Monday, April 21, 2014

Grammar Problems? Blame it on Social Media

By April Moore

My high school English teacher once told us how disgusted she was with a hotel for having a sign displayed using "its" when it should have been "it's." She confronted them about it.  My friend leaned over and said, "Oh. My. God. Does she, like, not have a life?" Of course, I laughed and said, "Totally," but deep down I wanted to say to Mrs. Hrdlicka, "You go, sister!"

Today, I wonder what poor Mrs. H. must think about the umpteen number of grammatical errors seen every day on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention on those Someecards, which are the worst because they get shared over and over on Pinterest and Facebook. Let me say that I’m no grammar maven, but I do know a thing or two about common mistakes. It has come to my attention that poor grammar, particularly improper punctuation, has infected the masses via social media. In turn, it has confused the heck out of folks. So I want to help.

Who vs. That:
Wrong: “And your life doesn't change by the man that’s elected.” (Sorry, Avett Brothers*, I must call you out on this one).
Right: “And your life doesn't change by the man who’s elected.”
Rule: Use who when talking about a person and use that when referring to an object.

It’s vs. Its:
I feel most people are pretty up on this one, but to be clear, it’s is the contraction of it is. Without the trusty apostrophe, it becomes a possessive pronoun. “The dictionary about lost its mind after seeing such poor grammar on the Internet.”

Your vs. You’re:
There are a few Someecard writers who have restored my faith that there are in fact, others who get it. This sums it up:

Comma before a name:
Because this one example has made its rounds, I figured I’d stick with it.
Speaking directly to Grandma: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”
A zombie grandchild speaking to his zombie family: “Let’s eat Grandma!”

You and I vs. You and Me:
Okay, this one can be confusing. First of all, I is the subject pronoun and me is the object pronoun. To remember this, say the sentence with just the pronoun: “Kerrie and [I/me] went to the Drunken Monkey.”  So which is it? “I went to the Drunken Monkey” or “Me went to The Drunken Monkey”? (Hint ... it’s the former).

Quotation Marks and Punctuation:
The last one is probably one of the biggest grammar pet peeves I’ve got. Please listen up. The period or comma goes INSIDE the quotation. For example, “My brother called me a “Cotton-headed Ninnymuggins”. is wrong, wrong, wrong! When a teacher friend on Facebook recently put the period after the quotation marks in a status update, my proper-grammar-loving-heart cried a little. The Social Media Grammar Disease has even infected teachers?! Just remember, it’s an end quote for a reason; you END with it.
Sadly, it has also spread outside of the World Wide Web to products. You thought I was bad about Twitter, Facebook and Someecards. Imagine what I did when I saw this sign for sale in a store:

Okay, folks. Now that you've learned a few things, can you tell me what’s wrong with this? I brought this sign up to the register and told the owner why this sign should either be sent back to the company or burned out back. As my husband and son walked away, pretending not to know me, I beamed, knowing Mrs. Hrdlicka would be very proud.

* The Avett Brothers hit song, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”

April Moore is the author of Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men, which is available for sale through Amazon. When not writing, April cruises the streets of Northern Colorado looking for victims of bad grammar.


Michelle Mach said...

There is a Kelly Clarkson song with a grammatical error in it that makes me want to hit my head against the steering wheel when I'm driving. :)

Anonymous said...

Yep! I feel your pain. Katy Perry has one that drives me nuts.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good post, April. I have the same problem when I'm reading a newspaper. Sometimes I wonder where the reporters buried the editor (because I can't believe the editor actually saw those goofs and didn't fix them).

The Irish Avenger said...

Oh my God. This reminds me of the most memorable grammar debacle in my adult life. I used to work at a General Motors dealership. On the east side of the building they had an enclosed show space you could drive a car into and up onto ramps. It was glassed in on the side facing the sidewalk, and on the interior wall behind the car they usually painted auto artwork or advertising slogans. One time, after parking the latest model Buick in there, they painted a slogan on the wall which said, "Wouldn't you rather drive a Buick!". The paint was hardly dry when I pointed out the error in punctuation to them. It was blank stares all around. No one had any idea what I was talking about. And they wouldn't change it. So the sign stayed up for the remainder of my tenure there, which was years. Ugh. Never forgot that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pat. Yes, I have noticed the same thing with newspapers, but even more with online news articles. I think the journalists are in such a hurry and because they can post anything at any time, actual editing gets put to the wayside.

Irish Avenger, I think that would have sent me over the edge, having to see that sign day in and day out. At least you tried.

Dean K Miller said...

So, then...what's an out-of-job, "ramshackled", editor,, that either I or you decide not to re-hire again do, whom had nothin' to do with are improved grammer and puncuation?"

All this reading's made me hungary. Lets eat Grandma!!!!!

Jerry Eckert said...

April, you passed right over one of my pet peeves, ending a sentence with a preposition.d Yes, I learned English from an English woman (American School in Paris) but she would have torn to shreds a sentence which said ". . . allows you to become that which you aspire to." Arrgghh :-( She had a cane for smacking knuckles of people who did this.

Sarah Sullivan said...

I've never even heard of a sommecard! I'm learning so much! My big pet peeve is the incorrect usage of fewer vs. less.

Shirley Drew said...

Thanks for clearing up the quotation thing, April. I'm also a grammar geek, but have often wondered about that.

Anonymous said...

You bet, Shirley. I think it's done incorrectly so often, that it confuses people, so no one knows the proper way to do it.
And thanks, Dean. Your comment made me cringe!

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