Monday is a special day, and it has nothing to do with which government services are shut down.
Or is it “what” government services are shut down?
Regardless — Monday is National Grammar Day.
It’s a day to celebrate the craft of the language we speak and right. (Er, write.)
We deal with the language 24/7 at The Vindicator. And as you see every day, we’re not perfect. As the self-appointed language police, we do blush when we err.
Many of our imperfections come simply from the fact that we publish a small novel every day — live, on deadline, with the threat of watching “Duck Dynasty” if the paper does not get to your door on time.
I’ve not totaled up our daily word production, but rest assured: 1) I can expertly say it’s way more than 10 words per day, and 2) Never are the words used the same way as the day before, unlike manufacturers of, say, cars or chalupas.
That excuse aside, we work hard at being good grammarians. Under the umbrella of grammar are so many things about how we speak or write. Whether written or spoken, language abuse is as tough on us as McDonald’s encountering Wendy’s or Dave Betras encountering humility.
I am not the best grammarian in our office, and we do have some great ones. I reached out to them this week about grammar and language, and you’ll read their thoughts in a minute. But I have things that jump out at me.
I celebrated a relative this week when they said they were coming to the end of their “fiscal” year. I said congrats for that, and they were puzzled. I said I hear too many people call it the end of their “physical year.” There certainly is a physical year, and I suppose with some budgets and spending, people do buy and spend on a physical calendar. But more times than not, it’s a fiscal calendar.
(Just in that above sentence, I reminded myself of another common miscue: it is never “more times then not.”)
My son came home with a pretty cool homework assignment this week. In helping him, I read the instructions, and he was required to have a number of resources “sited” in the report. It was restated again: “All information ... must be sited.” It’s “cited.”
I have a friend who says “supposed-blee” despite there being no “b” in the word.
As grammar police, we can obsess, too, on smaller nuances. They’re not necessarily an offense to the English language such as the above examples, but issues for some:
I can’t stand “clean up.” Can’t it just be “clean?” In self-editing a few paragraphs above, I guess I could have written “totaled our daily word production.” The use of “totaled up” should be as useless to me as “clean up.”
Managing Editor Mark Sweetwood is among many grammarians who hate “hold a meeting.” We simply “meet.” They also like to cling to the literal meaning of “hold,” which is to grasp something in your hands, and that certainly is a tough feat for a meeting.
Regional editor Ernie Brown cringes at some of the everyday things that come up aplenty:
Its and it’s: “Oh the pain to read ‘The board continued it’s plan to make a full recovery.’” If you’re to use the apostrophe, you need to be able to say “it is” in the instance.
Affect and effect: Effect, as a verb, means to cause. Affect, as a verb, means to influence. “The game will affect the standings” (not effect).
There, their and they’re: “I cringe when I see an email or sentence that says: ‘There favorite player is LeBron James.’ Ouch.”
Aid and aide: Aid is assistance; an aide is a person who serves as an assistant. “‘He used a pulley to aide his new invention.’ Wow.”
The conversational abuse of the language is tough on us.
It’s even tougher in social circles as some use — or misuse — is generational and cultural.
The use of “you know” that is prevalent among teens and young adults is a problem for some.
One staffer seized on the Pittsburgh-area distinction of “yins” or “yuns.”
And whites and blacks will likely forever debate the creation and usage of “aks” and other similar words.
What are your pet grammar peeves? (Or is it “grammar pet peeves?”)
In fact, take a rip at our edition today (and this column, I imagine), and note some of the grammar issues that drive you nuts.
To stoke your knowledge and the conversation, I suggest the following sites (not sights):
www.nationalgrammarday.com promoted by “Grammar Girl” and SPOGG — the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.
The Poynter Institute’s Monday celebration, “Celebrate Grammar Day Webinar.” Go to www.newsu.org/Celebrate-Grammar-Day-2013
Our in-house dean of journalism might be Editorial Page Editor Dennis Mangan — a Vindy veteran, historian and prince of practicality. He vented on grammar, launching into it via the use of “toward” and “towards:”
“Although some authorities hold that the words are interchangeable (or that one is simply the American standard and the other British), an ‘s’ on the end of ‘toward’ drives me to distraction. Maybe because as journalists, we were schooled to use the shorter version of a word whenever possible.
“When I came to The Vindicator, local style was to use ‘employe.’ I want to say that we finally joined the rest of the English-speaking world and accepted the second ‘e’ in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
“And wasn’t it U.S. headline writers who shortened ‘Viet Nam’ to one word?
“In that spirit, it’s ‘toward,’ not ‘towards,’ for me.
“Just try and make me use ‘towards’ — which raises another hackle:
“It’s ‘try to make me.’
“Although I won’t even try to analyze the grammar behind those constructions — or should it be constructs?”
Wow ... On Monday, we’ll be giving Dennis some space.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on Vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.