Every Day Is Grammar Day

punctuationMamacita says: Every day is grammar day for people who know how to use their own language correctly.  This, of course, should be everyone who lives in any given country, and it is, for most countries.

Except ours.

The sad fact is that far too many Americans don’t know beans about how to use their own language.  This is inexcusable.  Poor language skills are also poor communication skills, and poor communication skills are responsible for more losses, heartache, and laughter at the expense of the ill-equipped person, than we’ll ever be able to count.

I’d even go so far as to say that ignorance of one’s own grammar is a handicap, except that I fully believe it’s self-inflicted – after a certain age – and self inflictions are one’s own choices and doings bad habits, which are choices, which we are personally responsible for.

I have little sympathy for an adult with no grammar skills who isn’t working like the very dickens to improve those grammar skills  I consider bad grammar to be the easy way out for people who really don’t care about clear communication or how they come across to others, including prospective employers.  I feel that unrepentant bad grammar shows blatant disrespect to our nation, our collective culture, each individual culture, and every person within earshot.

In today’s economy, it’s even more vital that people brush up their communication skills, ie grammar, because for every one highly coveted job opening, there will be several hundred applications.  This gives HR permission to be highly selective, HIGHLY selective, and if your cover letter has a misplaced comma or a misspelled word, why would you even be considered?  There are probably dozens of applications in the stack that were filled out by people more careful than you, better at communication than you, and who want the job badly enough to do a better job of presenting themselves than you did.  Having only to choose between a candidate whose cover letter earnestly vows that the applicant has “always stroved, to prefection” and one whose cover letter vows that she “is a hard worker and a quick learner,” guess who deserves to get the job, and who needs to sign up for a quickie grammar/spelling review course down at the learning center?

It ain’t rocket science; it’s a simple matter of learning how to use one’s own language.  I tell my students at least once a month – ask them; they’ll tell you – that if a business has a misspelling or grammar error anywhere on the premises on anything official, there are probably worse doings back in the kitchen.  Error in the front?  Error in the back.  Misspelling on the signs?  COUNT YOUR CHANGE.

Check out the signs at any place of business; they’re mirrors of the communication skills of the workers and owners.  “No checks excepted?”  Nice!  I’ve got a third party check from Outer Mongolia I’ve been trying to cash for ages; good to know this place is willing to take it.   “Eggs: .99¢”  Super.  But where in the world will I store all those cartons?  The tomato’s are on sale?  The tomato’s WHAT are on sale?

And don’t you hate it when you loose your dog?  Then again, that’s how many of us lose our dogs.

Social media indeed – Every single communication attempt in a place of business is social media, and sometimes it’s telling us to go elsewhere rather than risk our money and our lives in a business that cares so little about communication, ie what its employees and representatives are actually telling prospective customers or clients.

The easiest way to improve one’s grammar skills is to do the same things we did when learning how to speak in the first place:  imitate the grammar of those around us.  Sometimes this must be adapted, naturally, if those nearest to us are Jethro Bodine or Larry the Cable Guy; then again, those people are paid to speak like illiterates and in real life probably have mad grammar skillz that persuaded someone to hire them as spokesmen for Stupid Inc.

Pretending to have bad grammar for big money is one thing, but having bad grammar because one doesn’t know any better is quite another, and quite without excuse.

Students are sometimes offended when the school tries to teach them proper grammar because that’s not how anybody they know speaks.  Families are sometimes offended when their children come home from school trying to speak properly instead of speaking the same way the family speaks.

These families are. . . . well, perhaps I’ve said too much already about mentality and insecurity.  And when people try to play the culture card, I’m further convinced of their contempt for education and intense fear of questioning.  Besides, educated people often speak one way on the job or out in the world, and quite another way when they’re at home.  Knowing how to speak properly doesn’t mean abandoning a culture; it means adding another culture to the one you already have.  Who says one of them has to go?  Nobody.  Keep them both; just know when you need to use them.

Everyone’s grammar skills could use some improvement.  Let us all listen to those around us and learn to differentiate between good language usage and poor communication skills, and try to imitate the speech patterns of people who know their language.

“Enquiring” minds might want to know, but “inquiring” minds want to know the truth.  Statue Of Elvis Found On Mars,  indeed.

P.S.  “Done” is not a helping verb.  I done checked; it ain’t on th’ list.


Comments

Every Day Is Grammar Day — 2 Comments

  1. As someone from the UK I can tell you that the US is not alone in having poor grammar skills! And actually, I’m pretty sure it is true the world over to a greater or lesser extent.

    I feel that teachers themselves should take some of the blame. If you read many blogs, as I do, the standard of English can be appalling amongst educators on any rung of the ladder. Principals should be setting the standard, in my opinion, but how can they when their own standard is abysmal? (I’m assuming that the care a blogger takes in his writing is a true reflection of his ability in school – and if not, why not?)

    You make the point that when comparing a well-written application against a poorly written one that an HR bod will choose the former. In my experience many HR personnel wouldn’t know the difference.

    Many of the blogs I see are written by Americans, as are many of the tweets. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or believe that it is standard American they’re using (see – I have a problem with calling it English!) For example, I truly don’t know if Americans differentiate ‘advice’ and ‘advise’. Brits would. Brits would also differentiate Enquiry from Inquiry or, at least, before American ummm… cross-pollination, they would. Ex-Brit colonies all have their own flavours of English. (Yep, flavour is spelt correctly – and yes, that isn’t ‘spelled!’)

    If we accept that there are differences between countries then why not accept differences within our own country?

    My own standard is far from perfect but I know that any lesser standard in others hinders the flow in communicating with me. Is it a generational thing? Should we be less strict, especially with increasing globalisation and cultural mixing? I don’t know, but I continue to judge others by my own standards and I’m becoming increasingly cranky as I get older 🙂

    Clive

  2. As someone from the UK I can tell you that the US is not alone in having poor grammar skills! And actually, I’m pretty sure it is true the world over to a greater or lesser extent.

    I feel that teachers themselves should take some of the blame. If you read many blogs, as I do, the standard of English can be appalling amongst educators on any rung of the ladder. Principals should be setting the standard, in my opinion, but how can they when their own standard is abysmal? (I’m assuming that the care a blogger takes in his writing is a true reflection of his ability in school – and if not, why not?)

    You make the point that when comparing a well-written application against a poorly written one that an HR bod will choose the former. In my experience many HR personnel wouldn’t know the difference.

    Many of the blogs I see are written by Americans, as are many of the tweets. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or believe that it is standard American they’re using (see – I have a problem with calling it English!) For example, I truly don’t know if Americans differentiate ‘advice’ and ‘advise’. Brits would. Brits would also differentiate Enquiry from Inquiry or, at least, before American ummm… cross-pollination, they would. Ex-Brit colonies all have their own flavours of English. (Yep, flavour is spelt correctly – and yes, that isn’t ‘spelled!’)

    If we accept that there are differences between countries then why not accept differences within our own country?

    My own standard is far from perfect but I know that any lesser standard in others hinders the flow in communicating with me. Is it a generational thing? Should we be less strict, especially with increasing globalisation and cultural mixing? I don’t know, but I continue to judge others by my own standards and I’m becoming increasingly cranky as I get older 🙂

    Clive

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