Sunday, March 29, 2015

THERE, THEIR, THEY'RE: COMFORTING GRAMMAR ANXIETY IN A "SYNTAXED" MIND...

There are many quite unflattering names to describe those individuals for whom  proper grammar and syntax is extremely important:  The Grammar Hammar, Grammar Nazi,  OCGD's (obsessive compulsive grammar disorder), and Grammar Police (which technically would need to refer to a group of grammar sticklers) are only a few examples.

I guess it makes sense that our current culture would refer to these grammar gurus in the negative.  After all, we live in a high tech, speed of light, word counting world, and these detail crazies are annoying.  We don't have time to write out the whole words.  And that extra button to capitalize the personal I?  Well, it can be a personal pain that interrupts the texting flow.  Numbers have started to find their way into our words:  l8r, m8, let's go sk8ing, for the sake of time and a strange sort of cleverness I don't fully understand.  As far as capital letters to begin our sentences or put nouns in their "proper place?" (only the true grammar nerds will get that one) That is almost a dead art.

Believe it or not, I was your age once.  I remember believing that it was more about the creativity and "word painting" ability as a writer than where the commas and semi-colons belonged.  I wanted my writing to move people, make them see something differently, or maybe even REALLY see something for the first time.  That should be the assessment focus.   Punctuation?  Well, that was cute, too, but not as important as style.  Much to my chagrin, Marina High School's Honors English III teacher, Mr. Hole, had a very different point of view.

The first piece of writing I ever turned into him was a narrative.  I was very proud of that narrative, and was expecting to receive some very encouraging comments of recognition when it was returned.  Instead, my paper floated back to me in a river of red ink.  I was crushed, and if I am completely honest, I was also indignant and a little bitter.

For a while, I was afraid to write for Mr. Hole.  I experienced blocks that I had never known as a student writer.  I was convinced my past glowing reports were all just a sham, and now that I had entered the world of REAL writers, well, I just plain wasn't one.  I went to see him during office hours every time we had a paper due brimming with all sorts of insecure questions.  I would write, rewrite, throw away and write again before I would show anything to him.   Then, one day, he said this to me, and it really changed everything:  "Kristin, you are a very good writer.  You are creative and I can tell you have a genuine love of words and story telling.  You must believe you are an artist.  But what good will any of that do you if people cannot clearly see the vision you have poured out on the page?"

It stuck.  I even wrote it down to remind myself of that.  What good, indeed?  And furthermore, what if a poorly placed comma or missing semi-colon placed my work in a negative light for an intelligent, syntax-savvy reader?  This was a necessary, humbling experience that not only made me a better more effective writer, but it also made me realize how complex the process of creating communication really was...and you know what?  It SHOULD be!  Communicating effectively deserves our time and close attention!  Words are extremely powerful!  We have certainly explored that notion this year.  But that power is quickly drained in untrained hands.  Nathaniel Hawthorne said it best:  "Words--so innocent and powerless as they are standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows well how to combine them."

So why should you care?  Well, for one, like it or not, the professional world cares.  According to an article in Forbes Magazine, (dated March 11, 2013):  "....good grammar is a fairly accurate predictor of professional success."  Apparently, there are studies to prove it.
1.  Professionals with fewer grammar errors in their profiles had achieved higher positions.  The profiles of those who'd failed to achieve director-level positions within the first ten years of their careers made almost three times as many grammatical errors as their director level colleagues.
2.  Fewer grammar errors correlate with more promotions.  Professionals with six to nine promotions made 45% fewer grammatical errors than those who'd been promoted 1-4 times.

 In the article, Forbes interviewed iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, who maintained that grammar skills typically indicate positive workplace traits, including but not limited to attention to detail, critical thinking and intellectual aptitude.

You don't need to be a Forbes editor or a Fortune 500 CEO to know that you only get one chance to make a first impression.  In our tech-savvy world, most communication is now written and sent via email or text messaging.  When face time is used, grammar and syntax skills still come through in verbal communication, as well: "With whom shall I conference on this topic?" vs. "Who do I follow up with?"  OR  "Where shall we meet on Friday?"  vs.  "Where do you wanna meet up at this Friday?"



