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National Grammar Day 2011 | Kestrel's Aerie

National Grammar Day 2011 | Kestrel's Aerie

National Grammar Day 2011

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That’s right: National Grammar Day is back! This year marks the fourth annual celebration of writing right, and is hosted by New York Times bestselling author Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. From the website,

Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!

For my part in observing the day, I considered all kinds of lists to present to you to help you maintain good grammar, or improve it if you have trouble in certain areas. But I’ve already linked you to Ms Fogarty’s site, and I strongly recommend her to you.

I would also encourage you to check out John E. McIntyre’s blog at the Baltimore Sun, “You Don’t Say.” (In addition to insightful articles decrying the AP Stylebook and misguided prescriptivism, Mr. McIntyre has instructional videos on how to tie a bow tie and make a proper martini.)1

So instead I would like to present a few general maxims with regard to grammar, and perhaps help demolish a few myths along the way.

  • There’s nothing wrong with ending a sentence in a preposition. Anyone who proclaims otherwise doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
  • Unless you’ve been asked, or unless you’re being paid to do so, publicly correcting someone else’s grammar is rude, at best.
  • Hopefully, you already know this use of “hopefully” is perfectly okay in any context.
  • The old Star Trek opening—”…to boldly go…”—is, in fact, grammatically correct. Splitting infinitives is proscribed in Latin, but not in English.
  • There is a correct way to use whom; chances are, like me, you don’t know the rule cold. Instead, use who and you’ll be correct almost all of the time.2 (Actually, I do know the rule; I just don’t always practice it when speaking.)
  • My one prescriptivism: one space after a period or colon. It doesn’t matter if you were taught to type two spaces: Things change, and that’s one of the things that has changed since we stopped using typewriters. Two spaces are wrong. That said, I won’t hate you if you type two spaces. I won’t even get heartburn. But I will edit out the second space. And not with “track changes” on, either!

But this isn’t all about my hangups: Are there any so-called “rules” that the uninformed cling to, which drive you nuts? Share ‘em in the comments!

 

  1. Mr. McIntyre’s Blogroll is an excellent starting point for reading even more enlightening essays on grammar and language. Enjoy!
  2. You could also check out Grammar Girl’s quick and dirty tip on the subject.
 

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8 Responses to National Grammar Day 2011
  1. Marianne
    March 4, 2011 | 07:42

    Not a rule that the uninformed cling to that drives me nuts — in this case, I’m the uninformed. Or at least, informed but habituated. I *cannot* seem to break myself of period-double-space. I remind myself, go back and find/replace it, then get back on autopilot and do it some more. :(

    • Kestrel
      March 4, 2011 | 08:58

      I wonder: Were you taught to type on a computer, or a typewriter? The double-space comes from the days of monospaced typewriter fonts: It was never used in typography (e.g., newspapers, magazines, books)—starting with Gutenberg!

      Now that we have proportional (and even kerned) fonts, the separation between sentences that the double-space gives us in monotype, is no longer necessary. Yet, when the transition from typewriters to computers was made, so many teachers had it ingrained in them, that they continued to pass it on to their students.

      If you use Word, did you know you can tell it to autocorrect a double-space to a single space? :)

      • Marianne
        March 4, 2011 | 09:11

        Computer. My dad was a geek, so we had a computer in the house about as early as I can remember. Mom also insisted my first elective in 7th grade (where I moved away from single-teacher to multiple-teacher-changing-classes in Jr High) was keyboarding– you know, how to type. ;) Or, rather, mom insisted I take the Oregon Trail class, since I’d been doing Kids on Keys typing games almost as long as we had a computer.

        And I rarely use word. Most of my stuff is internet, so it’s blog posts in the new post editor of WordPress, comments in the comment editor, or google docs for everything else. I’ve got multiple computers, and stuff like character write-ups are handy to have online when I’m needing to check something from a friends’ house and only have my phone handy. ;)
        Marianne recently posted More on MMOsMy Profile

  2. Rhoelyn
    March 4, 2011 | 10:23

    “There’s nothing wrong with ending a sentence in a preposition. Anyone who proclaims otherwise doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    This is one I come back to, time and again. Not only because I know someone, somewhere in my youth, DID pound on it, but because I cannot for the life of me remember who or why or what justification remains. (Clearly, you know of none.)

    So why isn’t “These are the ideals that he clings to” worse than “These are the ideals to which he clings”, again?
    Rhoelyn recently posted Roles to Play- 140 Characters ControlMy Profile

    • Kestrel
      March 4, 2011 | 10:36

      “These are the ideals that he clings to” isn’t wrong, and isn’t necessarily worse than “These are the ideals to which he clings.” However, the second form sounds a bit more poetic, which isn’t a bad thing. In this case, I’d go with the second form, but depending on context, the first might be preferred.

      Keep in mind that just because you can end a sentence with a preposition, doesn’t mean that writing the sentence differently won’t improve it.

      As an example, look at my second sentence in that bullet:
      “Anyone who proclaims otherwise doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” To rewrite that and move the preposition elsewhere would result in something like this:
      “Anyone who proclaims otherwise, doesn’t know about what he is talking.” Anyone who believes that sounds better, is no doubt drunk on Strunk & White.

      (We could also get into a whole new discussion of how “to talk about” is a verb form, synonymous with “to say,” but that’s well beyond the scope of this article, and of my linguistics expertise.)

  3. elleseven
    March 4, 2011 | 12:02

    I am the hopelessly uninformed. But I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate your tips.

    • Kestrel
      March 4, 2011 | 12:32

      Hopefully, you’re not as hopelessly uninformed now! :) Thanks for reading (and commenting!).

  4. Wulfa
    March 6, 2011 | 06:42

    One of my professors recently ripped apart my papers grammatically. I usually don’t pay attention to grammar; the rules my mother pounded into me in high school (I was home schooled) have not been forgotten and every other professor has been happy with my grammatical choices. Oh well.

    Both of the websites look fun, and I look forward to improving my grammar and hopefully to avoiding any more red marks and slashes on my papers.
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