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When smart people use bad grammar

Miss Grundy

I'm sitting at a lounge last week in Los Angeles with a top business reporter. True, we're drinking, but that doesn't really explain what happens next. I'm conversing with him about something that doesn't really concern you, and things get kind of confidential, and I ask for his promise that the matter will remain off the record. "Don't worry," says the reporter, a graduate of a fine college and probably a reputable journalism school. "That will just be between you and I."

See anything wrong there? I do, but I don't say anything about it. I don't want to come off as Miss Grundy.

A couple of days before, I'm in a big presentation where an industry leader is addressing about 300 hotshots. Very smart guy. Very sharp speech. Somewhere toward the end of the thing, he leans forward to make a particularly important point. "The future of this technology is obvious," he says, "although you and me may not be around to see it." Ouch.

Every day it happens. I try to ignore it. But it gives me a little stab in the back of my eye every time I hear it. Really smart people, people who can explain the impact of tax abatements on earnings per share going forward, who can discern how internet revenues will play out in the coming decade, who can shoot craps or guide investments with aplomb, don't know the difference between I and me. Does it matter? Should it matter? I don't know. It just seems to matter to me.

The thing is, you can't really correct people about it. They hate you. They look at you like you're some kind of jerk. And maybe you are. After all, with all that's going on in the world, does grammar matter?

For the record, and for those who even marginally care: this is really easy. The word "I" is used when the You in questions is the subject of a sentence. "I" does things. "I like that," you say. You don't say, "Me like that," unless you are Tarzan. "Me" makes his appearance when things are done to You. "He really screwed me on that deal," is both a common occurrence and correct usage.

Most of us know this. It's when we combine with others that the problems start. "You and me are going to kick his butt," is a laudable strategy, but a grammatical boner. "I" is going to kick his butt. Likewise, "In the future, clearance for lunches over $100 must be obtained from Max or I," may be excellent policy, but goofy usage. Just looking at it on the page here, doesn't it LOOK wrong? And yet I hear it every single day, from people who are smart and too powerful, conceited or just plain tender to be corrected.

Even the best newspapers in the nation have given up on the split infinitive. Almost nobody cares about the difference between "presently" and "currently." A good portion of the population reading this conducts much of its online communications in abbreviations, alphabetized contractions and emoticons.

Can't we save this one vestige of good speech, you and I? ... or is that you and me?

157 Comments Add Comment

I agree, those errors bug me. What also bugs me is when a word is written as gramatical when it should be grammatical, unless this is a Spanish blog.

I just wanted to add constructively to the point you were making!

I cannot express how distracting it is to be sitting in a presentation and have to listen to incorrect grammar, I spend the rest of the presentation listening for other errors! The error that gets me is "I am done".....

Oh yes, and what about "myself"? Only I can get in touch with myself, you can get in touch with me. "I" is the subjective first person pronoun, "me" is the objective and "myself" is the reflexive. How hard is that anyway? So many, many corporate communications close these days with the incorrect usage, "If you should have any questions, please contact Sam or myself." Get it right people. You and I together "are" doing something whereas if we each do it alone, You are doing something and I am doing something.

EOR

Most of the time, this isn't a problem. When I have to structure a sentence like "it was I", then the correct grammar just sounds pretentious, but that could just be the passive voice. In that case, I will go with the one that sounds better.

Ahem, shouldn't you say "A good portion of the population reading this conducts much of its communications in abbreviations, alphabetized contractions and emoticons"?

It matters to I too. Me thinks though that grammatical rules are being rewritten every day as evidenced by the inclusion of slang and incorrect usages of words in the Dictionary every time a new one is published. On the other hand, examples of now useless languages that won't change their rules with actual usage over time is Latin, and to a large extent, French, so an evolving English language isn't necessarily a bad thing in the long-run.

By the way, it's you and me, though the resultant sentence structure is awkward and would no doubt receive a red mark from the Miss Grundy.

When smart people don't proofread articles about grammar

“He really screwed me on that deal,” is both a common occurance and correct usage.

Occurence???

Most of us know this. It’s when we combine with others that the problems start. “You and me are going to kick his butt,” is a laudable strategy, but a gramatical boner.

grammatical???

Hehe. I won't hold these typos against you if you won't hold the "grammatical boners" against these otherwise smart folks. :-)

I am as ashamed of my misspellings and faulty use of "their" instead of "its" and have corrected all mistreaks.

Poor grammar is an issue up with which I will not put.

Me see no thing rong. Ure gud gramer is in tact.

Bad writing/speaking is not to be taken lightly. I have learned that first hand. For those who don't really care, it is because they don't know the difference!

I love it when people decide to appoint themselves as defenders of the English language (or any language, really), yet probably have never taken a linguistics class in their life.

Languages change, people. How long will it take to get that through your grammar-nazi heads?
"Oh, that's not change; it's just people getting sloppy with their usage," you say? Hmmm... And what do you think people that spoke Old and Middle English hundreds of years ago would think of our language today, hmmm?

Same here - I can't stand sloppy grammar and spelling, and it seems like I'm the only one left who speaks correctly around here in Essex, England! :-)

"I’m sitting at a lounge last week in Los Angeles with a top business reporter"

"I'm" is present tense. You used it in a sentence about something that occurred last week. If you want to write a whinge about grammar then at least make sure your opening sentence is correct.

