March 7, 2010

You'll Probably Hate Me For This

(Which is why I'm posting it on the weekend... maybe you won't even read it!)

Let me start this on a positive note.

I love my Google Reader. Every since I started my blog and subsequently discovered a world full of other blogs, I have enjoyed every moment I've spent browsing through all the new posts, seeing the lovely photos and inspiring messages, and funny stories. It's the first thing I look at when I wake up in the morning, my ten minutes to relax and wake up while I have a cup of tea and contemplate starting my day. It's where I go when I need a recipe, or a crafting idea, or a fun way to decorate my room. I love knowing that there is an army of smart, confident, creative and wonderful women (because let's face it, out of the 300+ subscriptions in my Google Reader fewer than ten are written by men) that I can turn to for inspiration and ideas.

One thing that bothers me is the occasional inattention to detail that I see. Not the detail of frosting a cupcake, or putting the ruffles on a headband, or plating a meal. Those details are all perfectly taken care of. The detail of where everything goes in the writing sense.

Snobs of any kind are pretty bad. But grammar snobs are the worst.

Unfortunately, I am one.

Although I don't relish in other people's mistakes. I'm not one of those people that smirks when I read a misspelled word or an unnecessary apostrophe. I wish I could read past simple typos and grammatical and spelling errors. I really do. But it's like nails on a chalkboard for me. They make me cringe.

Worst of all, though, my snobbery makes me a little hypocritical, because I don't always have time to proofread, and god knows I've let a few errors slip by me, unknowingly published. Although in my defense, those are usually just typos.

Well, you probably hate me enough for just mentioning the fact that I notice other people's mistakes, so I might as well talk about the ones that bug me the most, in order of how often I see them.

1. Unnecessary apostrophes. I can't even tell you the number of times I see a word that's meant to be a plural, but has that smarmy little apostrophe anyway. I know it's probably most often a typo of habit, like accidentally writing "their" instead of "there" when you know they have different meanings, and you know what those meanings are, but sometimes your touch typing skills get the best of you and momentarily take over your brain. But, there are some times when I think it's just because a lot of people are uncomfortable sticking that plural 's' on the end of a word, when it just doesn't look right. Like at the end of an acronym, or a proper noun, or a year. Sometimes, it's okay to just add on the s. Occasionally forgetting an apostrophe is a much lesser crime than sticking them everywhere you aren't sure you might need one.

2. "I wish I was." Instead of  "I wish I were." This might also be thanks to our school system. English doesn't have an extensive subjunctive tense, this is pretty much the only example of it, so the point probably wasn't dwelt on by many an elementary school grammar teacher. It's actually becoming so colloquial that some grammar books actually consider it acceptable. Call me a purist, but I don't think integrating grammatical errors into the language because of their frequency in use is an acceptable way to modify the development of language. This is a grammatical error that they regularly script into TV shows (believe me, I've noticed), and it bothers the bejesus out of me.

3. Using "So-and-so and I" in place of "So-and-so and me". This is an error even our fine president is guilty of. Our elementary schools spent so much time drilling it into our heads that we should say "so-and-so and I" instead of "me and so-and-so", that they forgot to account for the moment when 'me' was actually the correct pronoun. Sometimes you're the subject of the phrase, so 'I' is fine. But sometimes you're the object of the phrase, so regardless of whether or not you were doing it with someone else (whose name you should put first regardless), you use 'me' instead of 'I'. If you're unsure, just drop the other person's name and see how it sounds. For example, "She gave John and I a housewarming gift." Drop John. Does "She gave I a housewarming gift" sound correct? No, because it isn't. Here, "She gave John and me a housewarming gift" is the way to go.

4. Common spelling mistakes like "definately" and "seperate." In the age of computer and spell-checkers these mistakes are borderline unacceptable. It's understandable that sometimes we get into the bad habit of typing thing phonetically and it's a hard one to break. But that's was spell-check is for. There's really no excuse for publishing something that's full of red squiggly lines.