I'll admit, that last so-called sentence I just typed made me cringe.  I do not at all profess to be perfect or even nearly so when it comes to English grammar and syntax, but I do strongly believe in its great significance.  As you are revising and then editing your essays for me this week, please take the time to consult grammar and syntax resources, such as the classic Elements of Style book that graced many an English major's personal desk-handy library or the newer Purdue Owl online writing reference.  It is time very well spent as it makes such a difference in how others perceive you as a communicator!  We may be moving from the calligraphy pen to the stylus, but that just means communication is now more readily available and easy to access.  Now more than ever, it is important to be an excellent, effective communicator....literally!

Enjoy this video and humorous blog.  It will certainly give you a much needed comic relief, but on another level, it will also show you how seriously the Grammar Hammers of the world take this issue.  Hey, let's be honest, you should probably take it seriously, too, because according to Forbes, these Grammar Nazi, OCGD, Grammar Police Officers will most likely be your employers and promoters someday!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

32 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I am not perfect at grammer. I make mistakes all the time and when texting, I do not really spend too much time on it. However, I cringe when I see people say "your great' instead of "you're great," or when there is used in place of their. It does make you wonder how well they were educated or how much they care.
    I loved the humorous blog post you shared. The way the author coped with the ALOT was hilarious. TOO funny! (;
    I also appreciate your story. I can relate in some ways. I get really nervous turning in my writing because I am a perfectionist. I want them to be perfect but I also get really tired of working on the same things over and over never feeling like it is good enough. The advise you gave does have a great, new perspective.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome. :) Grammar is serious, but it is also fun to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes. It keeps us humble and real. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Delete
  2. The blog about grammar was the best thing I have ever seen. The way the writer explained how they dealt with grammar was so funny. I'm going to have to try that method out because it bothers me when people have grammatical errors, especially when they type "alot". Typing that myself made me flinch.

    I've seen the video from Weird Al and it makes me really happy. It makes me happy because he rants about everything that is wrong and how it should be correctly written. It's my Grammar Nazi life in a song.

    The thing that stuck with you from what your teacher said is very eye-opening. Personally, I don't think I'm bad at writing, I'm just bad at communicating what I'm trying to say. I'll definitely try to ensure that what I'm trying to prove is communicated in my writing, I think people forget that writing anything, whether it's an essay or an email, is still communicating a point. I know I forget about that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still keep tabs on that teacher via facebook. At the time, I didn't feel this way, but by the end of junior year, he was my favorite teacher. He also nominated me for the Written Communications award my senior year, and I won it. It still hangs in my office at home. I am super proud of that. The toughest teachers sometimes make the biggest impression!

      Your blog response here showed excellent grammar and syntax, by the way. :)

      Delete
  3. Thank you for sharing these, Mrs. Caraway! I enjoyed both selections immensely! I have not usually chosen to cope with grammatical errors by imagining creatures that they refer to, nor have I ever desired that anyone should get out of the gene pool, but I will admit to thinking that some people should go back to preschool...

    My own grammatical knowledge and skill is limited, but I prefer to make use of the knowledge I have. I have often amused myself by taking the grammatical mistakes that people make and interpreting the sentence literally.

    I am always bothered when people make grammatical mistakes (those of which I am aware, as some aspects of grammar escape me), especially in the case of your vs. you're, as that never seems to receive any effort. If someone is attempting to appear authoritative and makes noticeable errors, it detracts significantly from the authority I am willing to recognize in them. This would play a significant role in the differences in the success of individuals in the professional world, as the authoritative figure needs to have every appearance of understanding their topic. Whenever teachers make grammatical errors, it bothers me excessively. I still respect and often admire them, but I am keenly aware that they are responsible for shaping the academic minds of the scholars, and I feel embarrassed on their behalf. Two possible results that would be extremely dangerous are the cessation of attention, or the blind and unquestioning copying of a mistake.

    Examples of mistakes that I find amusingly absurd:
    (one general, one specific)
    "Thank you scholars, your all great!" - My all great? My completely exceptional unspecified object? Why are you thanking me for that?

    "To promote and facilitate sound environmental management for sustainable development, UNEP’s global and cross-sectoral outlook is reflected in its organizational structure, its activities and is personnel" (from unep.org). This organization's outlook is reflected in its activities and is personnel? The point of view of the UNEP is its employees?