The rules of grammar are an acknowledgment that language requires convention. Without convention we spend our precious time trying to translate what is said. The rules allow for the possibility of more precise communication. Something wrong with that????

I don't choose to have bad grammar, I just don't see the written word the same way you do. Look up spatial-visual thinking and you may understand better.

Me hates when people do that!

I think you are completely right. It's a shame to see intelligent and well-spoken individuals do themselves such a disservice. If you don't see a problem with poor grammar, it is probably because you speak poorly yourself.

In this age of technology and spell checkers and internet slang, the beauty of this language has slowly disappeared. I'm a college student and even now I can see it depreciating. It's a real shame.

I've come across many people who like to point out grammatical errors of other people and most have the same common characteristics: they are arrogant, snooty, and they seem to think that such "grammatical attacks" make them appear to be more intelligent than the victim. I was blessed with a fairly high IQ and I pay little attention to grammar because it really doesn't matter much as long as I get the point across. Likewise, our IQs and other characteristics that are beyond our control really do not matter in this world. You will be on your death bed before you know it. Do you want to look back on your life and realize that all you have done is fought for your own pride and vanity? Or will you even be so wise? Perhaps you will only look back at how well you spoke your nonsense and hope that your wonderful grammar will be legendary.

Interesting article. But as far as I have seen the problem is not only reduced to highly educated people who somehow "forget" about their education. It rather the sign of a general evolution of language. Interestingly highlighting how intrically linked what "is mine" has become with what "I am". As to say how property is becoming undistinguishable from individuality and personnality.

This said, please excuse my Frenchness for any rhetorical misbehaviors on my side.

I love how the first sentence of this article has a horrendous grammatical error:

"I’m sitting at a lounge last week in Los Angeles with a top business reporter. "

You can't use the present progressive tense when you modify the verb with a past adverbial phrase ("last week").

I find that more and more people don't know the difference and defer to 'myself' whenever there is any doubt.

"Please see Tom or myself about the changes." Or "James, Karen, and myself have worked over the weekend on this."

I think this common error traces back to confusion about or disregard for the nominative case. "Who is this? It is I." Most people say, "It's me," but that is grammatically incorrect.

If you study linguistics you will find that the English language is 'unnatural.' That is, many of the grammar rules that were defined in England in a single book about 150 years ago are not necessary. Human naturally change languages. Before writing, a language would not last more than 150 years but usually 75-100. That is pronunciation is what changes fastest, but so does grammar. English is a Germanic language, however English and German do not share the same grammar structure (Subject, verb, object). So what we are witnessing is the human attempt to keep English evolving, but old and quite frankly, silly rules that are over a 100 years old are being used to tell us that we be speak wrong yo. But i gots a question. If yall undertand what i'm spittin, then hasnt language done its job? (answer: an english teacher says no, a linguist says yes)

Shouldn't this be titled "When smart people USE bad grammar"?

I knew english majors were good for something: Worrying about the slow deterioration of our englishes. YOU AND ME NEED TO HAVE A TALK MISTER! ME AND YOU! AND I!

Calling others to a higher standard in grammar always results in the following: People scrutinize your own grammar, looking for inconsistencies to reaffirm their own intelligence; People reaffirm their own intelligence by contradicting your assertion, justifying away the importance of grammar; Or, people make terribly lame jokes by purposefully using bad grammar. Unfortunately, all of these ignore the fact that grammar is essential, regardless of who tells you that.

People in glass houses should not throw stones. Did you bother reading this over before posting it? It's littered with common grammar errors. Even your title uses POOR grammar. Don't complain about poor grammar if you don't have an adequate grasp of the English language.

Cf. Skitt's Law: "Spelling or grammar flames always contain spelling or grammar errors."

While proper grammar can be overlooked in day-to-day situations, it shouldn't be overlooked in conferences and newspapers. oh yeah, i also believe that using "las week" implies using "i was sitting" :)

another grammitical error - "Almost nobody"

Please don't get me started on pronouns such as "yourself" and "myself".

I call this the "Call Center Syndrome", as most of the people that say that to me are call center staff. Phrases such as: "Hi, I'm just calling yourself to ask if you...", or "please feel free to call myself at any time" make me scream..

Maybe I'm a jerk too, but someone has to be...

I've noticed thru (through)Hollywood movies and American television that, you are some what obsessed with proper grammer. "Me and my friend" then an interruption, "stop" its "My friend and I".

Jonny

“That will just be between you and I.”

That is actually correct. "I and you" is wrong. Strange language

it is you and i can save... now if you want for whom to save it it would be you and me ~

i have two advanced degrees a super iq and gpa and i can't spell without spellcheck ~

though i used to win spelling bees as a kid

Athletes are the worst. So many times I hear them use the word "myself" incorrectly during interviews with the press or, even worse, use a three-syllable term incorrectly when a simple word would have been more accurate.

Smart and successful people make grammatical mistakes? Sort of implies it does not really matter eh?

Everyone is dumb about most things and being smug about something as functional as grammar is pretty unimaginative.

You say: ”I” is going to kick his butt.

That should be "I" am going to kick his butt.

The rule is simpler than you've made it out to be. Just remove the others from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

"Come to the store with Joe and I". Does that work? Try taking out Joe. "Come to the store with I". Nope. No good.

