Bad Grammar: Making You Sound Dumb Since Always

Poor grammar and bad English will be the death of the value of our education. To be fair, I will issue a brief disclaimer. I am a senior English major; I have listened to countless lectures on grammar, diagrammed many sentences and have edited a plethora of articles and papers. Speaking and writing correctly is important to me. It should be important to all students. Fair or not, your writing reflects how intelligent and how articulate you are. Being well-spoken and presenting yourself like an intelligent person will impress employers far more than a flawless grade point average.

As I was partaking in a very non-academic pastime, perusing Facebook this summer, I was absolutely appalled at something I read.

An unnamed liberal arts alumna who graduated this past May updated his/her status which read (edited to preserve anonymity—and what remains of this person’s pride): “…Their just cooler. They were exercise outfits. Its not really a long commitment.” I recognize there is a vast difference between how people write and talk in text messages and on Facebook and how they write and talk to professors, employers and other respected adults; yet should I be proud that my degree will have nearly the same credentials as this person’s degree?

I’m embarrassed and frustrated for a couple of different reasons. Obviously grammar is important to me, but also I am 95-percent sure that English is this person’s native language. Furthermore, to receive a bachelor’s degree at USF, students must complete 128 credits (approximately 32, four unit courses).  Three core requirements focus on communication skills: public speaking, written communication and literature.  However in almost any course offered at USF, you will be required to clearly explain your thoughts, ideas, opinions and relevant theories in a paper, homework or perhaps even on an exam. If a professor had to find his or her way through the maze and clutter of my poor grammar, I would gladly accept a C and perhaps bring him or her an apple in office hours for not failing me.

In the deplorable Facebook status previously mentioned, the writer and recent USF alum disgraced the English language three times. A quick grammar recap for a commonly misused homonym:

1. There– “Please put my book over there near the desk.” Used to indicate direction or a place.

2. They’re– “They’re going to Koret for a spin class.” Contraction that joins the two words they and are.  (Hint: If you can’t replace the words “they are” in the sentence without changing the meaning, you are using the wrong word.)

3. Their– “Their apartment is the noisy one next to Geary Street.” This form of the word indicates plural possession (two or more people who own something). Their car, their textbooks, their schedules, etc.

Bad grammar is unnecessary and reflects poorly on your intelligence. Before writing or emailing something, read it over quickly for any grammar or spelling issues. Unfortunately spell check will not catch mistakes like the misused homonym above. In a tough economy like this, don’t make a potential employer cringe when reading over your resume. Take the time to present yourself well; it could make a huge difference.

22 thoughts on “Bad Grammar: Making You Sound Dumb Since Always

  1. I greatly appreciate the above article about grammar and it’s usage today. This is one of the things that I notice QUICKLY about an e-mail from someone new, an article posted for information purposes, and conversation when getting to know someone.
    To me, the use of obviously poor grammar means ‘disregard’ this piece of text. If someone didn’t know enough about language to use it correctly or care enough to edit, do they know or care what they are expounding upon? Why bother.
    If I get a message from someone new who uses poor grammar, I also disregard them as suspicious, especially if they have previously claimed to have an education beyond high school.
    Good grammar reflects me a lot about someone, their ability to communicate and whether or not they were effective in school, how much they may/may not read or truly listen to intelligent programming.
    Thank you for your article.

  2. Wow, canst thou say hypocrite? Oh so high and mighty are we? Ok, I know it sounds a little mean but I just wanted to get your attention.

    An unnamed liberal arts alumna (alumna is female, and then you say his/her, which is it alumnus or alumna) who (that is also good) graduated this past May updated his/her status which read (edited to preserve anonymity—and what remains of this person’s pride): “…Their just cooler. They were exercise outfits. Its (missing an apostrophe) not really a long commitment.”

    Besides, spelling and word usage has nothing to do with grammar (lest we forget, language came before spelling and rules), not even the words there/their/they’re. Good grammar any thing from a native speaker You ain’t gonna fin’ it. You aren’t gonna find it. You aren’t going to find it. Bad grammar, would you like some change for you, I find store here, you want go?. We don’t say that. I know it’s new information to take in, but for some reason this notion of grammar including spelling and word usage has been promulgated for I don’t know how long and it baffles me. When grammar is nothing more than the set of structural rules that govern the composition of sentences, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. Linguists do not normally use the term to refer to orthographical rules, although usage books and style guides that call themselves grammars may also refer to spelling and punctuation.

    I open to any and all comments, critiques, and criticisms.

  3. Ha…anyone else find it amusing that Judy Browne made a grammatical error in the first line of her comment? (It’s should only be used to denote the possessive, Judy). Guess I should “disregard” that piece of text….

  4. Just to let you know, this post looks a little bit strange from my smart phone. Who knows perhaps its just my cell phone. Great article by the way.

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