{Let’s BlogOff} grammar matters


Let’s BlogOff” provides an opportunity to a diverse range of blogs and their bloggers to come together every two weeks to explore a topic, which may or may not fit with in the usual purview of the blog. I have been egalitarian in my neglect while writing for school, but I hate to allow for it to continue in too many places for too long. So I am going to do this instead of laundry or vacuuming.

Today’s topic:

In an era where everyone who’s anyone publishes content to the internet, the English language is being abused like never before. While it’s true that English is a remarkably adjustable tongue, there are some rules. We pride ourselves around here with our strict adherence to AP Style. Even that changes with alarming regularity. So it led us to the next Blog Off topic. What grammar offense strikes you as the worst? Which abrogation of the rules that govern our language rub you raw? How many variations on our communal language can you tolerate before you say enough?

My father majored in English in college. His ability to overcome his rural Oklahoma dialectal roots removed any excuse for poor grammar in our household. Yet his love for his wife manages to overlook her frequent use of double negatives and sentences punctuated with prepositions. It was not only his bachelor’s degree or his short career as a teacher that enforced grammar in our house, but the understanding that poor grammar often communicates ignorance. He not only wanted us properly educated, he wanted us to sound as if we were.

Discussions as to whether people should blog how they speak (conversationally) or more formally (schooled) crop up fairly often. I blog how I speak, rarely editing and abusing colon, comma, and semicolon. Notably, I am more organized in writing, and frequently more restrained. You’re welcome.

I am not as strict a grammarian as I had been, although double negatives still grate. I note poor grammar in published work reflexively, but unless I am inundated with it (like in a recent ARC I started reading) it no longer ruins the experience for me. The greatest change has been a gradual one in understanding why grammar is even employed and how I might manipulate it for my own purposes. As anyone who lives long enough, I also noted the shifts in rules and/or acceptable practices and trends to some irritation and rejoicing. The daughter is taught in school that you do not lead a sentence with but, let alone a new paragraph. But she sees it in her reading all the time. A good grasp of English grammar helps her learn her second language Spanish, and vice versa. She feels confident to learn more languages.

There are venues and we adjust accordingly–except some people seem to prove inflexible. It is when someone shows themselves inflexible or limited is where I feel the greatest anxiety anymore. Grammar may feel restrictive, especially in some people’s hands, but it is actually quite liberating. It is a tool that needn’t be a bludgeon. It could be an amplifier. And yet I still haven’t let go of grammar’s revelation of ignorance idea. I am prone to discount someone’s whole argument because they sound too idiotic to remain valid. I encounter this in my Discussion Board prompts and I tend to be at the loss because if I cannot find an intelligible response, I do not get credit on the second half of the assignment which is to “respond in a scholarly manner.” I feel frustration at being unable to decipher what the person is actually saying. I feel like the idiot, but as I can’t have that, I call the other an idiot and complain loudly to myself and move along. Oddly enough, no one else in the classes seem to have any difficulty understanding each other.

I believe in individuality, and in the development of a person’s voice. I also believe in community and the exchange of ideas. As long as the exchange is not impeded I welcome the opportunity to flexible among a myriad of voices. However, I do see an efficiency in developing a common ground; a commonality that, I would hope, finds contribution from sources not only stemming from dead White academia; and one that still finds double-negatives a violation of the social contract.


{image: “Woman Smoking” by Banksy via here}

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I used to do some editing, and some pretty “creative” writing came my way. I’m talking about writing that was *so* true to the writer’s voice that the quirks got in the way of clarity. The ideal I strove for was increasing the clarity without sacrificing the personality.

    1. L says:

      I agree w/ your “ideal” approach,
      While I appreciate creative play, when the primary goal is to communicate an idea, some temperance may be wise.

  2. Joe Freenor says:

    I pay little attention to grammatical errors in people’s speech. In fact I make quite a few myself, but that is really something I do on purpose. For a long time I wrote fiction, and it was important to me to keep my ear for dialogue. People obviously do not speak in complete sentences or eschew double negatives and the like, so I try to keep at least some of that in my own speech. The test of dialogue has always been to read it out loud. If I always spoke correctly, that’s what would sound correct to me, but for dialogue it wouldn’t be! I’ve not written any fiction for a long time and probably will write no more, but that, as I say, was the rationale for not speaking like the little grammar nerd I actually am.

    But that said, I must also say that whenever I write I work very hard to use correct grammar at all times. I agree with the contention that poor grammar makes the writer look unintelligent.