See how easy it is? Let's try another: "You and me may not be around to see it." Take out "you" and you're left with "Me may not be around to see it". Nope again.

It's that simple, and that's all you need to know.

me bite you for writing article. (pounding chest)

When did pictures become pitchers? as...stand still while I take your pitcher.

I think your mistake here is your continued belief that these people are intelligent. In my experience an awful lot of people who appear to know a great deal of stuff, are in fact complete idiots who haven't really got a clue what they're talking about. The fact that your examples haven't been able to derive one of the most basic rules of English language after thirty odd years of practice should have been your tip-off. If I were you I would discount everything else they said too. In days gone by these people wouldn't even have a job, and the fact that they have today explains a lot about what's wrong with the world.

You're confusing mathematical and business acumen with linguistic competence. It's utterly unsurprising that many 'smart guys' lack a sufficient grab of grammar. The brain is not a computer available in a number of varieties, which differ only memory and megahertz. People vary in their aptitude for domain specific computation. The concept of a single determinant G, reliably predicting performance in any and every given task is absurd. This idea has developed based on a misapprehension of brain function - and the myth of IQ.

Sloppy grammar and poor writing, in the business world, leads to second-guessing, errors and the loss of millions of dollars. There was an example in a business writing class of a piece of legislation that had one misplaced comma and poor phrasing. That misplaced comma cost tax payers $4.5 million dollars.

Would you rather pay $4.5 million dollars each time a comma is misplaced or a phrase misinterpreted, or take the 10 minutes to correct any grammar, phrasing errors that skew the meaning of what is being said?

While I was in high-school, the meanings of 'borrow' and 'lend' somehow swapped, so i would routinely be asked by the less well equipped 'can i lend you a ruler?' Which could have been a source of much confussion, as i already had a ruler - why would i want to 'borrow' a second one?

My two cents...

I've never understood why some people are more concerned with grammar than the actual message being delivered. I was a Mass Communication major myself and am currently a Lead Game Designer.

In my job, I do quite a bit of writing on complex mechanisms as well as dialag and narrative. For me, grammar is a tool (a flexible one at that) used for communication, not grammar for grammar's sake. The challenge for me is to strenghten the communication, not make sure my high school grammar teacher would be happy with my professional writing. The rules of grammar are only important in how they allow me to communicate effectively.

On another note, grammar is something that people are in tune with on different levels. Some people see it's structure intensly, so much so that they must let you know about each mistake they find. We don't expect every person to have the same attunement to mathmatics, computer code or art and design, so why would we expect everyone to be as attuned to grammar?

The big problem is not that people make mistakes. We all do.

The problem is two-fold:
1- Most people don't care about spelling and grammar anymore. They'll just say: "You understood me, so what's the problem?" They don't realize that small but careless mistakes in language can cause confusion.
2- They become angry when you correct them. I think we all hate having our faults pointed out, but for some reason, that particular kind of fault tends to make a large proportion of the population angry. People take it personally when, usually, the correction is meant to be helpful, and is not meant as any sort of attack.

So I guess my point is, to all of you who DO care, and who DO correct the people around you (or you at least get that little stab behind the eye): how do you propose we fix this? How do we deal with people who make these mistakes in such a way as to make them care, and without making them angry?

I still haven't found a good answer to that one.

My pet peeves in language are people who say "should of" instead of "should have" and people who say "should have went" instead of "should have gone". I've seen lawyers and TV comedians speak like that. However only uneducated inner city kids say things like "should of ate" instead of "should have eaten." It drives me nuts.

According to the MLA Split infinitives are now fine.

When grammar police feed on their own young...

Shame that the very first sentence in this article is grammatically incorrect..tsk tsk.

Cultural shifts in language usage such as this are often the signs of alterations in the rules of said language. The 'You' and the 'I' usage as a subject or object of a phrase are merely abstract variables that slowly alter over time and take on new forms, thus creating new 'dialects', and eventually whole new language forms. This sort of thing happens constantly and is impossible to curb (and it's rather redundant to try to stop it). Otherwise Latin, for instance, wouldn't have metamorphisized into Spanish, Italian or Franch, the most bastardized child of Latin linguistically speaking. Isn't it ironic that today French is perhaps the most perscriptively guarded language on earth, with it's Office de la Langue Francaise!?

In sum, your perspective on language is both antiquated and ill informed to a certain degree. As long as the manner that an individual utilizes said abstract variables in a consistant manner then their use of 'You' and 'I' is no less functional that your use of 'You' and 'Me'. In fact, if there are enough individuals in a language community that consistantly make such a mistake, then you will start to see a permenant shift towards what you see is being 'incorrect', thus rendering your usage, in a sense, equally as 'incorrect' in time!

Grammar rules change with the times. If it never did, we'd probably still be talking with thou's and thee's. The same thing with slang words. Slang words are becoming more and more commonly accepted in today's society. Get with the times beeyatch!

I think, as a general rule, unless you know English grammar as well as John Simon, that it is always best to be cautious when criticizing other's for their usage errors.

It is a fact of modern life that grammar is no longer taught the way it was for centuries. It is no longer seen as important.

