One of the difficulties of hosting a blog is dealing with some of the comments I get. I’m sorry to admit how thin-skinned I am, but I cannot help but be dismayed at the deteriorating state of grammar in our country. It seems it’s endemic to the whole society. I’m certain I even screw up at times.
If I am particularly fond of certain responders, sometimes I correct grammatical errors that would embarrass me were I to make them; but in most cases, I just let comments run as submitted. They represent authentic voices, I say. Yet comments on the blog are just the tip of the iceberg.
The other day, the weather outside was particularly noisy, so I turned on the closed-caption function on my television. Boy, was I ever surprised at the literacy level (or should I say illiteracy level) of the people the studios hire to write the captions! You would think that the studios would submit their employees’ work to proofreading, but I’d guess this would be expensive and that audiences for closed-captioning are deemed not worth the effort.
I was watching a Bill Maher stand-up concert, and these are but a few of the errors I saw: “pee tree” instead of “petri;” “dilution” instead of “delusion;” “prekian” instead of “Puerto Rican;” “man kin” instead of “mannequin;” “affliction” instead of “asphyxiation;” “I’d logical” instead of “ideological;” “hon rarey” instead of “honorary.” Bill Maher is an intelligent comic, and presumably his audience considers itself a cut above the “goober nation” Maher relishes in ridiculing; such ignorant captioning which is clueless of the syntax and context of Maher’s jokes seriously undercuts the (wink-wink) understanding that Maher shares with his audience. I am surprised he would stand for it if he knew how poorly he is being served.
This is an issue that should concern us all. In business, knowing how to fashion an interesting and intelligent sentence is essential to communicating effectively, winning business, and setting one’s self apart. More than two-thirds of salaried jobs require a significant amount of writing, yet top organizations are spending $3 billion per year on remedial training for employees to bring their writing ability up to even a baseline standard. Clear writing means clear thinking.
Good grammar may make the difference between making it or not in the business world. Says John Challenger, the CEO of an outplacement consulting firm: “One of the easiest, quickest and most widely used indicators of a candidate’s worth is his or her grammar. Misspellings, poor syntax and grammatical mistakes typically result in a swift relegation to the ‘no’ pile; the decision makers reason that the errors disclose either poor communication skills or an indifference toward details.”
Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, argues: “[Students in public schools] are largely taught that grammar is unimportant compared with ‘expressing yourself.’ This makes me crazy. Imagine it’s the piano we are talking about. Which would be better: a) to express yourself freely on it; or b) first learn to play the thing? Of course, the difference is that people are not judged every day on their ability to play the piano. Kyle Wiens is right to point out that when young people are taught to undervalue literacy as a life skill, they are being cruelly misled.”
According to grammarly.com (a really entertaining website) the five most common grammar mistakes are: it’s and its; there, their, and they’re; subject-verb agreement; comma slices; and apostrophes. Yet grammar errors do lead to some particularly amusing results.
I hope you are entertained by these examples.
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