I found a grammatical error on one of my blogs. I meant to type roam as in "roam where you want to." I typed rome. The good news is that I noticed it five hours after I had uploaded the post. I was cringing. Grammar just gives me fits. I’ve been tripped up and knocked over by grammar. It has become so bad I paid cash money for the AP Style Manual. My only consolation is that most of the money is going to the publisher and not the AP.
I don’t want to be a bad girl. Not really. It is just that, for a multiplicity of reasons, I tend to violate grammatical, usage and punctuation rules and inspire reasons to invent new rules. There are days where I just don’t care because I’m just trying to communicate the whatzit of the day. I’ll dangle that dang preposition if I want to. I can slice an infinitive without thinking about it and most time I do.
Then there are other days when I know I have to watch out for the first involuntary splatter of invisible red ink. I have grammar and usage books. I have episodes of Grammar Rock committed to memory. In desperation I even took an advanced grammar class in college. The professor was a rock star of the grammar world. This man had a best selling book, made the TV talk show circuit and had folks in academia smiling from ear to ear with each whisper of greatness coming out of his mouth.
Me? I was tired of massive amounts of split grades or getting comma dinked. I sucked up my humiliation and I signed up for his class with the best of intentions. When I got my hands on the textbook I knew it was going to be an ink soaked blood bath. Two pounds of paper with terms like objective complements, correlative conjunctions and intransitive verbs that set out to stab me in the back.
Don’t get me started on the future past imperfect. I was the poster child for getting it wrong in the past, present and future tense.
I got a D+ and that was one of the highest grades in the class. That man caused the grad students to weep. In hindsight, the professor did pre-warn the class that native English speakers internally know and can apply most of the grammar rules verbally but cannot translate that same skill to paper without a great deal of effort. Students who learn English as a second language have to be taught the rules and then have to suffer through the thousands of contradictions.
All I know is after that class I wrote a heck of a lot more prose and poetry. It was emotionally safer for all concerned. So here I am surrounded by opposing camps of grammarians and the grammatical heathens that on a daily basis give each other the American gestural indication of contempt; the mid-finger salute.Behold the Grammar Blogs
Before you sample the world of grammar blogs, let me hip you to the snark level. It can be high. They are the keepers of the language and many of the anointed ones are out to reclaim the mother tongue.
Let’s start with photographic grammar blogs. I never dreamed that there is a photographic grammar sub-specialty for word abuse. These folks are merciless. Well, they are just having a bit of fun. Not to say I haven’t found amusement. I can yuck it up at other people’s blunders; just not the ones that resemble my own repeat offenders.
But when you see photographic evidence of grammar crimes, it is a humble experience. Bethany at the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks works the quotation mark beat. Apostrophe Abuse is just running rampant and Becky at Apostrophe Catastrophes and her readers have photos up the ying yang. The GrammarBlog (UK) has been known to point the finger at all kinds of errors in judgment. It’s Your Damned Language is pulling up the wedgies with a few media blunder to share the shame. I don’t want to forget a shot out to The Punctuator!Prescriptive and Proud Grammar Blogs and Web Sites
I don’t mind it a bit when Laura at Terribly Write lights a fire under newspaper and media grammar errors. And there is good stuff at The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. You will bow down and pay respect at Paul Brians’ list of Common Errors in English. If your personal bugaboo is not on this list, you don’t need to worry about it.
Prescriptive grammarians want people to use the language according to the rules, customs and instructions contained in that thick, two-pound textbook I mentioned early. The grammar gurus are joined by copy editors, educators and others who are committed to the cause. I commend to you The Copy Edits of J. Alfred Proofreader, Red Pen, Inc., The Grammar Scribe, and The Grammar Cop.
On the descriptive side and not so tightly wound up about rules are grammar blogs such as Grammarphobia, Throw Grammar from the Train and Motivated Grammar who reminds all of us that this is a living, evolving language.
Yes, grammar is necessary but it should not be oppressive. It is in service to language, not the other way around.Other Resources:
- March 4, 2010, is National Grammar Day
- Copyblogger’s list of 5 Grammatical Errors that Make You Look Dumb? Yes, I have sinned and this is a good reminder.
- Minnesota's Public Radio podcast Grammar Grater
- If you miss National Grammar Day, don’t worry. You have time to study for National Punctuation Day 2010 in September.
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