Happy Belated National Grammar Day!

This past Sunday was National Grammar Day and we didn’t want it to pass completely unnoticed. If you threw a party to celebrate this day, you will probably find my blog a disappointment. As I am writing this blog I am extremely aware (even more than usual) that I do not want to make any grammar mistakes. (Part of me wanted to intentionally place errors in this blog and see if people could spot them. Yawn). My nervousness comes from the fact that although I am fairly intelligent, well-read and a decent writer, I still make grammatical errors at times.

I think three of the biggest causes of poor grammar are carelessness, lack of awareness and cultural habits. These habits have been greatly influenced by technology and social media, leading to a deterioration of proper language usage. We respond to emails and texts quickly because we are multi-tasking like crazy. So we shoot off emails without proofing them and we have developed abbreviated language for texting.

I would not define myself as a grammar snob, but in some settings, especially professional ones, we need to develop a little more awareness of proper grammar. I need reminders and often use grammar reference sites on the internet when I have a quick question. But if you are looking for a fun and fairly quick brush-up on your skills, I recommend reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves or Things That Make Us [sic].

Under the banner “Sticklers, unite!” Lynne Truss launched her best-selling book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Her “Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” was written with grammar sticklers in mind, but this cheeky guide is helpful to snobs and the grammatically challenged alike.

In Things That Make Us [Sic], Martha Brockenbrough gives us a snarky, irreverent guide packed with common grammar gaffes and tips for avoiding them. Her inclusion of letters to some infamous language offenders, including George W. Bush, David Hasselhoff and the Queen of England made me giggle.

Both of these books offer a humorous and entertaining approach to grammar. I don’t know about you, but when I was in school grammar was definitely not a fun subject. So I found it a relief to actually enjoy reading these books and learning how to improve my grammar and punctuation.

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6 Responses to Happy Belated National Grammar Day!

  1. Bob Fry says:

    Paulette – like you, I don’t consider myself a grammar snob. But one part of your blog caught my eye as a pet peeve I inherited from my college comp and grammar professor.

    “So I found it a relief to actually enjoy reading . . .” Why split the infinitive?

    Thank you for the tips on the books, I look forward to checking into both of them!

  2. Marbles Blog says:

    Thanks Bob! Nice Catch! Your college professor would be proud.

  3. Paul Styka says:

    Paulette,
    Would like to ask about the use of the word used. Clothing, tools, appliances, etc. can be used, but is it correct to say “I used to have hair” or I used to live there”, rather than I once had hair or once lived there?
    Thank you,

    Paul

  4. Marbles Blog says:

    Paul,
    Thank you for you question.
    “I used to….” can be used :) in the contexts that you mentioned. It is definitely considered proper usage. I think the common error is that people sometimes say “I use to live there.” which is incorrect.

    Paulette

  5. A.J. Steinman says:

    @ Bob Fry-

    The rule about not splitting the infinitive is an arbitrary rule, borrowed from Latin, applied to English in the middle of the 18th century or so. In Latin, due to the construction of the language, it is not possible to split an infinitve, as something like “to go” in English would be a single word in Latin. As Latin was put on a pedestal as a perfect language at the time, the rule was imposed upon English without any relevance to the construction or history of English grammar, as much without basis in how the language was used then as it is now. In other words, both Paulette and Captain Kirk deserve a break.

    The same applies to the “rule” about ending sentences with prepositions. (To borrow a quote misattributed to Churchill, this rule is something “up with which I will not put.”)

  6. Marbles Blog says:

    Thank you A.J. for coming to my defense!

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