English Grammar

13 Apr

I was a science and math major in college but I did earn 3 A’s in my required English classes for grammar, lit and composition. I am the world’s worst speller but I do understand basic grammar. My second husband was an English major and I was a help in proofreading his essays for class. I’m sure that my English teacher friends question why we are still friends after they read some of my blog posts because I don’t always do a very good job of proofreading my own writing. I’ve know for decades that when I reread my writing, I read what I meant not always what I wrote. There are also changing rules on commas and use of “the” and “that” and others. There seemed to many more of them when I was in college 50 years ago (where did the time go) than are in use today. Like using two spaces after a period, things do change over time but rules on matching tense have not changed.

I now find myself living in a part of the country where reading Facebook and even the newspaper has my grammar hairs standing on end. Such things as “XYZ and I have rode this ride since it’s inception” and “Went and seen” are more common than I expected. I know that people in the South have their own language as well as pronunciation guides (see how to talk like a Texan) but poor grammar shouldn’t be an everyday experience. My mother always insisted that people judge your education and intelligence by the words that come out of your mouth.  That was the reason actors like Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn adopted a Mid-Atlantic accent (also known as Transatlantic English) accents. Texans don’t really need to go that far but am improvement in the written word would be nice. In the mean time “all y’alls have yearns a bested day.”

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2 Responses to “English Grammar”

  1. Nancy Howard April 13, 2015 at 10:06 AM #

    Your English teacher friends love you! And you are right about the commas. Now the rule of thumb is “less is more”. Use those necessary for clarity.
    My biggest whine when I was teaching was “they” as a singular pronoun. The Wall Street Journal just ran an essay on that. Yes, Shakespeare uses it that way, the vernacular. Vernacular is the everyday speech, not the formally correct (or as my grandmother used to say, the educated) level of language usage. I tried to get my students to recognize it in their written work (which by definition must be more formal than the vernacular since it is permanent and not fleeting). My argument was that if you are writing of a single person, you know that person’s gender. And if you are speaking of a group or class of people (students do X rather than the student does X) just go plural, and you will be correct.
    The Wall Street Journal article reminded me that no, not every individual is of a specific gender. A person could be transgender, hence the need for a gender neutral singular pronoun in English. Swedish has it easier. They have “han” and “hon” as the male and female so adding “hen” as the gender neutral may actually work, for that language.
    So what is the point? Language is humankind’s most powerful tool, and like the hammer (evolving from rock on stick to over 200 specialty types) the language evolves by our needs for its use.
    I just wish all the social media folk realized they are operating in permanent written mode, and showing their level of language use at every post.
    Proofreading is a whole different issue!

    • compterteach April 13, 2015 at 10:42 AM #

      So are you saying that I do okay for a science major?

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