The study of grammar goes back to the Greeks, who described their language in fairly rigid terms. Roman thinkers adopted Greek rules for Latin, even though the languages are very different. The same thing happened to English; Latin rules were applied to English even though Latin grammar was overly concerned with written words and English is actively spoken and is a very different language than Latin.

There are too many examples to list here of “errors” or “mistakes” in English usage that are based on rules that originated in languages that almost no one speaks anymore. I think people should know grammar better than they do, but complaining about minor usage matters does not make us better or smarter.

I urge all of you to boldly go and split infinitives....

You place far too much emphasis on grammatical correctness. Grammar is a minor concern to powerful people as it has little to no consequence in their daily lives.
(Insert video clip of GWB saying something about having bigger fries to fish out, or frying bigger fish then pausing and looking confused at his own words then blurting out that grammar ain't that important.) If the president doesn't have to worry about it then neither does we.

This is an interesting article, but I notice that you use the sentence, "... and things get [sic] kind of confidential". Miss Grundy would most probably object. Things do not "get" confidential, but rather "become" confidential. The abuse of the verb TO GET is second on my list of grammatical pet peeves. My first grammatical pet peeve is the apparent YOUR versus YOU'RE interchangeability.

Me hate grammer :)

The I/me thing has long been a pet peeve of mine, though I admit that in the grand scheme it's not worth worrying about. Nonetheless, it annoys me when people do it. Why? Because they are often people who do, in fact, care to speak correctly. They ain't the kind that's saying "I seen" and "he done," but "give it to him or I" somehow flies. Much like the there/their/they're gaffe, it suggests laziness or ignorance (on the part of those who actually care) to allow oneself to continue making the same simple error of speech.

I'm guilty of being a jerk!
I can't stand it when people make the mistake, especially when they think they sound intelligent saying things like "They came to John and I's house." I can't help it when I just think less of them after hearing that.

There are of course, grammar rules, but there needs to be a degree of fluidity in the English language. It's what keeps the language evolving, as languages should. If everyone paid attention to perfect grammar all the time, our language would have never evolved from latin into what it is today. The word 'an' didn't exist until people decided it was too hard to say two vowels in a row, and while at the time it was becoming accepted as standard, I am sure it was regarded as incorrect grammar, but nevertheless it became part of the lexicon of the English language and furthered the advancement of it.

I hate Grammar Nazi's.

Get a life. Listen to what people say instead of trying to pick apart what they say, based on their usage.

Your proper language is not always everybody else's. Different areas of the US speak differently then other parts.

Thank you very much for your gritty candour. What a crazy world we live in today-- Those who know have to appear as if they do not in order to remain palatable to those of "rank".

What about the new usage of the apostrophe I see popping up everywhere from store signage to menus? Why do I see stores selling book's and restaurants selling soda's?

Is the use of proper grammar generally a good idea? Yes. Is it always a necessity? Hardly. An excellent example is the beginning of this blog post; it's entirely legitimate, for example, to subvert tense as a rhetorical device, as the gentleman does. The key is intent: when correcting a grammatical "error", it's necessary to determine whether the writer or speaker is deviating from the norm through ignorance or through deliberate design. The former is a mistake; the latter is rhetoric (assuming that it works).

Chris from Erie: you're describing not "English teacher" vs. "linguist" but "prescriptivist" vs. "descriptivist". Whether the respective members of each set are synonymous is left as an exercise to the reader. :)

Well I am not a native speaker. I studied for 3 years in Boston and nobody seems to know the difference and by the way I got as confused as everybody else and still don't know the difference.

Though I am guilty of a few of the aforementioned grammatical errors, I want nothing more than the people of the world to be able to see the differences between there/their/they're.

The misusage gives me the heebie-jeebies!!

Jay, you incorrectly made "Nazis" possessive.

people using if instead of whether, (he asked me if I was going)
people using less instead of fewer (there are less dogs around here)
people mixing up were and was (If I was taller)
They're not crimes but they do make me cringe when I hear them.

Standard grammar may aid in intelligibility, but at the end of the day, like any other observable phenomenon, grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive. That is: everyone in the universe has his or her own unique grammar, and we cannot determine which particular grammar is correct, but we certainly can describe the grammar we observe. And if need be, we can pick some ultimately arbitrary set of rules and call them "correct."

If you like this article, read "Eats Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss.

So long as perceived errors in grammar don't interfere with clarity of expression, I see no difficulty. Your examples exhibit no lack of clarity. There's actually something feudal about insisting on continued adherence to mere rules that have neither expressive nor semantic value. Like freaking out over a rep tie worn with a striped shirt. Solecisms in grammar and dress don't violate standards of public decency.

If you're going to fret over every little "I" and "me" you're going to live a miserable life. Just because people make grammar mistakes doesn't meant that they don't know the difference - especially when it comes to spoken language. You shouldn't have to take a linguistics class (though I highly recommend it) to know that people make mistakes when they know better. I *know* better than to hit my thumb with a hammer but it still happens sometimes on the rare occasion that I have to drive a nail into a board.

Speech is complicated. Things get lost or mixed up. It's a miracle that anyone ever understands anything, but yet here we are. For goodness sakes, appreciate that and stop being so judgemental.

Linguists put together grammar rules to describe how people speak. When those rules no longer are descriptive of the way a language works in "the wild", they aren't useful anymore. There does exist a certain class of person who, seeing that someone wrote down "rules" insists that people follow them.