    Admittedly, in both these instances, it is quite evident what the writer meant to communicate, and the mind sometimes corrects these things automatically. However, there are instances where the intended message could become dangerously obscured, and when it comes to public statements, addresses to the workforce, or appeals to potential benefactors, the person with the highest chance to accidentally offend their audience is the least desirable selection for the position.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes--we ALL make mistakes, and that is so important to remember. Even the people in the study who were promoted made mistakes. But the important thing is to try to avoid making those mistakes consistently. Recognizing them and correcting them is just good practice. :)

      Delete
  4. I enjoyed this blog post. I think my grammar is pretty bad, and I try to work on it but I always seem to mess up in at least one place or another. I probably have a lot of mistakes. I don't think I make too many common mistakes unless I have a typo. I do not try to correct my grammar too much when I am texting. Also, I think alots are my favorite animals now. They seem so majestic and they can do everything! I want a lot of alots, but I don't think they actually exist. Alots are still cool though and I would name mine Wilford. I've talked a lot about a lot of alots though, so I am going to go. I don't know if I said this either, but I liked the music video a lot too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes--the "alot" is immensely popular now. They even sell stuffed alots on the web now! Clever idea. I first saw this blog two years ago, and I still return to it for a laugh now and then. Helps us get over the perfectionism and see that we ALL are imperfect, and some of us have very creative coping skills!

      Delete
  5. I loved the article and the song. I thought they were very helpful. I also liked that they were entertaining! They made a lot of sense. I can only see myself being a “Grammar Nazi” when it comes to texting. I can not text people who do not spell out their words. Besides that I feel like a lot of my grammar mistakes are from not finding my mistakes or confusion from past teachers that have not truly helped me to figure out the proper use of certain grammar. I also really like what your old english teacher had to say about writing being an art and painting the words onto the paper. Also, the statistics about individuals that use proper grammar are more successful than those who don’t, made me really want to try harder, so that I can be more successful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you! Next time I try to use "alot" I will remember that they are simple creatures that should generally be left alone. I am one of those people who struggles with grammar and could defiantly benefit from a grammar boot camp. I haven't watched the video yet but I definitely know that I need to work on my punctuation. I have the end of the sentence punctuation down, don't get me wrong;), but the commas and semi-colins have me stumped. Again, thank you for the refresher corse on the grammar!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't ever think I've seen so many funny ways to complain about grammar. That Hyperbole and a Half rant definitely changed the way I'm going to see the "word" alot. Being somewhat of a stickler for grammar myself, it's nice to see that other people feel the same, and kudos to Weird Al for the song. It was quite entertaining. I think the Alot may now be my favorite animal as well. They are most dignified creatures.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The article was really funny and I enjoyed it. I'll use the fabulous creature Alot to help me cope. But to be honest, I was not able to finish listening to the song. I hate the song Blurred Lines and I was able to watch about half of the video before I stopped it. But yes, I did understand what it was saying and I wish everyone had taken more in depth grammar lessons in school. I was home schooled up until 9th grade, and grammar was really hammered into my head. I am grateful I was able to have those lessons now that I see so many older people use you're and your incorrectly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This blog post was by far my favorite. I see myself as one that always corrects people's grammar. I also don't see how people can mix up "your" and "you're", or not have a lot as two words. Every time I finish watching a YouTube video, I always go down to the comment section, a.k.a grammar hell, and see all the mistakes made. Just like with the article I imagine people that don't spell words right, or don't capitalize words as kids. I think that auto-correct is the reason there are all these grammar errors, because people are so used to their mistakes just being fixed without doing anything they probably don't realize they are doing it in the first place. We can probably blame technology for grammar errors, or it's just the human race being lazy. i hop that people relize there gramer mistaks? (That last sentence was a pain to write, I think ALOT will find me for that one).

    ReplyDelete
  10. I enjoyed both the article and the video. Grammar is very important and everyone makes simple mistakes but it is very important to have the background knowledge. I love Alot!! He was adorable and I couldn't stop thinking about the movie "How to Train a Dragon". Personally I have made the mistake for 'alot'. Alot use to be my friend as well until someone pointed it out. Now I know that he only wants to be left alone.
    The song was really catchy and I was about to start dancing to it. I can only imagine the time and effort put into that song.

