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Does Grammar Still Count?

Does Grammar Still Count?
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BY MARY JANE HORTON

When Beth Portolese, the publisher of Fifty is the New Fifty, asked if I want to write about whether or not grammar is important in these days of email, texting, and social media, I jumped at the chance. As a writer and editor, bad grammar has been a pet peeve of mine for my entire adult life. (Ask my children). It is almost a disease. I have one friend who can’t – for the life of her – get you’re and your right. And, even if it’s on Facebook, it is all I can do not to correct her.

So, here’s the thing – it isn’t always important to write in full sentences with proper punctuation but you should fit what you do to your vehicle. For instance, email is a more formal way of communicating (as compared to texting), so start with full sentences and proper grammar (and, yes, you can even use spell check in emails), and then go from there. If the person you are emailing writes back in all lower case with no punctuation, then it’s fine to follow in kind. But still make sure that you are using proper grammar for such things as your and you’re. It just makes a person look bad if they don’t know the basics. You know the basics, just don’t get lazy.

Texting is another story. You will look really silly – not to mention OLD – if you text in full sentences with punctuation (unless it is a business text, and then – again – I would start out that way). Grammar (sorry, back to your and you’re) is still important, but you can avail yourself of short cuts such as ok and “u” for you, and lower case writing.

I think the advice that Andrew Hindes, a public relations and marketing executive gave on PRnewswire for journalists is applicable to anyone. He said that you should have proper grammar for these six reasons:

  • Credibility
  • Professionalism
  • Respect
  • Clarity
  • Convenience
  • Posterity

Most importantly, no matter what you are writing, bad grammar makes you look bad. Can I go so far as to say uneducated? I became reacquainted with some people from my high school after a reunion a few years ago and we became friends on Facebook. Many of their postings are truly illiterate and I can’t help judging. I tell myself its only FB, but it is still the person they present to the world, and if you can’t communicate precisely, you aren’t presenting your best.

Brush Up on Your Skills

If you think that maybe you have sunk into a morass of bad grammar, read a book, polish your writing skills. It could never hurt and it might be fun. Here are some good books that will fit the bill.

Elements of Style (Longman, 1999), Strunk and White I used to torture my children by making them read this slim volume – the best selling grammar book ever – every few years. Everyone should read it every few years. It is a bible of sort for writers and has an uncanny way of addressing every usage or grammar problem you may come up against in only 105 pages.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Avery, 2006), Lynne Truss  If you have ever misconstrued an email or let a text message get to you, it may have originated with your original communication — it could be your punctuation. This book shows you why and how we use punctuation to properly translate the written language. Without these simple rules, we can find ourselves missing the message the author intended, or misrepresenting ourselves to our friends and colleagues

William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (Harper Perennial, 2006) This is a go-to tradition for writers that has l been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a go-to book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day. The book offers fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher.

 

 

 

 

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