    As for the blogging, I do NOT blog as I speak. I blog as I write, with good grammar. I also do not use profanity on my blogs other than an occasional “hell” or “damn,” which is also not how I speak. It’s just me and the wife, always has been, and the air gets very blue on a very regular basis. But I do not feel that sort of language has any place in a g-rated blog on kitchens and baths. I also very strongly believe that it weakens any argument I may care to make on other blogs or on Facebook comments. Quite a few people these days are wont to say things like, “Republicans are [expletive deleted].” And Republicans are just as harsh with Democrats. I have taken my share of brickbats from my fellow liberal friends, but I still feel that sort of language is a mistake. First, I think it makes the writer look rather ignorant; secondly, how does anyone expect to induce others to his point of view after he’s irritated them?

    1. L says:

      I think more people could benefit from considering how their words may be perceived by their audience, to say nothing of the benefit of their audience. I think we can be too careless in our relative anonymity and physical difference.

  3. I like this idea. And I think we have a strikingly similar take on grammar. Good post!

    1. L says:


  4. Ibeeeg says:

    Interestingly, this subject of grammar, and vocabulary has been greatly on my mind as of late. I did not grow up in a strong grammar household, not to say we were ignorant, but it just was not a priority of life. I hated grammar as a kid, and did very poorly in English. I had a hard time grasping all the definitions and rules and as such gave up in the learning. Yet, that did not prevent me from my love of reading, nor expanding upon writing – for myself. Now as an adult, I have greater appreciation for it, and a greater desire to have grammar and vocabulary as second nature to me. Having desire, however, does not automatically enable my brain to sponge in the information for easily obtained use. This desire has made me pause a bit about books I choose to read. Not all, mind you, but I am starting to choose a few books here and there in hope the writing will be absorbed. In hopes vocabulary will expand and sentence structure will improve.

    Have you read Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman? I cannot remember if you have. If not, you should because I think you will greatly appreciate her essays – the writing and ideas.

    1. L says:

      I have not read Ex Libris and will have to remedy that, so thank you for the recommendation!

      I, too, read the kind of writing that I would like to emulate or that challenges/inspires my writing. I use books similarly to expand my vocabulary. Of course, reading and writing gets me in trouble in the more formal settings. Ugh, my essays this term are rusty. I have long adopted a more “meandering” structure versus the linear (which comes across as more concise and shorter). The linear would be of use to me now. I can totally see that my fears of inflexibility are projecting when I write, “It is when someone shows themselves inflexible or limited is where I feel the greatest anxiety anymore.”

  5. What a wonderful topic of discussion. Grammar is something I’ve mused about time and time again with various folks. The way I see it is I need to learn the rules and the mechanics of the language before I can successfully bend them and make them my own. It’s like using emoticons. I loathe the tiny icons with a passion, convinced that they’ve reduced language and expression to a couple of numbers and punctuation signs. I cringed whenever someone used them in a conversation with me. What did I do? I began using them for spite. I still do, though with less spite and more resignation. The same is true for text language and IM-speak.

    Voice, I think, is part talent and part abuse of the rules. Following the standards produces readable material, but often lacking in life.

    This really has me thinking, L. About the way I speak and the fine line between what’s interpreted and what’s meant. I may use Kentucky pronunciation and double negatives, even when knowing that they are incorrect, because there’s a point when using correctness is simply perceived as pretentious/better-than, especially in the homelands. It all depends upon the audience, I think, which is the first thing I had to learn with high school writing prompts, if I remember correctly.

    1. L says:

      I get what you are saying about situational speech. I’ve noticed that I get more crap for ‘highfalutin’ amongst my high urban brethren than my rural Oklahoma cohorts.

      And like you mention, there are times you bend, even in the case of the double negative; which I actually use w/ some frequency.

      I, too, have fallen prey to the emoticon, but am too ignorant of IM (not having Text Msg) toploy it or decip

      1. L says:

        …*emloy it or decipher it efficiently.

        *ah, iPhone slip.

  6. patz1 says:

    A thoughtful and interesting post.

  7. Carl V. says:

    I don’t necessarily blog as I speak, and yet there is something of the way I speak in there. I think a better way to express it is that I blog the way I speak to myself in my head, or I blog from that inner dialogue I have with myself when contemplating exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

    I live with this ‘idea’ that grammar is important and whether it be helping people at work or in personal life with things they are writing or editing grants or writing my own work-related projects, I do try to employ proper grammar and often find myself changing things that either others or myself have written if I go over them carefully. In my own personal blogging I have a feeling that I violate grammatical rules on a frequent basis. I let things dangle. I end sentences with prepositions. I tend to make frequent use of the comma. I do always read over my posts to see how they sound in my head as if I were reading them aloud and I try my best to hit “publish” on something that makes me feel good when I hear it in the intended voice. But (alert your daughter) I cannot control the voice others will be hearing when they read it and that is where I assume I fall down when I violate common grammatical practices.

    I certainly don’t mind being educated about where I miss it, however, and I do try to change habits when they are pointed out.

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