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National Grammar Day, March 4

By Edited Oct 26, 2014 1 3

On March 4th each year we celebrate National Grammar Day, which was established by the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. My friends who read this article will laugh, because I'm likely the only person who actively celebrates National Grammar Day--however, we should all be celebrating the National Grammar Day holiday, because without following the established rules for proper grammar and spelling, communication as we know it would not exist!

In honour of my yearly celebration of the National Grammar Day holiday, I thought I would take a small amount of your time to explain why the ability to use proper grammar is important for everyone. Using language, whether spoken or written, is very much like driving: you definitely want to obey the rules of the road. Otherwise, without the rules, you could crash and burn, or go off a cliff, or at the very least, cause a horrendous traffic jam in someone else's brain, while the person reading your writing stresses over trying to figure out what you are saying--if you are not following the rules. And as we all know, even one bad driver can cause an awful lot of chaos! I've read so many letters and writings on the Internet where reading the material results in such a tremendous struggle to figure out what the writer is trying to say, that I could compile many, many  volumes of examples where the best-laid meanings of men, at the very least, gang agley1 (fortunately the grammatical abilities of mice do not concern me as much). Unfortunately, nowadays many people think that spell checkers are sufficient, and do not realize (or do not care) that there are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings (while not technically grammatical errors, these errors are enough to drive any language geek insane in and of themselves). But worse than selecting the wrong word is when subjects and verbs not only don't agree but are ready to call the divorce lawyer, pronouns mysteriously appear on your doorstep without a return address for the noun that ordered them, apostrophes call in sick from work and then show up at 7:00 p.m. as unannounced and uninvited dinner guests, and all the other grammatical errors that make communication between people difficult or impossible.

 

Clear Communication is a Must!

Not caring about grammar (and the other rules of English, spelling and punctuation) might be okay if you're texting someone in a hurry. But in all seriousness, people with respect for their own thoughts should take pride in the message they are trying to send, and that means taking just as much pride in the appearance of their writing as they do in their physical appearance. If you're a professional, it's all part of the package, and polished writing means that you respect both your own ideas and the time and effort of the target audience of your writing. Believe me, when I see blatantly unprofessional communication in a business, I will take my business elsewhere--if a company does not care enough about its customers to communicate effectively, and to hire someone to police the grammar, punctuation and word use, how do I know that company will care enough about its customers if there's a billing error, or a product malfunction?

Now, many of my friends are not only careless of the rules of grammar (and I don't particularly like to ride in their cars either), but I do have friends whose names in my email inbox cause me to cringe as if I were a passenger in a Need for Speed movie. Those people not only wilfully, but gleefully, dare me to ascertain their meaning, as if I would get as much enjoyment out of figuring out that there's a soccer game on Saturday as I would deciphering the Rosetta Stone. And sometimes it takes about that much work, too! Even if you're not a professional writer, I beg all of you to take the time to understand the basic rules of the language you're writing in, and not end up causing a huge mental traffic jam.

I love my friends, and I hate to correct them, but at least this is the one day a year I can chortle lovingly over their mistakes. And so to all you writers out there, who confuse the subjunctive mood with the conditional, or sprinkle hyphens about as if they were sowing seed, and especially to those friends who regale me with "court-speak," misusing thou, thee, thy and thine, I can, with a clear conscience, on March 4th each year thumb my nose at you, and refer you to one of my many volumes on grammar. 

However much I love my friends, the people I love hearing from most are those whose carefully crafted sentences, witty phrasing, and attention to the minutiae of language allow them to produce impeccably-crafted prose and poetry. I attend a writing group and not only do I love reading the beautiful and lovingly-edited literature produced by my fellow writers, I am greeted with exclamations of "I'm so glad you're here!" because the other writers in my group know I will take the time to help them understand the subtleties and nuances of grammar that they have overlooked (probably while doing something far more interesting in school than learning how to diagram a sentence).

So let's hear it for all the language geeks, English teachers, and writers who carefully compile grammar books and prescriptive dictionaries, and give three cheers for standards in language. And watch out for that writer behind you who doesn't see your brake lights and is about to run you over! Instead of reading him the riot act, consider giving him a grammar book, or an English class, for Christmas. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much less bumpy the ride can be!

The Elements of Style (Illustrated)
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Oct 26, 2014)
Tiny and yet so practical, this little book has been around for most of the twentieth century, and yet it is still praised today for its wit, brevity, and usefulness. If you have time. patience, or room for only one book on grammar, this should be it!

How to celebrate National Grammar Day:

Use "loose" and "lose" correctly.

Read a grammar book, or learn one grammar rule and apply it.

Learn the difference between "effect" and "affect".

Use an apostrophe in the right place.

Read a humour book of misplaced modifiers.

Use "have" instead of "of" after would, could, should.

Delete the comma from your run-on sentences, and use a period and break it up into two smaller sentences, or use a semicolon instead.

Remember Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. --The Princess Bride

Diagram a sentence.

1 A reference to Robert Burns' famous poem, "To a Mouse."

The National Grammar Day Song

Grammar Girl's Ode to National Grammar Day

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Comments

Mar 6, 2010 4:06am
eileen
Gee I wish I knew you a few years ago when I was trying to write fiction. I am hopeless on the correct way to write a proper sentence. I read it and understand it(occasionally) but when I write, I lose it all. Thanks for a Great article. You have to admit that the English language is really difficult. why have more words for their, there,two too ,to, i before e here and not after c. etc etc Its a real pain. Thanks
Mar 6, 2010 11:48am
classicalgeek
Eileen, you've given me new hope. I'm about to begin a series of grammar articles, and I will try to explain in such a way that a) it will be easy; b) it will be fun; and c) it will be memorable. What a challenge! I hope I'm up to it!
Jul 8, 2011 2:31pm
Lynsuz
Bravo!!! Looking forward to your up coming articles, I believe you are up to it.
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