The fact is, languages change. If you can easily understand what someone is saying, then their "incorrect "grammar still fits your mental model of the language and is probably just fine.

That being said, there actually are differences between the conventions of written language and spoken language. Phrases that would be appropriate and reasonable to say are often jarring to view in print. Maybe this is why people who are deeply involved with written communication (English teachers, journalists) worry so much about incorrect spoken grammar. They are so used to the rules of the written language that they expect them to apply to spoken utterances as well.

Also, Jay, it's "than" and not "then". Although different regions do have different grammars, pronunciations etc., there are certain rules/distinctions that hold throughout like then/than or their/there/they're or your/you're that pertain more often to writing than speech.

Also senators and representatives often fall into this category. On C-Span one can hear such statements as "He gave the bill to Mr Jones and I.", or "Myself and Mr Smith introduced this bill.".

No, truly smart people know that grammar, in informal settings, is irrelevant. They may know proper grammar, they just don't care.

The split infinitive thing is a complete red herring. It was never incorrect to split infinitives, some people just liked to pretend it was.

I'm not too picky about grammar. However, I once ordered an expensive product online. When I received an e-mail from the company confirming my purchase, it was littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes. That really shook my confidence in them. For business purposes, I think correct grammar is a must. If you don't write carefully, then the customer might think you don't really care about the deal/purchase.

Another thing that gets to me is poor grammar in lecture notes. A comma in the wrong place can change the meaning of the whole sentence, and when you're trying to understand a very complex idea, those errors that cause ambiguity in meaning can be frustrating.

My 2 cents :)

Grammar DOES matter. Grammar is a standard for communication. Try ignoring any other standard and see what happens.

To all the lazy bums who can't be bothered to learn spelling and grammar:

may be we shood just abandin ofishul speling and gramer, and yooz fonetic aproksimayshunz (wich we can mayk up as we pleez, cuz hey -- wy shood sum wun tel me how to liv my lyf, ryt?).

after ol, its not as if we yooz serch enjins or uther teknolojee whats efektivness depenz on "ofishul" langwij skilz, noumsayin?

Anyone who thinks that spelling or grammar has anything to do with a persons intelligents is very ignorant. One of the smartest people I know can't even tie her own shoes. When the brain is working on the level these people are sometimes it can't handle simple tasks. Or in the case of this woman who is ingenious at math is not able to spell or use grammar. Maybe you should try trigonometry by hand and then complain about someone who has poor grammar.

sure grammar is important, but when you take it to the level of criticizing a person over the incorrect use of the words "me" and "I" you are going a bit far.

grammar is important for proper communication. once you have reached the point that your message is being coherently translated, any more effort in proper grammar is subject to the law of diminishing returns. the more effort you spend on improving it further, the less time you have to spend on more important things.

so, to answer your question, smart people use bad grammar because smart allocate their time and effort where it is most pertinent.

this is easy folks. you and i are going to the game. the tickets are for you and me. now do it with just me and i. i am going to the game. the tickets are for me. the formula is simple take the other out of the sentence and you will know immediately which is correct. happy speaking.

Comming from a philosopher, this is one of the seemingly unimportant rules of english. Meaning of the sentence really doesn't hang on proper use of Me/I, and using the wrong one really doesn't affect communicative efficacy. In other words, they get angry that you correct them because it doesn't matter.

This is so true, it drives me absouletly insane when people misuse grammar! Of course I can't say anything or else be branded as a grammar nazi...

maybe these people are so smart they know that little meticulous errors in "grammar" are actually meaningless. in the eyes of a linguist, saying "you and me are doing good" is perfectly grammatical, as is "we be goin to tha' sto'." bad grammar to a linguist would be "store hippo stolen you killed happy is." what you're unknowingly doing here is adding fuel to a linguistic class struggle, stating the way i speak is better because i read it in my school book in the third grade.

I have pretty much given up on I and you in correcting others. It seems that when we were taught that I is the subject and a subjective pronoun, we were not as well schooled on me as an objective pronoun. We don't say give the ball to I. Thus: give the ball to John and me. If John were left out, me would stand as the correct usage. Isn't it funny that you know most people think you're wrong when you use "me" correctly? Sign of the "I don't care about correct grammar times?" As for the split infinitive, I've decided that I won't give into this incorrect usage either. I cringe when I hear it and take pleasure in not using it.

Me definitely agrees.

We've all heard that "Johnny can't read" and that business schools lament that most businesspeople can't write. All those of you who approve the misuse of words "because it doesn't matter" should be ashamed of yourselves. It does matter - it matters because to excuse it now means at exactly the wrong moment, someone's grammatical inconsistency will induce the wrong nuance into a critical process. Does it matter? To the Japanese businessman you'll be dealing with for a multi-million dollar deal, it does. He'll go back to his Tokyo headquarters and laugh at you while he inks the deal with your competitor. Don't kid yourself that your "objectivity" is anything more than abject ignorance.

...and then there is that tough one: "It's time for you and I to sit down and have a talk." You and I are going to sit down and have a talk, but unfortunately we are in a subordinate position in the sentence, and must be happy with "you and me". How often is this taught in schools anymore?

you is being too frikin anal. you need to stop frikin being anal and just forget about stupid unimportant speech mistakes. if this were writing i'd say you have a point. but you sound like you got some grammar OCD to me. you definately should stop correcting people. if someone recored everything you said for a day i am sure you would some mistake too. so stop getting hung up on people's mistakes.

