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February 09, 2019

Comments

I agree. Unfortunately, this seems to be getting more and more common. I see/hear a lot of "between you and I" even from well educated people like Bill and Hillary Clinton, for Pete's sake. Seems like having a compound subject/object is just too confusing. We're going to hell in a handbasket.

Sue in Seattle

I suppose we could get into the whole prescriptive vs descriptive grammar debate and the evolution of grammar. But it is hard to justify crap from any point of view. Clarity is all I ask grammatically. On the other hand my main critique of what passes for modern journalism is that the journalists don’t know shit from Shinola which leads inevitably to both siderism since they lack the insight to discern bullshit from fact. I think it would be helpful if, before they embarked on a career in journalism, journalists were required to know something about the subject they proposed to cover.

There was much fun on Twitter proposing alternatives to billionaires as a descriptive term. My own modest proposal: Gray Poop Ons.

I could care less ;-p

Well said, Peter. Clarity takes precedence. Most important, it seems to me, is what a person is conveying in terms of substance. And an uneducated person's ideas should never be discounted because of substandard grammar usage.

Also, language evolves and what was once "wrong" becomes, at some point in time, standard usage. I don't have a ready example but I bet some of you here do.

And I love Gray Poop Ons. Hilarious.

I must correct myself. I should have said not "substandard grammar" but rather "nonstandard grammar." Less offensive, more politically correct, more fair, less arrogant.

L. Reeves you're so right but so is PM, I think. If someone writes something that is clear and comprehensible it seems mealy mouthed to pick them up about a grammatical error which doesn't in any way change the sense of what is written. Also, it can appear to be very pedantic and also a means to assert your superior intellect and learning over the person who is less well versed in grammatical rules. Obviously, grammar informs the sense of what is written which without the comma in the right place can mean something different to what the writer intended at which point the onus is on the reader to work out what was actually meant...usually but not always possible. In legal settings a misplaced comma can cost dearly. Journalists and those who make a living from writing should be held to a high standard. Those who teach language likewise. As someone e who makes loads of grammatical errors because I have no idea of the really nuanced stuff and also have a huge problem with the particulars of the appropriate tense to use, I like to think that the obscurity of the rules is a let off. The problem for people brought up with the pen rather than the keyboard is the tendency for typos to happen . I write with a pen more grammatically than I write with a keyboard because it's automatic to start a sentence with a capital letter and my eyes don't have to discern a full stop from a comma or a colon.

I think that sometimes on a blog like this where the writer is meticulous it's difficult for a person to pluck up the courage to say anything if the response is ridicule of the spelling, grammar or punctuation. Deal with the issues and don't mock. People who haven't had much education still have a lot to say and much of it is right.

Some very problematic rules have changed over the years to accommodate the ignorance of the many. The correct usage of the apostrophe is a bugbear for many but apart from the strangeness of the convention regarding words ending in S it isn't difficult. The rules should not be changed to facilitate the ignorant but neither should anyone's opinion be discounted because they don't know the rules.

L Reeves, if you weren't here today I wouldn't have had the courage. So thanks. Also to the ever gracious host who always smooths things over and is right nearly all the time.

Just so I don't come across here as a language Nazi (although I guess I have a bit of that in me), I was writing about grammar in professional journalism, not street English.

Thanks, Mary. And PM. I agree completely. And good to hear from you, Mary.

And since our host again asked that commenters refrain from personal insults to other commenters, we are likely not going to see attacks here on someone's grammar. I'm glad about that! It always seemed unnecessary and below the belt.

Thanks from me too, Mary. I was brought up with neither pen nor keyboard but hammer and wrench. I once had a brief but poignant exchange with a brain surgeon. We chatted as the anesthesia was being administered and I expressed my admiration for his obvious intelligence. I wished him luck wrenching on my brain. His reply was "Well, we use a different lexicon than wrenching but you can relax, I'm pretty handy with a scalpel. Thank you for the compliment but this is my world. I wouldn't survive a day in yours."

