I take a lot of crap for liking my grammar to be clean and precise. A metric fuck-ton of crap. Many people tell me to lighten up, or shut up. Either way. Give or take a groan or colorful expletive, those are the most common reactions I get when I mention anything in the realm of grammar. Another classic all time favorite: severe eye rolling.
These reactions give me a heavy heart, because I feel as though I am oft misunderstood. I don’t prance around expecting everyone to constantly be aware of using “who” vs “whom” or even knowing what the subjunctive case is. And as much as I love them, I don’t expect everyone to know when to use a semicolon; the rules regarding these beauteous punctuation marks can be quite complicated. And, in fact, I myself am known to say “like” many a-time in casual conversation, correct syntax be damned.
In a text or a tweet, I accept that not everyone will properly punctuate, and I definitely don’t do so when I’m in a hurry, or angry, or half asleep or half tipsy. However, and this is an enormous however, I still think grammar is important. Casually scrolling through the facebook statuses present in my news feed, I am struck repeatedly in the eyeballs by one horrible travesty after another and I start to wonder, where does it stop?
Though I cringe every time “your” incorrectly replaces “you’re” on facebook, I usually don’t raise complaint. However, after sending and receiving hundreds of emails in the professional world, and proofreading many classmates’ papers during school, sometimes I want to throw up on my keyboard (Once, someone used a construction known commonly in the world of AIM as “action stars” in a legitimate draft for a class paper. *hits forehead with palm*).
I repeat my prior question: where does it stop? I know that language is constantly changing and evolving, and sure, no one uses the word “t’wixt” anymore, but still. When I read something that is clearly meant for public display, discussion and/or scrutiny—something more formal than a tweet or status update, like a blog post or email message—and it’s written in woefully poor grammar, I immediately undervalue the person’s point and opinion. And again, I mean to stress, I’m not talking about the occasional typo or comma splice. I am talking about a solid block of rambling text that suggests English as a second or perhaps even fifth language. As a writing major, I feel like I’m more aware of grammatical snafus than the average layperson, but you cantt tell me youdont notice when a person goes on and on withouta lick f even basic spellchcker or making sure he throw in a comma or 2 or maybe even if they was seperating there sentence into more than 1 and sometimes helping correct verbs and verb agreement to help your comprehension especially with a capitol that is RANDOM in the middle of a paragraph even they dont even seem to making a point that is a point to help.
Some people seriously write like this in one hundred percent serious scenarios. On and on and on they go. I have seen this type of writing everywhere from serious emails regarding highly interpersonal emotional issues, professional emails, job applications, or blog posts that have an ultimate goal of sounding quasi-professional, smart or deep. It doesn’t fall to natural intelligence, or college level education, or socio-economic class. It falls to pure, damn laziness. If you don’t care enough to spell check, why should I care enough to read your moronic drivel? These days every word processing program and nearly every browser has a basic spell check. Even if your natural spelling is abysmal, are you seriously so lazy that, before you hit the publish button, you can’t take a quick scan and right click on those words with red squiggles under them? Really? The only excuse for use of that type of language in anything except a text or facebook status—and maybe even then—is after some sort of very, very serious head injury. I can make an exception for children younger than the age of 14, but it’s kind of unclear as to why they would be drafting professional emails or college essays.
It doesn’t make you funny or cool when you don’t care about how you present yourself, it makes you seem like an idiot. I know plenty of smart people who simply don’t communicate well, but this goes beyond that. It goes beyond style, or opinion, or especially eloquent prose. It goes to the very heart of professionalism. If I were an employer and I got a cover letter busting at the seams with grammatical errors, I would throw it in the garbage. It really doesn’t take that much effort to give your letter, email, or blog post a once over. Read it out loud to yourself. Literally read it exactly as you have written it. I can guarantee that even the laziest, humanities hating-est among you could pick up on about 80% of your mistakes. Also, these days, we have this magical little thing called google, and taking about ten seconds to type “when to use a comma” or “when should I use who vs whom” will blow your frickin lazy-ass mind. Most of what I’m talking about doesn’t come down to knowledge of mechanics though, it comes down to not being bothered.
When I read garbage like this, it actually makes me see red. For several moments the other night, I went blind with rage when I saw a facebook status that was specifically insulting every person in the poster’s age group’s intelligence. And it was written in such a manner that it should have been written in crayon, or potentially finger paint. If you’re going to go around saying everyone is stupid except you, you damn sure better make sure that status is flawless. Adding to my horror are plenty of people who write like this and then proclaim that they want to teach school children. Teach them what? How to behave like lazy assholes? Well, mission accomplished. You could get a PHD in that, be called Professor McSackofShit and be qualified to teach AP classes in it.
Really though, I return once again to my main question: where does it stop? If you’re so damn lazy that you can’t even be bothered to ask a friend to give you a quick proofread, you really need to re-examine what kind of person you are. Have some pride, dammit. The structures of our languages are what make humanity great. It separates us from animals who can only communicate with twitches of antennae or grunts that only express the most basic needs and fears. If we lose all pretense of caring or structure in even instances like cover letters or school papers, what next? Is that really the foot we want to put forward? That we can’t even be bothered to try to express ourselves with even a modicum of correctness?
Reading a piece written like that is an emotional roller coaster for me, because at first I find it completely hilarious, and then I get angry, and then I pretty much just weep for the species. I’m not saying you have to be perfect; lord knows I’m not, and it would be foolish to expect anyone to live up to standards of grammatical perfection. I’m not saying you have to transform yourself into a walking Strunk & White, though if I ever came across a humanoid version of this book I would marry him or her on the spot. I’m not even saying you have to be especially knowledgeable on the subject. I’m just saying you should give your words, thoughts, opinions, and feelings the effort they deserve. I am (clearly) of the opinion that everyone has something of value to say, or to share, but if you’re going to go through the effort of sharing it, please reward the effort we all have to put into reading it.
As a very wise, and beautiful Australian woman once said, “Good grammar is the difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you’re shit.”