute angle. But I liked your argument!

      Ken

  3. Lorraine Maxwell says:

    Just wondering…do you have an issue with the way most people use less and fewer? I was taught to use fewer with anything that can be counted, such as Sue has fewer apples than Mary, but to use less with any quantity that could not be counted, as in Sue has less applesauce than Mary..

    I do cringe about these types of things. To me it is akin to hearing the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard.

  4. Ken says:

    Lorraine,

    You are so right. I wish people made fewer such errors, because then I would hear less screeching!

    Thanks for commenting.

    Ken

  5. Shahid says:

    Think about the next generation, the hip-hop lovers, twitter-freaks. Who will be responsible to correct their syntax and semantics? Teachers or parents.
    If employers hire individuals who sound like the customers, would they have more business?
    I don’t think so. If grammar skills are needed for a particular job then it’s the job requirement. And customers of all kind love to interact with people who follow the job requirements, that’s called professionalism!

    • Ken says:

      Shahid,

      I couldn’t agree more! I shudder to think about English in the next generation. But I like your point about professionalism. It gives me hope.

      Ken

  6. Nora says:

    I like this–and the picture is funny, too! I think the root causes of bad grammar and spelling are social media and TV. Just a thought.

    • Ken says:

      Nora,

      Good thought. Certainly social media and TV are great amplifiers of social and linguistic mediocrity. Thanks for your comment.

      Ken

  7. Aaron says:

    Good post Ken. I try to avoid the common mistakes, and I often fret over punctuation. I tend to look up a lot of examples when I’m unsure. Another big issue is clarity. Especially in email, people will often write in a stream of consciousness that is very hard to decipher. That drives me crazy.

    • kstadden says:

      Aaron,

      Excellent observation. I’ve seen plenty of unclear emails like that, which might help to explain why I’m crazy ;-). Thanks for commenting.

      Ken

      P.S. Hope you don’t hate emoticons.

  8. Rachel says:

    As a lecturer at the University of Maryland, I teach professional writing to the next generation of doctors, physical therapists, and public health professionals. This is not easy. There are some stellar writers but there are many more who, as juniors and seniors, still haven’t grasped the fundamentals. Sometimes it feels like grammar is the least of our worries. Lamenting poor grammar is like lamenting a bad paint job on a car that is rusted through. Bigger issues: creative thinking, problem solving, organized thoughts, bias.

    Reading through the comments, I do take issue with criticism of hip hop and need to put in my two cents on that topic. Much of hip hop is absolute urban poetry. (And no one criticizes the grammar of e e cummings anymore.)

    • kstadden says:

      Rachel,
      Thanks for that insightful comment. Who better than a professor toiling on the front lines to weigh in?
      As an automotive nut, I’d like to tweak your analogy by suggesting that bad grammar may be more like bad lubricant than bad paint.

      Ken

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