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Think of teh Children's!

I am already starting to worry about my child seeing, hearing, and repeating bad language.

I'm not talking about swear words. Mr. G and the Baked Chef are pretty much incapable of forming a sentence without a few bombs in it, especially after a long day at work. I do my best, but I've given up on trying to keep my daughter's ears pure from profanity.

No, by "bad language" I mean a shameful misuse of the English language. I am seeing spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors everywhere lately, from restaurant menus to business signs to online news articles. Weird spacing, apostrophes in plurals, random hyphens inside words, abuse of commas and semicolons, quotation marks that are sometimes inside and sometimes outside of periods or even floating away after an odd space, incorrect word usage, the "alot," and other textual wrongdoings abound.

Last week, I saw a flyer for an expensive Montessori school in the area. I noticed that the flyer had a couple of typos on it. "Come visit us on the 25rd," it said. "See our multi-age classroom's." (I paraphrase. As offended as I was, I don't want to reveal the identity of the school.) It seemed odd that a $600/month institution wouldn't bother to spell check or proofread their promotional materials, but I guessed that some harried volunteer or underpaid staff person had whipped it out in a hurry. Then I checked out the school's website and was appalled at the number of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Um. If your staff doesn't know the different meanings of "there," "their," and "they're," I'll just keep my $600/month. SO THERE.

Good writing skills are important for just about any career, and I want my daughter to be functionally literate. It is amazing to me how many people--not just everyday folks but even journalists and people calling themselves "writers"--seem to have no idea how English works. It's cute when the menu at the Mexican restaurant says "been deep," and it's fine to use slang and abbreviated language in informal contexts like personal e-mails, texts, or notes to self. It is not cute when native English speaking professionals muddle words and punctuation marks so badly that their meaning is lost.

During my brief time in graduate school, I learned that educators of illiterate people tended to make more and more spelling and punctuation mistakes in their own writing, because seeing the same mistakes over and over again normalized them in their brains.

So every time you stick an apostrophe in a plural noun, you could be damaging an innocent child's developing brain. Or assaulting the writing skills of her aspiring author mother.

Some of the smartest-pantsed and most awesomest people I know are horrible spellers and punctuators, so don't think of this as a personal judgment if you are a textual offender. But please think of the children and find a proofreader before you print a large business sign, promotional flyer, or that NaNoWriMo manuscript you want everyone to enjoy.



  1. This is a sad topic written in a really funny way. The "25rd" is hilarious. I do hope you can surround your child with good writing! (I'm also curious to see how many of these grammar mistakes eventually "stick" and become the norm.)

  2. Domey, I am trying! I read to this child every day even though she has no idea what it means yet. When I was a child, my parents gave me lots of books. I learned about spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure from reading those books before I even went to school. When I learned the rules in English classes, they came naturally to me because I was used to language used properly. I want the same for my kid!

    I also wonder how many of them will become the norm. I'm fine with new words being invented and punctuation rules changing--IF they make sense and don't decrease the precision of meaning in language.

  3. I know what you mean. On a daily basis at work, emails are put up from the vice president and president of our company -- and they are absolutely RIDDLED with typos and bad grammar. I can't stand it. My hand itches for a red pen. I fail to understand how they got to that level without basic grammar skills. What is this world coming to?

  4. Agggh, Meika! Isn't it the WORST when your superiors at work make all those errors and you aren't in a position to correct them? At my job, I have to publish the mistake-riddled text in public documents. I do guerilla copy editing without saying anything because retyping or printing a typo feels like sand in my eyes.

  5. One of the best things of working with my jackass ex-boss-he's a non native English speaker and part of my job was correcting his grammar errors. I was particularly anal when he was mad at me. It was DELICIOUS. He'd be trying to make a point and when he's worked up, his English goes out the window and it totally broke him down when every other thing was being corrected for pronunciation or tense...MUAH HA HA!


  6. Esperanza, we are the dommes of English.

  7. If you want to protect your child from bad language, don't let her watch Seasame Street! Honestly, why do people think bad grammer is cute in stuffed animals? I hate Elmo.

    Have you been to I Can Haz Cheesburger? The humor completely centers around bad grammer. I don't get it.

  8. Ah, Teralyn, I think you mean "grammar," with an "a." But it's okay, I forgive anyone who tells great stories or sings great songs, so I still like you and Elmo.

    I Can Haz Cheesburger is only funny if you KNOW the words aren't right. But sadly, I see people on Facebook who write like that because they actually don't know better. I've seen whole paragraphs with not a single word spelled correctly. Cute on a joke photo of a kitten... not cute in a serious public message.

  9. Aw, man. I'm so embarrassed. *hides hypocritical head in shame*

  10. LOL, Teralyn! I make mistakes, too. You could probably find some on my blog without looking too hard.

    But you will NOT find obvious spelling and grammar errors in my novel manuscript when it comes time to query. Pinkie swear.

  11. That's awful!

    You know, turning in bad NaNo manuscripts has made me significantly better at grammar. Remember when I started and I didn't even know how to break up dialogue?

    For me it was because I was too smart for my early English classes. I wasn't challenged so I tuned out. When school finally caught up to me, I'd already quit paying attention because I figured I knew it already. I did not. I still don't. I feel stupid sometimes at how little I know about grammar and punctuation because I was staring out the window making up little stories and poems that didn't have bad grammar or punctuation in my head.

    -Miss Moppet

  12. Miss Moppet, I love your stories and I want you to write more of them. Usually I am laughing too hard to notice your lack of paragraphs. At least grammar and punctuation can be fixed by a good proofreader. The skill of storytelling, the part that nobody can do for you, is the part you do best.


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