Grammar Countsby Art Jacobson on Aug. 01, 2009, under Arts and Entertainment, Tucson Politics, Uncategorized
I once knew a man for whom grammatically correct speech was so important that he would claim not to understand you if you spoke to him in a way that violated even the nicest grammatical rule.
I was once arguing with him about Iraq and said, “I’m sorry, but I think we should have many less troops there.” He screwed up his face in puzzlement and claimed not to have the faintest idea what I meant. He often did this. I often wanted to punch him out.
He was having at me for using “less” when I should have used “fewer.” You know, as in “Fewer donuts, less weight.” or “Less stagnant water means fewer mosquitos.”
Rules of acceptable use change. I don’t think we are any longer tempted to the barricades by split infinitives; and spoken speech is a lot more forgiving than the written word. Contractions help us. Is “I’ll” a contraction of “I shall” or “I will”? The nit-picker will never know, and will figure we got it right.
Where blog writing is concerned I think we are well-advised to remember that we are working in an “editor-free” zone. Write “there” when you meant “they’re” and your reader will be stopped dead in his tracks thinking, “Who edits this chit?” Well, no one, and now your wonderfully constructed post is beginning to circle to the ground in flames.
Let me leave you with a pair of solecisms (that means mistakes in the use of language; a breach of syntax or grammar) that are particularly distracting.
The first is the misuse of reflexive pronouns. Write, “They brought the food to John and myself,” and your reader’s thought shudders to a halt. No, please: “They brought the food to John and me.”
If you are Apple’s advertising firm you can get away with with “Think Different.” But on balance it’s probably wise not to use an adjective to modify a verb.
NB: In case you need refreshing on the esoterica of English grammar you might want to read: “The Transitive Vampire—A handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed.” It’s written by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and published by Times Books. It’s delightful,