Archive for September, 2014

What Language Am I Reading?

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Is it just me, or is there an epidemic of writers who consistently slaughter the English language?  Whether it’s an online post, a newspaper or magazine article, or a website feed; I find it irritating that errors in published form dominate almost all of the English literary media.

While there are many such abuses, the most common is the incorrect use of commas.  Commas are used (1) to separate words in a list; (2) to join compound sentences; and (3) after introductory phrases.  Most grammar reference guides agree that it is not necessary to add a comma after the last item in a list, unless the list contains more than three items.  For example, “lions, tigers and bears” does not need a comma after the word “and”; as opposed to “bread, milk, jam, and honey,” which does.  Strangely, many writers cannot seem to get this right.

With compound sentences, each sentence can stand on its own as a separate and complete sentence.  When this is found, a comma must be used to divide the sentences.  The same rule applies when using introductory phrases, such as “after, although, however, indeed, unless, before, but, and, yet, so, etc.”  Otherwise, the passage becomes a run-on sentence.  A good rule of thumb is, “If you pause when you said the sentence, a comma goes where you paused.”   Weren’t these rules learned in Basic English courses in grammar school?

My hair has been receding for many years now.  And, yet, if I had hair on the top of my head, I believe I would pull it out every time I see the misuse of  “there” vs. “their.”  There can be either an adverb, adjective or pronoun, depending on how it is used. It always refers to distance, geography or space.  An example is, “I plan to go there tomorrow.”  The word their is a plural possessive pronoun, and is used when multiple subjects possess something.  For, example, it is right to say, “Their children attend the same school as my children do.”  Somebody, please tell me why writers continue to commit this grammatical faux pas!

I’m getting stressed just writing about this topic, so I will mention one more English grammar error before I go comb my thinning hair.  Perhaps the most abused category of errors center around Possessive Pronouns and Contractions.   Particularly prevalent is the misuse of your vs. you’re.  The word your is another of the possessive pronouns, as in “your cat” or “your daughter.”  You’re is a contraction that means “you are,” as in “you’re annoying me by misusing your when you mean you are.”   

It is bizarre that the English language is so consistently and brutally butchered.  Writers, give a guy a break.  Please stop making these mistakes!  It reflects on you as a person.  Do you really want to be known as a person who can’t communicate in an articulate manner?  I am a writer who loves to read and I want to keep doing both.  Help me to preserve what little hair I have left. Please write well, or take an English course.