Grammar, What Is That?

drive slowly signRecently, I opened the front page of my local newspaper and the main headline on the front page read, “The Most Busiest Day of the Year.” I felt a shudder go through my whole body and I heard the voices of every English teacher I ever had scream “No, no, no!” Even assuming the author was uninformed; what about the editor? (No, I am not going to give you the two correct alternatives. If you don’t know, shame on you. Go out at once and purchase a copy of Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.)

I immediately reached for the phone and called the newspaper. A young, chirpy, female voice answered the phone. “Did you know that your headline on the first page of the paper is grammatically incorrect?” I asked.

I could hear her sigh and then she said in a resigned tone, “Yes, we have gotten a lot of calls on that.” I was sure that all the calls were from baby boomers; the last generation that was forced to endure hours of diagramming sentences and had every English paper returned covered with red marks for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. However, I must admit, that in an effort to keep up with technology and current trends, even baby boomers have succumbed to the seductive call of slang and abbreviations.

One of my friends is a college professor. When I made a witty remark in an e-mail I sent to her, she responded “lol.” “Lol, what does that mean?” I thought. I spent ten minutes trying to figure it out and then went to an online abbreviation dictionary. Oh, it means “laugh out loud.” I was glad that she found me amusing but really, how much more effort would it have taken to type “That’s funny.”

In this era of text messages and e-mails, spelling and grammar have gotten lost. The young think that proper English is superfluous. After all, what is important is that you can communicate with your peers and if adults can’t wash hands signunderstand what you are saying, that’s even better. Maybe it is this generation’s version of Pig Latin. However, when we used Pig Latin, it was as a second language and we still had full command of our native tongue.

Over the years I have acquired a live and let live attitude. I can live with these changes as long as it doesn’t effect my greatest addiction, books. Tablets may soon replace books. That in itself is not too upsetting. But what will those paperless books contain? Will beautiful prose go the way of the dinosaurs? Because it is the cadence of grammatical sentences that makes language flow and it is the flow that helps create beautiful images and involve you in the narrative.

One of Obama’s campaign promises was to improve our public schools. Since he seems to have a much better command of the English language than the previous President, I hope that will include an emphasis on the use of good English.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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