Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grammar: What's the Big Deal?

For many, the numerous and occasionally complex rules of English grammar are little more than a grade-school annoyance, a topic to be forgotten until term papers are due. Chat-speak, once limited to casual forums and hasty text messages, is now a pervasive and unavoidable method of communication seen in nearly every comments-enabled web site on the internet. Apostrophes are thrown aside, capitalization becomes optional, and the period - the workhorse of sentences in hundreds of languages - is all but forgotten.

Public opinion seems in favor of this shucking of grammar and punctuation. Really, what's the harm in it? It may save a few seconds, and as long as you can get your point across, why bother with extraneous letters and symbols? 'Grammar Nazis', once acceptable on academic forums as a means of controlling poor posting skills, have become pariahs in their own communities. A keen love of English grammar makes you a bigger geek than that weird guy in your apartment complex with all those cats and the biophysics blog.

So what's the big deal about a few inappropriate apostrophes?

On a completely self-serving level, it behooves you to use appropriate grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization, especially on such a vast and public forum like the internet. While fellow abusers of grammar may not notice or care when you replace 'you' with 'u' and attempt to pluralize 'rabbits' by dropping an apostrophe between the 't' and the 's', others most certainly will.

Misuse of grammar makes your posts look immature and uneducated, no matter what you're saying. Fellow posters on any website anywhere will be more likely to respect the insights of a twelve-year-old who properly capitalizes their words and spells out 'you' than the twenty-five-year-old grad student who can't find the shift key.

It takes just two letters to turn 'u' into 'you', but it can make a world of difference to the quality and tone of your post. Equally, following simple grammatical rules and ending sentences with periods rather than stringing them all together with overworked commas can do wonders for the legibility of your writing.

Grammar matters, whether you're a grade-school kid or an extremely professional adult. It doesn't take much to learn how to use it, and you don't need to have have an in-depth understanding of the hows and whys of English grammar. Periods end sentences; commas signify a pause; apostrophes make words possessive, not plural. These three simple, basic rules will improve the quality of everything you write, from youtube comments to term papers.

In this blog, I will highlight simple grammatical errors I find in print, on the internet, and out and about. I wish to not only bring these errors to light for the benefit of those who publish them, but to explain why these errors ought to be fixed, and why everyday people not in the business of grammar and writing should care. While I can't stop the rampant spread of bad grammar, I hope to turn at least a few souls away from the inappropriate use of apostrophes.