Although it has been a couple of weeks since Warren Beatty’s February 26 Oscar flub, I’m still seeing advice about how he should have handled it. This hit my email box from a newsletter I subscribe to that offers tips and advice for speakers: ContinueLike it? Share it!
I love writing, rewriting, and rewriting a sentence or paragraph until it says exactly what I want it to say in the manner I want to say it — commas, em dashes, capital letters, italics and all.
It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone.
In celebration of March 4 National Grammar Day 2017, I offer this selection of thoughts by like-minded people who agree: Yes, grammar still matters.
“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.”
— Jeffrey Gitomer, American author and business trainer
“The rise of texting, social media, and website comment sections mean there’s more language being written than ever before. Along with impulsive typing on small devices, our grammar has collectively gotten worse. Brevity is frequently appreciated, but it’s amazingly easy to hit “send” before really examining what we’re sending. And relying on spell-check is basically a condom — highly effective but not foolproof.
“I can tell you one thing for certain: The fine print of any brand contest, the terms and conditions of any cell phone contract you sign, and the privacy clauses of any app you download have been proofread many times over. Lawyers know how to do that pretty well.
“Perhaps we could take a lesson from them, and write as if we’d get sued for our grammatical mistakes. We’d certainly be more careful.”
“Today’s use of digital platforms and social media has changed our appetite for news and certainly how we consume it. It is no longer acceptable to get today’s breaking stories on the late night news or in tomorrow morning’s newspaper. We require a constant digital feeding tube of new news and the latest, subsequent updates. We also want it as free as possible. At the same time, reduced advertising revenues add less to a media outlet’s bottom line, straining staff resources.
“Has our demand for immediate delivery and a churn of updates destroyed the writing and editing process? Has the prevalence of social media, full of all kinds of shortcuts and abbreviations – along with the preference for immediacy outweighing carefulness – made us turn a blind eye to proper grammar in professional writing? Can we trust a news article’s factual accuracy if it’s full of other obvious errors?
“A well written, properly spelled and grammatically correct article demonstrates a level of conscientiousness that can reflect the overall quality in the writing of the actual report. I am more likely to have faith in the reporting, fact-gathering and editing if I am not tripping over other errors. Yes, good grammar still very much matters.”
“It [grammar] matters because good grammar conveys a great deal about a person.
“Quality is in the details — and attention to commas, semicolons, dangling participles, gerunds and the proper placement of quotation marks says to the reader that this person is careful, considerate (because bad grammar is painful to the discerning eye), and (there’s that Oxford comma) competent.”
” ‘Grammar is credibility.’ says Amanda Sturgill, an associate professor of communications at Elon University, where I recently spoke. ‘If you’re not taking care of the small things, people assume you’re not taking care of the big things.’ ”
Credibility and Reputation
“We all seek to create an online persona that is respected by the community. To find success in that endeavor, we must build a reputation for accuracy and credibility. Unfortunately, poor grammar and spelling errors are not trademarks of a credible writer.
“These types of issues reflect ignorance and carelessness and suggest the writer didn’t truly care about the quality of the post. In short, mistakes reflect poorly on your brand. If you want the respect and adoration of your readers, provide them with high-quality and polished content free of grammatical errors.”
And for the hard-core grammarians — or those of you who are tired of reading and need some visual and auditory stimulation — this video explains the difference between prescriptivists and descriptivists.
Again, may your day … your week … your month … your year be the most grammatical yet!
The Ruthless Editor
About a year ago, I posted a blog describing semicolon use. I explained that a semicolon joins two independent clauses — in other words, two complete sentences.
When the semicolon is used correctly, the clause that precedes and the clause that follows it have a subject and a verb: ContinueLike it? Share it!
A reader weighed in on exclamation points in my recent blog on pet peeves:
“The exclamation point is overused to the point it has lost its intent in the communication I read.”
What is the intent of an exclamation point? ContinueLike it? Share it!
Lie vs. lay is one of our most confusing word choices.
You might want to lie down when you finish reading this blog, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. I’m counting on my examples to help you make the right choices. ContinueLike it? Share it!
Although it’s catchy, I clicked on the link to see if the errors — you instead of your, no capital Y, and a comma where none is needed — were intentional as a means to attract attention or whether they truly were oversights.
When I read further, I decided they had to be oversights, as these faux pas were only the beginning. ContinueLike it? Share it!
However, it was disconcerting to see a recent blog — apparently fairly popular — that praised a resource published in 1926 and “lightly revised” in 1965. 1965? That was 50 years ago! ContinueLike it? Share it!
If so, you’re not alone. So does spellcheck.
This sentence, with the name changed, is from a letter I edited recently for a client:
Charles Smith excelled at his duties while he worked with my team, both as a volunteer and as a paid staff member.
Spellcheck suggested this change: ContinueLike it? Share it!
Combining a question mark with an exclamation point yields the interrobang, a form of punctuation that has been around since 1962 but has yet to really catch on.
Consider how it would sound if you were to speak the following requests. You likely would not raise your pitch at the end as you do when you ask a question. You really are not asking someone to do something to which they have the option to reply yes or no; you are making a request that you expect to be met.
May I ask you to please return my call before 5 o’clock.
Will everyone without a ticket please contact the box office by Friday noon.
Could you please send me a list of your core competencies.
Here are four more examples that imply query, but as indirect questions they don’t require a question mark. Contrast them with the true question that follows each: ContinueLike it? Share it!