I couldn't agree more. I try not to correct people anymore. I just sit, grit my teeth and suffer through the anxiety attacks.

Thw worst offense is the disappearance of the adverb. Even the big 3 anchors will used quick, when it should be quickly. The adverb has become a dinosaur.

This article is dead on. While some of the comments prove that not everyone cares about doing things correctly, the fact that communications professionals regularly butcher the language is pathetic. Sure, some rules are esoteric and difficult to grasp, but the basics are easy enough to follow. They make a world of difference when communicating.

Using there/their/they're (and other commonly confused words) properly takes a few minutes to learn but is an easy way to improve your skills. The same holds true for other basics of grammar. The cost/benefit ratio is compelling.

Only in America, Brian. The rest of the English speaking world still uses adverbs. We use them real good, too.

How about the use of "myself" instead of "me"as in " the tour will be conducted by John and myself."

"Myself" is not correct in that sentence. Just use "me." "The tour will be conducted by myself"?

For those of you commenting that using correct grammar and spelling doesn't matter, think again. It does matter, especially in the business world. People in places like China and Japan are actually learning the rules of English and will think you are uneducated if you don't know or ignore the rules of grammar.

"The days of good English are went."

One of my favorites is people who lay down but I feel sorry for all those baby ducks they have to kill to get the down.

Are those profits "going forward" similar to future profits.
This going forward business is both backward and annoying.

If a person claimed that 2+2=5, you would pick them up and correct them in a instant. Why is it more socially acceptable to correct maths than english? ... speaking of 'than'.. I know teachers, and students studying to be teachers that do not know the difference between 'then' and 'than'. They think I am better then them because I know that the correct word there is than. Hw do de kidz hv ne chans 2 leRn da rIte fingz if da teechrz dun no?

Lousy grammar is not confined to speech and, in my mind at least, compromises the credibility of a business when it appears in printed materials, signs, etc. Yes, even for a humble pizza joint or brake shop, it makes me doubt the management's intelligence and attention to detail.
By the way, the most frequent written gaffe seems to be the inability to distinguish between the plural and the possessive. So you walk into a store and see a sign saying "No check's", or you find yourself driving behind a motor home with a spare tire saying "The Smith's", or ... ah, this is futile, isn't it?

To refer to people who specialize in communicating "communications specialists" is incorrect; they are actually communication (no s)specialists. Communications specialists are people in the radio, television, or internet industry. A communications specialist might be one who invents or repairs the devices.

AMEN! As a retired English teacher (35 years in the trenches), I am in agony each and every day--and matters are only being exacerbated.
People use "anxious" when they really mean "excited," and I could continue. The irony of the whole situation is that businesses expect employees to have decent grammar, and it just ain't happenin' folks!
I could send one page of our hometown newspaper back to the copy editor with multitudinous red marks--omitting journalistic style.
SO. . .where will it end? Who knows? The use of correct grammar is in its death throes, I fear.

I was watching a design show on HGTV. The designer said she had "preprimed" the dresser. Yes, this stuff makes my eyeballs ache, too. Preplan, predrill, preprime are all redundancies and I get weary of hearing them all the time. People seem to think putting "pre" in front of any word gives it more importance or urgency or someting.

Everyone is right on target with the examples of the correct usage of me, myself and I.

Now, can we get the younger folks (under 40?) to STOP already with saying "like" every five seconds? If there is any content at all in their sentences, I don't hear it. It all sounds like gibberish to me.

It's okay to slow your thinking, ponder your messages and construct coherent, interesting, descriptive sentences that do not include the words: like, awesome or amazing. Try it sometime. You all are boring the snot out of me.

Finally, to James in Raleigh: You actually hold a job? There is NO excuse for your lousy spelling and grammar. Go back to school. Form and content are equally important.

Your explanation of when to use "I" v. "me" is too simplistic and leads me to believe that you don't really know why it is correct to use "me" in the sentence, "That will be between you and I."

"I" is the nominative form of the pronoun and "me" is the accusative form. Using "me" in the sentence is correct because it is the object if the preposition "between." Objects of a preposition should be in accusative form. Likewise, it is incorrect to say "Me like that", and correct to say "I like that" because "I" is the nominative form and the nominative form is the correct form to use here since "I" is the subject of the sentence.

My ex-boss took pleasure in correcting the grammar of his underlings and of his clients. I think some clients were annoyed by this habit, especially when he would waste time correcting grammar instead of focusing on substantive issues.

I believe good grammar certainly has its place, but let's not miss the forest for the trees. If everyone gets your point, then a little bad grammar here and there never hurt anyone.

And my favorite: "there's" instead of "there are". It's incredible how pervasive it is.

Example: There's five boxes of paper next to the copy machine.

The worst is the use of "myself." As in: "Myself and Bob will be available if you need any assistance." Aargh!

Great!
At least you didn't 'conversate' with the business reporter.
What bothers me most is the use of 'for free'. It is either 'for X amount' or it is simply 'free'.
That is what I find

hi am 12 years old and i need help with this question: why did the settlement of roanoke island fail?

