Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grammar Police and Social Media

I have a nephew who is always posting different photos on social media, usually facebook. And each time he posts a photo there is always a caption that reads like this: "Me and my friend," or "Me and my Mom." Of course it's grammatically incorrect. And this particular nephew is 29 years old, he's a doctor, and he's well above average in the IQ department. If he'd gone through 12 years of Catholic school like I did, Sister Unforgiving in the photo above would have smacked his fingers with that ruler.

But my nephew is not the only one I see doing this on social media. To be honest, I'm often tempted do to it myself just to see if I could get away with it. When it comes to social media, from blogging to facebook to twitter, I've always believed it's supposed to be casual and free from grammar police. I also believe that language, grammar, and communication in general change and evolve with time. And when more people use something that's normally considered grammatically incorrect, it might be time to change the rules a little. Ending a sentence with a preposition is a good example. There was a time, not too long ago, when it was considered wrong to end any sentence with a preposition. Now it's done all the time, it's perfectly acceptable, and it's the way people actually speak. Communication evolves; some of the things we thought were important two hundred years ago don't apply anymore.

So I don't mind when I see these small grammatical errors on social media. I don't mind when I see huge grammatical errors on social media either, because this is the way people speak on a daily basis. And, the key word here is "social." We're not talking about "educational" media. We're not talking about "bore-me-to-death" media. I think this is especially true when it comes to personal blogging. Nothing irritates me more than when I see a fool correct someone's grammar on a blog or social media...or on a comment thread. It. Doesn't. Matter. It. Is. Casual.

And yet I see it all the time, especially with regard to authors, editors, and publishers. There are people who must seriously believe that because authors, editors, and publishers work on books where grammar should be excellent at all times they don't deserve a break on social media. Most of the time it's the smallest mistake that people will single out and mention, in public, to the author, without giving it a second thought.

Personally, I think it's highly inappropriate to correct someone in public, on social media, with regard to grammar. I don't care what line of work they do either, and this includes authors or anyone connected to publishing. To correct someone in public on social media is basically the same as correcting someone's grammar at a cocktail party. It's bad manners, which is far worse than poor grammar. I tend to believe the people who do this on social media are also the same types of people who would do this at a cocktail party (I'd bet most don't get invited out often).

Unfortunately, the people who do this all the time probably won't even read this post. They will continue on, correcting people on social media, boring us all to death with their snide tongue-in-cheek comments and we'll have to ignore them. But if someone does, indeed, correct you on a blog or any other social media, don't worry. Don't give it a second thought. Because this is not someone you need to care about or know.


Anonymous said...

I really need to be a much older man because poor grammar sends me screaming. In general, what sends me over the edge is how many people act like bad grammar is OK. I've resigned myself to the fact I can control only myself and will attempt to use proper grammar even if the dolts of the world think grammar rules are made to be broken as I have heard!


Lisa Lane said...

One thing I learned when I broke down a few years back and took an upper division grammar course was that what we consider to be good grammar is constantly evolving. While "My mom and me" is correct and "Me and my mom" is not, I would be willing to bet both are equally acceptable in most circles. (I also learned that ending a sentence with a preposition is now perfectly acceptable if the correct configuration sounds too wordy.)

However, I did learn a few strict rules, such as those for comma use, and I must bite my tongue on a daily basis not to correct my friends, family, and peers about their use of commas with adjectivals. The rule, for those who do not know, is that a comma separates an adjectival from the main clause if it comes before the clause, but not after. For example: Before we went to the park (adjectival--use comma), we went swimming (main clause). Compare to: We went swimming before we went to the park (no comma).

I wouldn't dare point this out directly in anyone's social media writing as I know it is not my place. Moreover, no one likes a grammar Nazi. ;-)

ryan field said...

@Matt...I'll admit there are times when it get to me, too. I saw an author post on social media this week she had "shrimps" for dinner. That's a big one, too.

@Lisa...I see those things all the time. And I'm sure I do them if I'm in a hurry.

One thing that really kills me is when authors say something like "Come read my new blog." A blog is a web site where people post information on a blog post. I naturally assume they are talking about starting a new "blog." But I always find they are talking about a new blog post.

Lisa Lane said...

LOL, Ryan.

Another one that gets me is the misuse of apostrophes (i.e. confusing the possessive its with the contraction it's). Just as bad is the misuse of "then" v. "than." HOWEVER, bad grammar does not indicate lack of talent (just as good grammar does not always reflect said talent) so I keep my corrections to myself.

With that said, I do think every writer should take a good grammar course. One should have as many tools of the trade on hand as possible, IMHO. I know it's made a huge difference in the quality of my more recent works.

ryan field said...

I think that's a good idea. But what I truly wish is that kids would learn more of the fundamentals in school. I don't see them getting this nowadays. I see all kinds of "programs" and "testing" and yet they don't know basic grammar. And it seems to be all schools across the board. I'm a huge fan of charter schools for this reason. They seem to nail it when it comes to fundamentals.