That being said, I know how infrequently I actually go through a post and fine-tooth comb it for typos and spelling mistakes. Hell, in the beginning I even designated my brother official typo catcher (he would diligently email me my mistakes, identifying them by line number). I'm not saying the people who make these mistakes can't tell the difference. Obviously there's something to be said for people who accidentally, or out of habit, add in an apostrophe, or misspell a word because they're in a rush, and don't have time to double check. But, being slightly obsessive compulsive in the weird, inconsistent way that I am (I can leave laundry lying around the my room for days but other people's grammatical errors I notice?), I just wanted to mention some of the things that irked me around the interwebs.

Don't hate me too much? :)


Sam Liu said...

I am such a grammar snob too, I don't hate you for it, not at all. I think a love for grammatical precision is, in fact, an admirable quality :D

Jules said...

Greetings from a fellow grammar snob...I'm forever noticing grammatical errors too! Although you've sprung a new one on me with Point no. 2. I honestly wasn't aware that "I wish I was" was grammatically incorrect so I guess that makes me a hypocrite too lol!

Julia said...

Well, like I said, I am a purist. Many sources are now allowing "I wish I was" into regular lexicon, thus essentially eliminating the subjunctive from English. I don't think something should be justified just by it's usage, but tell that to the people trying to put "to google" and "to friend" into dictionaries as verbs! :)

Jamie said...

I don't hate you, I LOVE you!!! I'm an editor so you can only imagine how much this stuff bothers me.

And, since you seem to enjoy using correct grammar as much as I do, then you would also probably enjoy knowing that last Thursday, March 4th, was National Grammar Day. Yay grammar!!

Cheryl said...

I hate when people say me and so-and-so. It's just so annoying, and I always want to correct them, but I don't because then they won't ever talk to me again.

Al said...

when i read the heading i thought you were about to say you were quitting the blog world.... but surprise its just grammar natzi!

i am a shocker for grammar too... but i have some awful habits that i think just look better, like not using capitals. i dont like capital letters, do i dont use them!

a friend of mine over apostrophes everything and it drives me crazy. he does it because he wants to sound uber smart but ends up sounding like a moron, or well at least looking like a moron. drives me crazy.

i blame some of my bad grammar on being in australia so some of our spelling is different to america land!

Desiree said...

As a multi-lingual person, I feel your pain. Learning Spanish and French has helped me to better understand the English language, but understanding it better means you see things that no one else does (it seems.)

I too have the occasional typo but I am known to read my ownposts aloud and if they don't flow I will go back and change them, sometimes days after they're written.

I too HATE the apostrophe-as-plural 'tool.' Really guys, sometimes adding the 's' all by itself is juuust fine. :-)

Kelly L said...

Anti-hate!! I am a huge stickler for correct usage as well and it drives all my friends crazy. I think you managed to list of some of my biggest pet peeves (apostrophes, ahhhhhh!). And while I don't proofread myself either, I at least KNOW when I've made a mistake, and like you said, it's usually a typo. NOT a real error. ;)

Classy in Philadelphia said...

Haha, I love this. I am a grammar snob sometimes, BUT, I realized you probably read my post "I wish I was a southern belle" and got annoyed. When I was writing it, I was so confused..I didn't know if it was was or were and I tried looking it up, but that's a tricky one right there!

lschro said...

You forgot about "rediculous" when it comes to unacceptable spelling errors. And can I just say when people use "than" instead of "then" it seriously makes me want to pull ALL of my hair out. And I have a lot of hair.

Lucy Paz said...

I am a grammar snob too. But who am I kidding? I just moved to U.S. 7 years ago so I can't really criticize other people's writing. However, I did learn how to spell correctly [back in my homeland] and it irritates me to no end when I see "definately" and "than" instead of "then."

instatick said...

"I don't think integrating grammatical errors into the language because of their frequency in use is an acceptable way to modify the development of language"

I think that's the way most changes to language occur. We used to use words like "doth" and "thy" and slowly shifted things and I think it's likely that, at the time, the words we use now were considered incorrect.

I think a lot of blog readers have pet peeves when it comes to grammar and punctuation. Mine is when people don't put the period at the end of sentence inside quotation marks, like this:

He said "it was loud".
instead of:
He said "it was loud."