When people start looking at grammar, they start making character judgments. When people make character judgments publicly, it makes everyone listening pay a lot more attention to that speaker's flaws. So if you're going to make character judgments based on someone's grammar (this person is uneducated, this person is stupid, this person isn't worth listening to), remember that you're putting yourself out there. How do you think people perceive you when you call someone else an idiot?

My personal opinion on the matter is that if you love grammar, treat it lovingly. If you're just someone who loves to communicate, make sure you're understood. People who speak "standard" English will always see themselves as better than those who don't, despite the fact that the large majority of people do not share the same speech as they do. Furthermore, they like to use the advantages they get from speaking the language of the "privileged" classes in a society.

So eat up, people. But remember, the more "properly" you speak, the more you are conforming to the so-called norms of a white, male-dominated society. If you're going to do it, fine. But leave the real people alone.

Maribeth makes a very interesting and valid point. Grammar is a form -- one of many -- of standardization. Conforming to those standards places you in a certain social group that, for the most part, is dominant over those that don't conform. This is true in speech, facial hair, manner of dress as well. A person with an enormous beard wearing a caftan had better own the company if he expects to be promoted to senior management. A woman with hairy legs wearing hot pants may be quite alluring in a social situation, but is unlikely to be the future vice president of Human Resources, except perhaps in Sweden. Honestly, I don't believe race has anything to do with it. My grandmother spoke like she just got off the boat -- which she did. I don't speak that way, nor do I really want to. I haven't given up and joined some alternative culture, I don't think, or given up my heritage in any fundamental way. I'm just part of the culture in which I live and work now, not an alternative one. Finally, I'd have to say that this is a Business blog. And my point stands: in this world, grammar counts. We all, to some extent, put on a face when we put on our business garb. My point is that the language coming out of that face should probably match it.

Why is it so wrong to strive to become better speakers and writers of the English language? If I make a mistake in my grammar I want people to alert me to my mistake. I want to learn and grow as a person, this seems to have become a negative in society today. I don't think that uneducated people speak poorly, I think lazy and stagnate people speak poorly. Although, being lazy and stagnate seem to go hand in hand with people who are uneducated.

I appreciate your comments on the use, often incorrectly, of you and I or You and me. aanother such anoyance is the term aren't I rather than the proper am I not.

yeah how long did it take you to write the article about being judgemental? Did you understand each and everytime what the individual was trying to impart? Polarity

I don´t live in an english-speaking country. I have a doubt:

Looking around in the web I´ve found that in the Bible there are many examples of "you and I" sentences. Also in the Doors song "Touch me" Morrison said: "for you and I".

I´ve been looking for a logical explanation (maybe old English? A very polite way to refer to oneself?), but nothing...

So, I came to the conclusion that, even celebrities or God forgot grammar. It´s very sad.

By the way... sorry if I have mistakes in my comment!! Remember: I´m not a native speaker of your language!!

There is a joke about the whole me and I thing:

"A guy dies and goes to heaven. He approaches the gates and knocks on them. On the other side there is St. Peter, who says 'Who's there?'. The guy answers 'It's I. Open the gate'. Peter hears that and says to himself 'Great. Another bloody teacher'. :)

The english language wasn't created by thoughtful experts in spoken or written comunication. If it was you might have a legitimate gripe. If America wasn't a country of immigrants who had to learn and use english, and in doing so changed the language in many ways, your gripe would be even more legit. If I could suspend disbelief for long enough to think that you know all of the archaic rules of the english language and use them perfectly all of the time, I might think you had gone from petty gripe to an actual point. At that point I would be on your side in this issue if you could come up with a way to correct an adult's grammar without running the risk of sounding like a condescending jerk. Good luck with that.

Feel free to correct my grammar and spelling. I know you want to.

What you are speaking of, to me, is insignificant compared to what I hear everyday in all walks of life. I am from south Louisiana, and when I hear people say, "He don't or she don't," that really, really makes me crazy. Or how about, "I seen"? These are foundational grammar problems.

To English teacher from Louisiana:

I often hear people from midwestern states using pronouns incorrectly, too, sometimes while they're criticizing southerners for having "bad accents."

Smart people do not use bad grammar. Smart people do not misspell words. Smart people know that can not is two words, not one.

I almost completely agree with you, but the split infinitive is not a real English rule. It was made up by one clergyman trying to Latinize English. It makes sense in Latin, because the infinitive is one word, but English has an infinitive marker, "to". Sometimes moving an adverb from between "to" and the infinitive drastically changes the meaning. This rule is as bogus as the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, a rule made up by the same clergyman. However, one still shouldn't say, "Where are you at?" because "where" means "at what place", and therefore "at" is redundant, but "What meeting are you at?" is as logical as
"At what meeting are you?", and the former has been in use longer in English. I too abhor "between you and I", but I hate hypercorrection even more.

Cannot is a word, and it is preferred to can not because the second "n" is not said in speech.

By the way, if I see one more "'til" written anywhere I will lose my mind. It's "till". Same goes for "okay"; it's "OK" or "O.K." because it's an initialism of "oll korrect" which is a humorous misspelling of "all correct". "OK" is not from "okay" which supposedly came from an native American word similar to "Okeh". "Okeh" existed, but "OK" comes from a Boston newspaper which was known for humorously misspelt initialisms. This is the last of my rants.

