I’m not a Grammar Nazi. Nor am I on the Spelling S.W.A.T. team. And I am most especially not the Punctuation Police. I wouldn’t have any moral high ground to stand on if I was any of those. Which you already know if you’ve read my posts. Or even this paragraph.
In school, some things came easily to me. Grammar and usage were things I picked up from my voracious reading and from watching Grammar Rock between Saturday morning cartoons. Learning grammar in school merely annoyed me: why did I need to diagram sentences and learn about past subjunctive and conjugation? Never saw the point, since I understood what I needed to know by merely reading well-written prose. It was obvious to me how all the bits fit together to make sentences. Common sense. And once I discovered the wonder that is The Thesaurus, I was good to go.
And another thing: I never saw the point of the Weekly Spelling Lessons, either, because I assumed everyone should be able to just naturally spell things with ease, with nary a thought, like me. But during the last couple years my internal Spell Check System seems to have gone offline, and since I turned 50 last month, it’s probably out of warranty, too.
Now, I find myself misspelling words that I never even had to think about before. Last week, when my husband asked me for a correct spelling on a word — which he’s done for ages, by the way — now I actually have to stop and think about it. And I got one horribly wrong until I stared at it and really thought. Then I still wasn’t sure and I had to (gasp!) look it up. It’s rather frustrating.
I’ve been known to gleefully split infinitives with great abandon. Also, I’ve done my share of LOLcat speak, both on the internet and in Away From Keyboard Life, mostly with my two now-grown children, who were taught Proper Grammar and even use it when truly necessary. I’ve even been known to use some abbreviations when texting or tweeting. I can even read 1337 (leet) if I really want to know what those whippersnappers are trying to say without their elders knowing, and respond in kind if I want to keep them on their toes. So, my point hers is that I am not a stickler for You Must Always Use Proper Grammar When You Write Anything Always And Forever Amen.
I am a forgiving reader, really, and especially if I’m reading a blog with content that interests me, or a fanfic in which the storytelling style is compelling. I’ll look past the grammar and spelling if the author has me on the edge of my seat in the narrative.
What really drives me up the wall and makes my brain scream NOOOOOOO!!! is when someone just plain uses the wrong word or phrase, especially if it changes what they mean to say into something completely different. Sometimes, you can ascertain what they really meant, but not always. It’s confusing. And if they do it consistently, I may complain, out loud and to whoever is unfortunate enough to be within earshot. And I’ll usually stop reading — unless the overall story is really knock-my-socks-off amazing.
My inspiration to finally write about this came from a recipe I just read on a food blog.
What the food blogger meant:
“baker’s ammonia – if you can’t find it you can substitute baking powder” or “replace it with” or “use baking powder instead”
If the writer was really in love with the phrase “substitute for” then the correct way to inform a reader who can’t locate baker’s ammonia would have been “you can use baking powder as a substitute for baker’s ammonia.”
No, it’s not a huge thing, and it was the only such error I found, so I am not going to link to the post to pick on the person.
In my mostly unpaid, non-professional, but at least semi-qualified opinion, an even more egregious error is when a writer gets an idiom or a cliché just not quite right.
Sometimes, it’s because the person did not grow up in the language, but that’s not usually the case in the places I’m seeing these errors. It seems to me that it’s done by folks who grew up either hearing people saying it wrong or mishearing what others were saying. Or hearing it said, but remembering it wrong when they went to use it themselves. Close, but no foul-smelling rolled tobacco tube.
Primarily these faux pas occur on what I’d have to consider non-professional websites, but more and more frequently, I’m finding appalling errors in online news stories, which is truly inexcusable for paid, professional writers.
These mistakes were rankling me so much that felt like I HAD to do something about it. But seriously, folks, it’s my own mental issue, so I just started collecting them, not even planning to do anything with the things. Then I remembered I have a blog and perhaps could use that to find some commiseration from kindred souls.
And so, here is what I’ve collected since the beginning of November:
all of the sudden when they obviously mean all of a sudden
End of for end up
Swilled for swirled
Summarily but the usage shows they clearly meant similarly
Could of instead of could have — this one is unbelievably common
Commander and chief but in context they could only mean commander-in-chief
Fine for find
Underlining for underlying
For all intensive purposes instead of for all intents and purposes — this is my favorite
Perspective for prospective
Constant for consummate — the adjective usage of “consummate” meaning complete or perfect in all detail. This was mis-used several times in the piece I was reading, and it took me a while to realize the writer really meant “consummate.”
Relies for realize
Disregard instead of discard
One writer wanted the characters to discuss things in a rational matter instead of manner
Conductive for conducive – granted, this could be just a typo.
Thank you for sharing in my catharsis, because this was pretty much just a purging of pent-up feelings on the subject.
And catharsis does sound much more polite than word vomit.