By Barbara McNichol
As hurried electronic messages go flying by, what gets lost? As you listen to multiple news shows, talking heads, and barking sports announcers, what gets lost? The clarity and correctness of our language, something we don’t want to lose (or is it loose?).
My antenna crackles in annoyance when incorrect language reaches it. And others notice, too.
Reading a list of 25 top grammar and language mistakes in a recent Ragan Report article got me going again. After all, I’m a baby boomer whose education made a BIG DEAL out of correct spelling and grammar for 18+ years.
In grad school, in fact, the professor returned our papers when she spotted the first mistake and marked them with Do Over! The message: “Get the language right or fail the course!”
How often are you told to “Do Over” when you write or speak inaccurately? I bet it’s rare. As a consequence, spelling and grammar have become, well, sloppy–so sloppy that folks from any generation don’t always know what’s right.
This example from the Ragan Report article ranked #19 out of the 25 top mistakes:
Using “me and somebody.” It’s common courtesy to put the other person first. Thus you should always say, “Fred and I went to the gym together.”
What’s the danger when incorrect sentence structure prevails? It’s heard so frequently, people think it is correct—and the mistake perpetuates. So I’m now on record shouting, “It’s not accurate! Do over!”
Who vs. That (and vice versa)
Another mistake that made the list at #20—using “that” instead of “who”—deserves #1 because of its impersonal connotation. Remember, “that” relates to things while “who” relates to people. Here’s the correct use: “I have a friend who did me a favor, one that I greatly appreciated.” See the distinction? In fact, “who” versus “that” is one of those pesky word pairings that can trip you up—what I call a Word Tripper.
What I’ve done is create a Word Trippers ebook, but that’s a drop in the bucket in the whole scheme of things. If incorrect language use–and its ignorance and apathy–bother you too, what can you suggest be done?
I’d love to hear your opinion on if correct grammar should be a BIG DEAL. What word trippers get under your skin?
Barbara McNichol provides expert editing of business and professional books, working with authors, agents, publicists, publishers, designers, and book consultants. Barbara created Word Trippers, an e-book guide that’s the ultimate source for choosing the perfect word when it really matters. You’ll find 350+ Word Trippers as a new Kindle e-book on Amazon. Full details at www.WordTrippers.com or head straight to www.amazon.com