    ReplyDelete
  11. According to the lovely song I commit word crimes on a daily bases. I really did enjoy listening to the song, it was very catchy. I was not a huge fan of the article, I was more distracted by the pictures, I payed more attention to the color blobs. I wish when I was younger my teachers nagged at me about my grammar, as the article and the song complained about. (I'm not exactly sure what I'm suppose to talk about).

    ReplyDelete
  12. May I say that Alot is pretty adorable staring at people and swimming. After I watched the video, I lost it because I wasn't expecting it, and it was hilarious! I tend to find myself to be the person to make all of those small mistakes grammatically. I never really learned properly how to use grammar and just reading doesn't help me much due to me not wanting to just look at the letters on the page more the the story being told. However, i cannot stand it when people do the exaggerated amounts of emojis and misspelled words in a text or comment on something. I can admit though that I've always thought that a lot was spelled as "alot".

    ReplyDelete
  13. In all honesty I laughed out loud when I read the article and watched the video. They are quite humorous and I can kind of relate, in both ways. No, I am not the crazy “Grammar Nazi” but I know of many people that are and to think that this is the world they live in makes me laugh. Although I have never been one to use numbers in words I do use quite a bit of the grammar mistakes listed. Something that really made me laugh was the “ a lot “ vs “alot”, and yes I am the person that uses “alot” quite a bit of the time when texting. I don’t do it on purpose but sometimes it just happens. Mostly because growing up I always thought that that is how it was spelled. Now when I type a lot it is a bad habit that I can’t really stop. Unlike the word a lot, there are many times I do end up using spelling and grammar errors, and I know this is a horrible excuse to use, but bluntly the reason why I do them is because I’m lazy. I’d rather my auto correct capitalize my letters like my ‘I’ instead of me taking that extra half a second to do it. Now to stop making you question why I am in your honors class I can say am a ‘Grammar Nazi’ when it comes to some things. Something that really bothers me is when people put ‘im’ instead of ‘I’m’. I don’t know what it is. The capitalizing doesn’t bother me completely but the missing apostrophe makes me go insane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I apologize for the post being 25 minutes late. I couldn't find wifi to connect to..

      Delete
  14. Thank you for proving to my friends that I'm not the only "Grammar Nazi" out there. Grammar is very important, and I don't believe a lot of people know that. Okay, I have now realized that I can't say "a lot" without thinking of an "alot". I am definitely going to laugh every time now. Personally, I think it all has to do with people being lazy. I have friends that I can't stand texting, because their messages are always filled with errors and "text speak". Yes, I am one of those people that will correct you in the middle of a sentence, and that will not change any time soon.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You were right, this was quite the comic relief I needed! :) I am not perfect at grammar and I often make mistakes. My main issue is I know the rules I just write/type faster than my mind can process it and I make a lot of little mistakes. The only grammar rule that makes me the most frustrated is there, their, and they're. When I see the wrong there used it makes me so upset and almost discredit the author. I've done it a few times and I kick myself for moving too fast and not considering the sentence. Your and you're is another one that gets to me but not as much as the there, their, they're. I really don't like when people don't use the right grammar in text messages anymore. Now that we have the resources and even autocorrect on our phones we should be able to spell things correctly and capitalize proper nouns without any difficulty.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I enjoyed reading the article. I didn't finish the YouTube video all the way through but it was pretty funny. I got a little excited when I heard the music then I see everybody shut up haha. I'm not good with proper grammar at all. Texting has definitely not improved my spelling or grammar and it's something I need to work on.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I loved the video and the article! They were both very creative and the "Alot" made me smile.
    I think I'm pretty good at grammar when I try to be proper. But it is hard when I get in the habit of not using apostrophes or commas correct when I text. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use "their" in the wrong context. "Their really late." I don't even know what I picture there. It doesn't make any sense.

    A couple years back, my mom made me read "Eat, shoots, and leaves", which is a book full of grammar rules. I found it entertaining, especially when the author uses the examples like "Come eat kids" vs. "Come eat, kids." Commas really do save lives.

