The grammar police

‘You’re’ mistakes mean more than you think they do

| Staff Columnist
Weeeooo weeeooo weeeooo! We have you surrounded! Come out with your hands up and your spell-checker turned off! The grammar police have a warrant for your arrest!

Okay, so perhaps grammar errors aren’t as serious as that, but they can be incredibly detrimental to your academic reputation and to your ability to communicate effectively. The impression you leave when you fail to proofread is one of carelessness or even ignorance.

Here’s a great example: There’s a truck that’s often parked along Skinker, and on it is a sign that reads “pecan’s.” I’m pretty sure that the owner sells pecans and that it’s not just a sign to let us know that the truck belongs to someone named Pecan. Pretty sure.

In some situations, like casual Facebook messages or e-mails to friends, it’s alright to bypass capitalizations, apostrophes and some other elements of proper grammar, but when the message is for a professor, a TA or someone you do not know well, it’s important to portray your best self (who presumably knows that the possessive “its” has no apostrophe and that you are affected, not effected, by today’s economy). If you say things eloquently, concisely and properly, you might be setting yourself up for a better grade or a better chance at strong recommendation letters.

We all know that spell-check is not perfect, so don’t rely on it to fix your mistakes. Proofread everything yourself. I’ve received many an e-mail including the word “their” for “they’re” and vice versa. Here’s an even more common problem: People use “I” when they should use “me.” I’ve even heard some of my professors say something like, “Send the assignment to the TA and I.” Umm, that’s “the TA and me,” Mr. I-Know-Everything-About-(Insert Subject Here)-But-Not-the-Basic-Rules-of-English. Despite my admiration of the professor’s knowledge of his specialty, I lose a bit of respect for him each time he shows his ignorance of the conventions of grammar.

Another problem that spell-check can’t fix is pretense. If you’re (not “your”) not quite sure what a big word means, don’t use it. For example, “irregardless” is not a word, and even if it were, it would not mean the same thing as “regardless.” Remember that. Thanks. Oh, and don’t say something like “he contacted me in regard to the individual in question” unless you’re in court.

I guess you could argue that as long as someone can get his or her point across, it doesn’t matter how it’s done. Really, though, it seems that carelessness in the way you communicate often reflects carelessness in other parts of life. Plus, to say that it doesn’t matter how something is done as long as someone gets the gist of it is like saying that as long as the car gets me someplace, it doesn’t matter how it’s made. Look where that got us.


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