So it's intimidating to speak up in a conversation among erudite people but I'm reminded by my "mechanic" that we're all bad at most things in life but hopefully good at at least one. I wonder if he knew where to put commas.

Mr. Carpenter, thanks to you too. I knew right away you were directing your ire at professional journalists, not us civilians. (It's "us", not "we", right?)

I seen what you did there.

And let’s not even get started on the use of “its” and “it’s.”

Thanks, ren, for chiming in on this with your personal thoughts and experience. And, ha! I wouldn't have even thought to ask if it should be "us" or "we" in that sentence you wrote, which shows you're ahead of many of us, or at least ahead of me!

Happy writing, no matter the grammar. :)

Amen on not discounting the substance even if the grammar usage needs improvement. And this is hilarious.

This seems to have stopped lately, but the "This is real important" always drove me crazy. As opposed to pretend important?

Can we also be done with "incredibly" anything. Or "amazing" anything?

Bad grammar in the work of serious writers can reduce or even destroy their credibility. For a reader may legitimately wonder whether it is safe to trust writers' due diligence and attention to detail in investigating and presenting often complex and difficult matter, interest in which is the reason they have readers, when it is plain that they are careless about stuff usually learned in grade school, such as the correct use of personal pronouns.

Would we expect good work from a carpenter who doesn’t know how to use a saw? Journalism is also a craft with its own set of tools.

Very good points, tamiasmin. And this "Carpenter" doesn't disappoint or damage his own credibility. Speaking of our host, of course. :)

Have they no copy editors at Mediaite.com? Maybe not - lots have been downsized over the years. The thing about the example that PM gave is that it is so easy to check. Would the author have written "for protecting he?" No, he would not - he would have said "for protecting him," or better yet "himself." BTW, putting quotes outside the punctuation is a rule I hate, but abide by.

The thing is, I realize the fight has been lost on "lay/lie" (again, easy rule, lay requires an object, so no, you were not laying on the floor, you were lying on the floor or laying something on the floor). "Between you and I" is said so much by news anchors and politicians that it's become common usage, but it still grates to my ear.

I agree with PM, especially with professional journalists in written work, the standards should be higher.

Sue in Seattle

I confess to becoming much more relaxed about proofreading my own work. I just find it difficult to care as much as I used to do. Sometimes when autocorrect does its magic the results are serendipitously funny anyway.

Why not?

Oh hell, Mediaite is Shakespeare next to some other sites.

Take a stroll over to Raw Story some day, where they are still trying to puzzle out the whole noun/verb thing, sentences stop in mid air, and the simple requirement to say where a story takes place is deemed superfluous.

rem, I had you down as a good writer so it's obviously natural talent. I hope your school is thriving.

As everyone (or is it everybody?) knows the way language is used is changing and the prevailing attitude seems to be more forgiving of variation from the proper traditional right way to do express yourself. Dialect and eccentric presentation can be entertaining and the underlying intelligence of unconventional writing is often compelling.

As a teen my ongoing confusion between there and their caused my mother to become frustrated. My excuse was that I used intuition to decide which word was appropriate in the context. She told me that if that was my best strategy I should use my intuition to decide which one was right and then write down the other one. Harsh.

Since everyone here (everybody) is giving their own examples could some clever reader please explain to me how it is suddenly okay to write: "He/she was sat". This line appears all over the British press even the so-called quality newspapers. I notice it all the time and it always looks wrong. Surely it should be "He was sitting....."?

Btw, it's good to see you back Max. You're one of PM's major contributors and I'm sure PM wouldn't like to lose a loyal follower. We can simply ignore each other.

I'm reminded of the refrain to one of Tom Lehrer's songs:
For her loves I, and me loves she,
And raptured are the both of we.
For me loves she, and her loves I,
And will through all e-terrrrrrr-ni-TIE.

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Your host, P.M. Carpenter (photo credit: L. Reeves)

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