Why is precision important only in math or science? Will this balcony hold 1 person or 100 people? Who cares... it's just a couple of zeroes! Will this dose of painkiller keep the patient alive by preventing shock, or will it kill him? Who cares, it's just words. When that guy said, "you can't put too much water in the cooling tower of that nuclear reactor" did he mean "no amount is too much" or "too much will blow the core?"

How many arguments about the 2nd amendment stem from imprecise language? Or is the genius of that document that very imprecision.

Yes, language changes, but attempting to communicate clearly by using it as precisely as possible helps all parties involved. If your clothes make an important statement about you from which people form their opinions of you, why wouldn't your statements?

I am not sure when bad grammar became acceptable but it sure seems as though it is. It permeates our lives and no one seems to care that our English language is turning into something that definately isn't what it was. I have been taking a tax course offered by Jackson Hewitt and I have to hope they know more about taxes than they know about their native language. I can barely read the lessons because every sentence abuses the singular/plural rules of Englinh. Some are so bad they border humorous if not fot the fact that it demonstrates a lack of knowledge or we have let political correctness turn us into Neanderthals. One glaring example is as follows: "In this case, the taxpayer can use MFJ as their filing status on a tax return for themselves and their deceased spouse". I wonder if I can force myself to complete the course of if I will be driven crazy by this horrible writing.

Your article is very timely and necessary. I am thoroughly obsessed with grammar. I read grammar books in my spare time for fun and knowledge. I cannot stand bad grammar. I realize that grammar usage changes based on various social situations, but certain grammar blunders (using "me" as a subject, trying to use a subject pronoun as the object of a preposition, subject-verb agreement, etc.) are unacceptable.

There's hardly a scripted TV show on the air nowadays (and for the past decade or more) on which you won't hear "between you and I" or "for her and I" or just about any prepositional phrase possible with compound objects that doesn't use "I" instead of "me". Do we have a whole generation of TV writers who skipped the 4th grade? Seems like. When supposedly smart characters use really bad grammar, that sort of destroys their supposed intelligence. One would think that a professional writer would know better. Obviously not.

ummmm grammar nazi much ur a grammar nazi lol

Well put.

"I’m sitting at a lounge last week in Los Angeles with a top business reporter. True, we’re drinking, but that doesn’t really explain what happens next." This anecdote speaks of a past event and should have been written in the past and imperfect.

Ironic that you wrote a column chiding people for bad grammar, but wrote all your anecdotes in the present tense. I know it's fashionable these days, but stories of things that already happened, when told in the present tense, are themselves grammatically incorrect.

Bad grammer is different than voice.

I actually know several educated, thoughtful people who say and write I's or mine's instead of just using the word MY. It is infuriating.

My dear friend Robert Schainbaum should learn that it is a repp (two p's please) tie.

Oh my, what is worsse is that people are beginning to use "myself" in place or "you" or "I". More annoying than telling me to "submit the form to Bob or I" instead of "me" is when they say "submit the form to Bob or myself". This has become way too prevelant and is permeates the written as well as the spoken. Makes me crazy. Drives me mad!

Jay in San Diego, you also used "then" when it should be "than."

Trysch from Calgary: I stopped reading your comment after I read, "persons intelligents." It should be "person's intelligence."

I work in a law firm and shudder when I hear "Where's it at?" My father (who was a trial lawyer) was well known for correcting grammer. Receptionists learned quickly. They would ask "What was your name?" He would respond, "My name was, is and will remain Clifford." Tell me your thoughts. Nutritious food is NOT healthy, it is healthful. Correct?

I'm way late to the party here, but in case anyone's still reading, I just want to point out that "presently" can be used as a synonym for "currently," and in fact, that was its original meaning. In other words, it's not technically incorrect, though I can see how it could lead to confusion.

When I hear bad grammar, it's like someone stabbing me in the ear with an ice pick.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Don't get me started! Basic good grammar is something you learn early. Grates my nerves when people speak and their grammar is on the level of elementary school students. I was always an A or B English student. I constantly read something everyday. Some People, I know, don't read anything but text messages and emails and other digital devices. People would rather stare at walls than read the written word. They #@$! it up when they speak it. I'm speaking of radio and TV personalities whose job it is to know good grammar! There are a few who are very articulate but present guests who aren't. People can #@*# up plurals: geeses instead of geese and a hundred other bad examples.

In Scotland common grammatical mistakes include :I seen ; Yous ; I done ; I have went.
In England common grammatical mistakes include : I was sat ; I was stood ; We was.
I hate all of the above but admit to occasionally misuse "I" and "me".

Hey- What about alot That error bugs me a lot- I am amazrd at how many people make this error a lot

@Joe of Charleston, SC:

"I was blessed with a fairly high IQ."

WAH HA HA. Congratulations. You know, I'm so sick of these morons that pop into discussions just to disclose the fact that they were "blessed with a fairly high IQ" (which translates to, "I can learn things slightly faster than others"). Once this has been stated, they go on to address their point as if they're some authority on the subject.

Just shut up, and move on. Nobody cares that your IQ was in the 65th percentile.

And now Mark Hurd is back! What a world, huh?

You are right, grammar does matter. if we arent able to communicate properly then what do we have? Communication is everything, so we should do it right.

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