    Thanks for sharing! Sorry this is so late!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I believe the "Alot" creature is definitely something that is going to stick with me, and will remind me it's not the proper use of the word unless, of course, I am referring to this creature.
    I am not a Grammar Nazi per say, but the improper use of conjunctions or comma's do bother me, and at times I correct people in my head. Like Chandler, I have a pet peeve word, and it's the difference between "your" and "you're". I love to learn about the proper use of aspects in grammar, even if it is the slightest things like the difference between a comma and a semi colon, because I feel it helps me look more knowledgable when I use it in proper context. I have my whole life ahead of me to perfect my writing by learning those little things.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I thought the video was very catchy, I enjoyed reading the article, and looking at the all the different pictures of Alot. I always catch myself using "alot" when I am texting. Now whenever I am going to spell a lot, I will remember using it correctly. Whenever I see someone write "alot" I will think of the pictures in the article. I thought those were funny, because I am guilty of just quickly writing "alot" and not taking time to space it out, like it should be.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I like to think, that when I take my time, I have pretty good grammar. My biggest downfall though, is the struggle of where I want my commas. Because I want them everywhere. And I mean, everywhere. I just really, really, love to make people pause when they're talking. Perhaps I'm getting them to slow down, enjoy the scenery. I'm not sure, but every teacher I have ever had, tells me, I use them far too often. The video was fine, I just couldn't get over that it sounded like Blurred Lines. (I get it, parody, and whatnot) But I hate it so much, I could not even focus. The article was funny too.
    I used to be a much bigger "Grammar Nazi" but it gets super exhausting. So now I just cringe, then move on. I think if you have the basics down, you're pretty alright.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love all the pictures with this blog post! Especially the Ryan Gosling one! I loved the article as well. When texting I tend to have really good grammar. When i'm texting and angry I have excellent grammar. I don't want to have a mistake when i'm trying to prove my point. I would say i'm only a "Grammar Nazi" when i'm trying to be annoying quite honestly. I find grammar important but if people don't want to take the time to sound intelligent, why should I take my time to correct them?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Grammar, oh how I loathe you. I am not a "grammar nazi" at all. I just type out what I want to say and don't worry about punctuation. I think, it's because naturally with my high metabolism my mind, just word vomits all of my text message, because who has time to do a "You're" instead of "Your"? I get corrected at least once in every conversation I have from other members of the Grammar Nazi party. I understand the reason for it, but I would rather just spit out my words and not worry about it too much. I thought the "to funny" picture was too funny XD (see what I did there?) :3

    ReplyDelete
  23. I enjoyed this blog post, especially the song because it's so relevant to how I react towards people when they text me. When I was younger I didn't thunk grammar would annoy me this much but it actually does. Especially if it's coming from a guy you like and they don't use the proper too, to, two, as well as there, they're, and their. It irritates my soul

    ReplyDelete
  24. I enjoyed this blog post, especially the song because it's so relevant to how I react towards people when they text me. When I was younger I didn't thunk grammar would annoy me this much but it actually does. Especially if it's coming from a guy you like and they don't use the proper too, to, two, as well as there, they're, and their. It irritates my soul

    ReplyDelete
  25. The song was amazing. It made me think about my grammar, and I don't think I make too many mistakes when it comes to it, but for me it depends on the situation or what I am talking about. For example if i'm typing a response on a blog post or writing an essay my grammar is going to be much better, because I am looking over it and trying to not make it look dumb, but if I am texting a friend then my grammar is going to be worse, because it's not as important and doesn't have a great impact.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Let me take a moment to apologize to all of the people whose grammar I have, in the past, corrected. That being said, while I really, really, REALLY enjoy when people talk and type properly, the only thing more annoying than people who have bad grammar is when people always correct faulty grammar. Pointing out flaws in the way other people speak doesn't make you smarter. It just kind of makes you seem rude. A lot of the time, nowadays, anyways, people don't point out grammatical errors as a way to help the person who made the error, but rather as a way to seem more intelligent. Of course, if you're struggling with grammar at our age, you may want to check out some remedial classes or something. Maybe read a book or two. Having good grammar can often help you in things like (I dunno, maybe school) job interviews and the like.

    ReplyDelete