The recently published Inc. article “17 Grammar Mistakes You Really Need to Stop Correcting, Like Now” by Bill Murphy Jr. has me all up in arms. In his article, Mr. Murphy gives a list of common grammar mistakes and asked that the world come together to end the “overly pedantic correcting.”
I’ve never met Bill. From his Twitter profile picture, he seems like an intelligent guy with great hair. But I believe grammar mistakes should be fixed, especially if the only reason they’re not being corrected is that “no one cares.”
Yes, I have more important things to do than correct people’s grammar, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t – especially when what they’re saying is confusing or contradictory to what they are trying to say.
(Side rant: Are you kidding me? I shouldn’t ask for clarification when you use a double negative and end up saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you’re trying to say? Sorry if you find it irritating that I’m asking if that’s really what you mean; I find it irritating that you’re contradicting yourself. And the entire argument for interchanging “i.e.” and “e.g.” is ridiculous. How about instead of saying, “Well, only 0.1% of people understand it, so it doesn’t really matter,” you should think, “Hey, I don’t understand what ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ stand for, so MAYBE I SHOULDN’T USE EITHER OF THEM.”)
Listen, I’m far from perfect. I make a lot of common grammar mistakes. That’s why you have people double-check your work; that’s why you read, reread and edit furiously and with explicit intent.
Maybe others don’t find incorrect grammar as vexing as I do. Maybe they don’t care that they are saying things incorrectly. But maybe we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to an error because others are inconvenienced. Frankly, the only difference I see between calling out when someone says “USSR” instead of “Russia” and calling out a grammar mistake is that the latter is a much more frequent occurrence, which seems all the more reason to correct it.
Your words matter. What you say and how you say it has impact. Take, for instance, one of Bill Murphy’s examples of improper grammar that should be shrugged off: Apple’s ad campaign featuring “Think different.” The article says, “Grammatically, it’s flat-out wrong to skip the -ly in an adverb – but the truth is, nobody cares.”
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I saw the breaking of the grammar rule to be a strategic, purposeful marketing ploy. Apple broke the rules; they’re “thinking differently.” The company is actively showing us how they embody innovation by ignoring convention. They are fulfilling every writer’s goal: to show and not tell. I appreciate their message. I applaud their conscious decisions and the thought they put into their advertising. I believe the highly intelligent people at Apple didn’t get together and say, “I just don’t like how ‘think differently’ sounds… let’s make it ‘think different.’”
When you take away the grammar rules, you take away the thoughtfulness behind language and dumb it down to personal preferences and best guesses. As someone who labors over her words, I find that a little offensive.
Let’s be clear: It’s not the common grammar mistakes that “you really need to stop correcting, like now.” It’s the obnoxious and self-righteous nit picking of people. I have my own list of ways to correct grammar and not be known as a “hyper-corrective jerk”:
- Never use grammar as a way to belittle others.
- Don’t interrupt others while they’re speaking to correct them.
- Speak to others kindly and with respect.
That’s a lot less than 17.
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