Let me start by saying that I am an advocate of correct grammar. It may have something to do with my background as an English teacher or with my inclination towards things well done. Either way, I think people should always pay attention to grammar and write correctly.
There are a few different situations I’d like to refer to, some of them not necessarily about grammar but the use of English in general.
Not pleasant, but tolerable
Abbreviations used in text messages
U knO wot I M talkin about, right? d kind of lngwij som ppl uz wen txtN. (Translation: You know what I am talking about, right? The kind of language some people use when texting.)
If you needed to read the translation, welcome to the club. I could not have produced that text without the help of a dedicated website.
According to Wikipedia, this sort of language has several names: SMS language, textese, txt-speak, chatspeak, txt among many others.
The trend of text-speak has not grown on me and I hardly use it. I’d rather spend three extra seconds and write See you tomorrow than C U tmrrw. It just hurts my eyes. Some may do it to make sure they don’t go over the allowed 160 characters. Well, if what I have to say is too long, I can always use email or call. OK, I’ll admit, I may have done it a couple of times, but not use textese (I kind of like how this word sounds) throughout. I just can’t.
But while I am lenient when it comes to this situation (or on Twitter, where you have to make the best you can out of the 140 allowed characters), and it is not exactly wrong use of grammar, there are a few situations where I am slightly a lot less inclined to overlook this problem.
Emails, comments and the like
You know what they say: ‘I do my best proofreading after I’ve hit send’. I think all of us can relate to this one way or another, so let’s say in this case I more or less tend to overlook mistakes. I mean, after calling someone Booby instead of Bobby (yes, I did that and I am not proud of myself) I should be a little more forgiving.
And we get to the issue(s) that lead to this post. I had initially started this article with a fiction book in mind (you’ll see below), but while writing it I came across a few more situations and I had to include them.
This one I happened to see while I was at home (I was, believe it or not, working on the present post). Right across the street there is a bus stop and I try to relax my eyes by staring at something else besides my laptop screen. And since buses stop a few metres away, I like to read the ads (don’t ask me why, maybe from a course I did at university on advertisements). Anyway, a bus stops with a big ad on the side. An ad for Cargiant that read ‘Thousand’s of cars…’ (I can’t remember the rest of it, my eyes were almost popping out of my head. And unfortunately I did not have time to take a picture). Such a big company should definitely have a budget for proofreading. And with so many people involved in the process, did no one notice?
Later edit: Here is the picture. It also seems it is a campaign, as they have replicated the apostrophe mistake in some more of their ads. If it is intentional, I for one don’t think it’s a good idea, but each to their own, right?
The London Zoo
The picture below was taken on my birthday, which I celebrated at the London Zoo. While I found the whole experience fabulous and I literally walked like a penguin the next day (my feet hurt like hell), I spotted this little gem. I did not go there to look for wrong spellings, typos or other kind of language mistakes, but my trained eye still managed to pick this one up. And, while it may not be as bad as the ones I’m going to present below, I still believe that someone should have paid for professional proofreading services.
Blatant mistakes that ruin a (good) book
My biggest hobby and preferred pastime is reading. I probably read +100 books a year (various genres), so I can definitely comment on the topic. While judging a book as good or bad is quite subjective and depends on many factors, what will make me really cringe to the point of giving up reading a certain book are grammar mistakes.
I may be forgiving when there are a couple of typos in 400 pages, but not when you write you’re mother instead of your mother, you use the possessive for plural and make other mistakes such as these not once, but dozens of times. That I cannot tolerate. Even my spellchecker has spotted and flagged up you’re. Did you not use one?
I may be slightly more permissive if the author is not a native speaker of the respective language, but even here I have some limits.
Some people may argue that indie authors should be given some slack, but most of the times a good spellchecker will pick up quite a lot. Not to mention that asking your friends or family to read the book (assuming their grammar is better than yours 🙂 ) before you publish it may also help.
These being said, let me tell you the kind of mistakes I found in the latest book I was reading and which made my hair stand up (please brace yourselves):
- You’re skin is turning blue.
- What do you think that little roads for?
- I thought we’d gotten passed all this.
- The witches name was…..
- Were looking for….
- Who’s soul?
These are just a few. If I were to include all of them, I may actually end up writing a whole book. Honestly, these mistakes were so distracting that they affected my reading experience. Shall I also mention that there are four books in the series and that I read all of them in the hope that someone would have noticed the appalling grammar and told the author to try a little harder? While the first one was her debut novel and maybe there was no budget for proofreading (although, as I said, a spellchecker would have picked up most of them), there is no excuse for the next three.
Books written by linguists full of mistakes (the books that is, not the linguists)
While preparing this post I bought a book written by a linguist. The title was interesting, the description even more so and seemed to offer good pieces of advice related to business. Well, if I get annoyed by mistakes I find in a fantasy book written by an indie author, can you imagine my reaction when I found not one, but plenty of silly and unacceptable mistakes in the book I have just mentioned? I mean, really?? Coming from a linguist, albeit not a native speaker of English, but someone running (allegedly) a successful translation business that offers, among others, proofreading services, that was not only unexpected but such a letdown. Here are a few of the culprits that made me wince:
- [..] projects you’ve been coordinating for your client’s
- monolingual or barley bilingual (This one made me laugh out loud, seriously. What’s next? Rice bilingual, wheat bilingual, corn bilingual etc.?)
- “If you work doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life.” – Unknown (Apart from the fact that the quotation is inexact, to say that the author is unknown was the icing on the cake. We live in the Internet era. A simple Google search would have helped, which makes me think the author just did not care.)
- Protecting your asset’s
Again the dreaded apostrophe. For people who still struggle with using it correctly, I would recommend them to read Marian Dougan’s post Apostrophes: everything you ever wanted to know, just about.
While I strongly believe that ‘Errare humanum est’, there are situations where errors have no place. What is your reaction when you see grammar mistakes? How do they affect your perception of the person/institution responsible? Please feel free to add your own examples of annoying mistakes you’ve come across.