September 18, 2012

On What Happened to Grammar and Punctuation.

It’s really a question: what happened to proper grammar and punctuation?

Without getting into details, I am a freelance grammar editor and a master’s student in writing. Add in my obsessive love of reading and my own writing, and I see a lot of the written word. Unfortunately (for me, at least), I then also see a lot of poor fundamentals.

I know this probably bothers me more than a majority of people; I’m well aware I’m a grammar Nazi, but it is a title I hold proud rather than admonish. I’m also cognizant of the fact that I am one of a subset who loves to not just use, but utilize grammar to its fullest extent. “That” versus “who” is one of the most common mistakes I’ve ever seen, and it wounds me every time. “Its” versus “it’s” is another repeat offender. You may think of them as small things, but they change the entire meaning. Furthermore, when done properly, a comma here or a semi-colon there can do a great deal to turn a phase; it is language’s only way of emphasis, and should be used with that knowledge.

I cannot quite seem to grasp why people cannot write with proper grammar and punctuation. (Let me be clear, I’m not talking about personal diary entires, I’m talking about people who want to publish or submit their work: blogs, literary magazines, novels, even works submitted for a grade in class.) I know we all learned this in school. Aside from the lessons, I distinctly remember watching Schoolhouse Rock in class all through my grade school years. Even in my Honors English class in high school, where, by the age of seventeen, I had so wrongly assumed that my peers should know this by now, we went through a nine-week lesson plan on proper grammar and punctuation. Nine weeks out of an honors English class devoted to lessons I had learned, and still clearly remembered, in second, third, fourth, fifth grade. My goodness, we even devoted a class period to grammar in freshman English in college. I have had this pounded into my brain.

Yes, I can hear some of you now: but what about the children who struggle, or drop out of school, or have a learning block or disability? Shouldn’t they still attempt to have their voice heard? Shouldn’t they be lauded for their efforts?

Well, my answer is “absolutely,” but with a strong caviat. If they have a story, or a theory, they would like to pass on to the world at large, if they are so passionate about this information they’d like to share, wouldn’t they respect their thoughts enough to proof them first?

Whether it’s a teacher, parent, family member, friend, just having others read through your work, even if those closest to you are not necessarily “Grammar Nazis,” really does make a difference. When you’re the writer of a piece of work, you often miss things that others will easily catch, just because you have become so entrenched in your words that, when you read your work over, it’s more like you’re reading from your mind rather than the page.

Moreover, read it over yourself. I’m not kidding when I say that I have edited books, and read peer manuscripts for class, where it is obvious there was no “once-over” before submission, and the second half of the sentence was just missing. That is not due to schooling; that is carelesseness.

I’m the first to admit that I make these errors all the time, whether it’s with my writing for class or publication, on blog posts, and even on my Etsy items’ descriptions. Sometimes, I’m staring at the words for so long that I miss obvious things: closet vs. closest (one very important letter there), of vs. on vs. or (so many times, my fingers roll too fast for the keyboard and bounce over the wrong letter), or even to vs. two vs. too. Also, PS, spellchecker is awesome and a standard on any word processor, even free ones such as (which I’d highly recommend if you don’t want to dish out the cash for Microsoft Word, but that’s another story). The point is, value your thoughts enough to have them considered seriously and presented professionally.

I know many people would like to answer that poor grammar and lack of punctuation is the result of the internet, globalization, fast-paced email responses, and quick texting shortcuts which have invaded our higher level of writing. I’m not disputing the possibility that this may be a factor, but I also believe that’s the easy blame to this issue. I don’t know what’s really wrong, but I think it has a lot to do with just not caring, and that scares me.

Although this may simply seem like a rant, there is a clear purpose to these words: I am telling you that you will be taken at your words’ face value. Written word is not only a grand unifier, but also a platform from which to be appraised. You will be judged by what you write, and it will have an effect on how others view you. If you cannot write properly, but writing is your first form of communication with someone new (now a common situation with the prevalence of email), do you think you will be highly regarded? Do you think your ideas will be taken seriously?



  1. Amen! I don’t even like spelling/grammar emails when I text. And it is a complete turn-off when I see a spelling or grammar error when I’m searching profiles on the online dating forums. I will even type out the word in MS to see if it is correct if I’m having issues looking at it. Grammar Nazis unite!

    Comment by Jen Anderson — September 18, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  2. You put in words what I think all the time on how good grammar and writing has gone down the tubes!! I agree with everything you said. 🙂

    Comment by Colleen — September 18, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

  3. Thank you for your post. I am one of those who have let grammar go out the window. I am however making it a priority to re-learn grammar and punctuation. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Comment by danajoward — September 18, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  4. Well said! I cringe when I see misused words.

    Comment by Pops De Milk — September 20, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    • Me too–it only really takes one or two to discredit an entire argument!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 20, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  5. I agree. I suppose spelling and grammar is learnt through reading and people are reading a lot of text filled with errors! 🙂

    Comment by Abigail @ Rosy Hill — September 25, 2012 @ 7:03 am

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