Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar, Oh My!

I know that I tend to be somewhat tetchy about a lot of things, but the standard of English these days really annoys me. I have severe doubts about the state of modern education.
When I was at school, we did worksheets that were all about using the right version of words and using punctuation correctly. Apparently, these aren't used any more. The emphasis is now on trying to get children to write at all, without putting them off with technicalities like spelling. Don't get me wrong, I think that encouraging creative writing is a great thing, but without accurate spelling and punctuation, the meaning of a piece of writing can be completely lost. Most of the people working with me frequently make basic spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. I don't point these out, because, if I do, I'm accused of being fussy (me?) and bothered about things that don't matter. The thing is, it does matter!

When the wrong version of words such as taught/taut, there/their/they're, where/wear, rein/reign/rain, etc. are used in books and magazine articles, this contributes to the idea that spelling doesn't matter as long as other people know what you mean.
Punctuation is used randomly, when at all. The misuse of apostrophes is especially bad. I've been known to rub misplaced apostrophes off chalked signs in pubs and shops. A pub where I occasionally drink has a chalked menu for the restaurant area which has such announcements as;
'Please take a seat and a member of the waiting staff will take your "order"'
and, on the dessert menu
'Ask us about today's "special"'
Once, when somewhat tipsy, I ended up removing all the offending punctuation...
Thankfully, signs in a cobbler's shop that I pass regularly have recently been replaced. Every time I went by, I would cringe at signs including;
'Key,s copied'
Bag,s repaired'
and 'Shoe,s Mended'.
It would be bad enough if they had apostrophes that were in the wrong place, but the commas almost made me want to stick labels on the outside of the window, correcting them.

I think that misuse of words is often caused by people's desire to appear more intelligent or educated than they really are. There is this idea that long words are automatically more 'right'.
Some of the magazines I read have a page for readers' household tips and hints. Recently, there have been two tips which particularly annoyed me.

'After having my guttering replaced I wished to recycle the old pieces...'
and
'I wished to liven up my old and redundant fireplace...'

No! No, you didn't! You wanted to do these things. Unless you have a DIY genie, perhaps living in an old watering can or an empty paint tin, you don't 'wish' for these things - you want to do them. To me, this is a subtle but important difference.

'Required' is a word that is being used more and more often, almost always wrongly.
When some building work was being done on the roof of the building in which I work, a sign was put up to inform visitors of this fact.
It read 'As the bank is having work done on the roof, the builders will be requiring to put ladders up to the roof.'
Again, no! The builders need to put ladders up to the roof. Almost every time 'require' is used, 'need' would be the right word to use.

A few weeks ago, a sign appeared in my local station which went one step further than the usual misuse of words.

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They could have said 'when asked by a police officer'.
They could have said 'when requested by a police officer'.
If they want to sound like they mean business, they could have said 'when told' or 'when ordered', but instead they went for the option that sounds like the police patrolling the station really need a drink every now and then. The wording that they chose could be argued to be technically correct, but to me it looks clumsy and irritating.

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9 Comments:

At 10:40 pm, Blogger Hieronymus Anonymous said...

Amen, sister!

 
At 11:17 pm, Blogger ScarletManuka said...

I'm surprised you don't have a CVA every time you read my blog!

The thing that really annoys me is people who can't be bothered with capital letters. I don't care if you're sending an sms, mobile phones have caps for a reason!

 
At 11:20 pm, Blogger Mouse said...

I couldn't agree more - I always use proper spelling, capitalisation and punctuation in text messages. I really hate textspeak!
Heh, my word verification is 'numscan'...

 
At 6:36 pm, Blogger LaMa said...

i reely require to now of U wot U mean, cause I really dont' understand... ;-)

It's the same here in my country. I am particularly annoyed by people who write without having any clue of the use of punctuation, especially the existence of that nifty little symbol called a "period".

 
At 11:26 pm, Blogger thunderstruck said...

*Hides bad spelling in the corner*

Your rant cheered me up greatly :)

I think my spelling's got better.... right?

 
At 9:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These things go in circles! In the early 1970s, 'expression' was the buzzword, and to hell with accuracy. And the consequences? A whole generation of people in the UK, from early 30s to mid-40s, who can't spell, 'don't do grammar' (a quote from a young colleague) and wouldn't recognise an apostrophe if it bit them. And did our educators learn? Not a bit!

 
At 3:18 am, Anonymous accipiter said...

Just out of curiosity, how did the various people here learn grammar, spelling, and other such skills?

 
At 9:43 pm, Blogger NEO said...

That they're is a great post. wear do you come up with this stuff? does it just rein great ideals in you're head?

 
At 1:04 pm, Blogger MadCarlotta said...

Well.

If there was any doubt that you were really related to Boo, it's all gone now!

:)

 

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