On Grammar and Spelling

"To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as "Thank God its Friday" (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive "it's" (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler." -Lynne Truss
Imagine the scene: You, peacefully, not harming a fly, on your computer browsing Facebook. In a stroke of genius, you write out a status update and post it to your wall. As you browse Facebook, a notification arrives. Somebody has commented on your post! Finding their comment, you see one word. "*You're." How do you feel? Many people, in such a situation, would be annoyed at their friend, the so-called Grammar Nazi, who would pay such close attention to trivial matters. After all, they've overlooked the entire point of your post! Or have they? While I do believe that a certain amount of tact is required in correcting someone's grammar, there are a few issues to consider. I believe that proper grammar and spelling not only makes communication easier, but also that a lack of it is a sign of disrespect to those with whom you would communicate.

The difference between your and you're is minute, right? Aren't the differences between there, they're, and their irrelevant? Isn't an apostrophe merely a formality? Well, while the English language certainly isn't perfect, there are a few helpful rules that make it easier for us. For example, "your" is possessive, while "you're" is a combination of the words "you are." Some may say that the words sound the same, and therefore it doesn't matter how they're spelled. But I would beg to differ. Knowing the difference allows for ease of reading within a sentence, and also allows for you to get more out of the language. For example, I sometimes type that I couldn't've done something or other. This isn't a common contraction, so the spell checker doesn't recognize it, but the purpose of an apostrophe (in this case) is to replace certain unused letters. Couldn't've would mean "could not have." But it's shorter to type, and more accurately conveys the voice that I would use if I were speaking.

Some of you may not yet be convinced. But there's another reason that it's important; it's important for the sake of those around you. It may be easier for you to type "u" than "you," but only by two letters. When you speak, you have an obligation, out of respect for those listening, to use proper grammar. Similarly, when you type, it is expected that you will at least attempt to make your writing clear. Especially since you have time to look over your writing and make sure that it's clear. Is it annoying to have someone correct your grammar over Facebook? Probably. But was it annoying to them to have to read your grammatical error? Certainly. Could you have avoided all of this by using proper grammar in the first place? Yes. Some people don't care about grammar, and some people do. But nobody will respect you more for using improper grammar. They either won't care, or they'll respect you less.

It is common for people to hate on those who correct improper grammar. For this reason, many grammar pages use the phrase, "I'm silently correcting your grammar in my head," or something similar. Because they've seen that you don't care about learning proper grammar, or because they receive such hatred for their actions, many people have stopped speaking about it. But just because they don't say anything about your terrible grammar doesn't mean that they don't think anything about it either. Maybe they should find another way to go about it, maybe they shouldn't. That's another topic for another time, one that's quite hotly debated among those who do care about grammar. But regardless of their choice, it is still your obligation to do your best when it comes to grammar. And if they do choose to correct you, you can't really get annoyed, since you annoyed them just as much. It's also possible, and even likely, that they're trying to help you learn proper grammar, so you can avoid them embarrassment in the future.
"When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow. In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard." -Russell Baker

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