Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Three Bad Accidence

by Glenn T (writer), Las Vegas, NV, March 12, 2010

Credit: Ann Batko
The seminal text on the subject

In an era where written communication is fast taking over - grammar has never been more important, and unfortunately, more routinely overlooked.

I had no idea how widespread this problem really was until I casually posted on Facebook about my frustration with a day of receiving particularly bad grammar. This innocuous action touched off a firestorm of commiserating comments from friends with dozens of examples that were much more egregious than the ones I had cited. In this era of real-time spell checking and centuries of grammar expertise literally at our fingertips, writing like a poorly educated first grader seems more inexcusable than ever. I'm the first to espouse the virtues of forgiveness, but at some point, enough is enough.

Like it or not, you will be judged on the things that you write. And more and more, our communications, both business and personal are occurring in written form (albeit 144 characters at a time). There's never been a time when it's been more important to learn how to write in a way that doesn't make you look like a moron - and as it turns out, there's also never been a time when it's been easier. But to get you started on your road to grammatical recovery, here are the three most egregious grammar errors (believe me, there was a longer list to choose from):

1. Homonym Confusion. Now that you've come back from to look up "homonym", I think we can all agree that if you don't know that there are a large number of words in the English language that sound identical, but are completely different words in both spelling and meaning, you've got no business writing anything at all. Seriously, your inability to tell the difference between these words makes everyone think you're an idiot. What's more if you think there are only two versions of the word "to", you might be too stupid to bother counting any higher.

2. Two Words, or Not Two Words... that is the question. Let me be perfectly clear about one thing, just because your beloved spell check didn't catch a mistake, doesn't mean you didn't make one. The spell-check algorithm only makes one check with hyphenated words, and that is to make certain that the words on either side are spelled correctly. It therefore can't tell you that "week-end" is supposed to be one word, or that "thank-you" or "a-lot" should be two. As a general rule of thumb, hyphen are like guns: if you don't know how they should be used, you probably shouldn't be using them.

3. A Case Against Phonetics. There comes a time in every person's life when trying to spell something phonetically (when they haven't a clue how to spell it) goes from being an innocent mistake to being a reliable indicator of a single-digit IQ. That time was the fourth grade. With the world wide web being broadcast to every corner of the globe via satellite, and spell check being included on everything with a keyboard, the excuses for spelling like you did when you were writing primarily in crayon and punctuating your afternoons with "nap time" have all but vanished. Nothing invalidates the use of a fancy word like misspelling it, so just go with the words you know, or look the damned thing up. If you got it so wrong that even the spell checker can't help you, you probably shouldn't be using it anyway.

* * *

I'm confident there are more inexcusable and inexplicable grammar crimes out there than those I've listed here. All of them being committed every day, much to the chagrin of you and I. For the record, if English isn't your first language, you get a pass on all of this. In my experience, however, those are the people least likely to commit these violations. No, these affronts to a decent secondary education are committed by people who look and sound just like you and me. And if you've just finished reading and still have no idea what I'm talking about, do us all a favor, turn off your computer and back slowly away from the keyboard. Nobody has to get hurt today.

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Glenn T is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on Three Bad Accidence

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By alan handwerger on March 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

That were excel-lent.

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By Glenn T on March 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Thanks, Alan.

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By Glenn T on March 13, 2010 at 03:26 pm

@ Dean - well said, and I certainly meant no offense to those with Dyslexia or similar learning challenges. Having a cognitive challenge of my own, I'm sensitive to never making light of such things. That being said, I'm confident that the overwhelming majority of the grammatical errors I see are committed by people with fully functional, albeit underused, minds. You keep fighting the good fight, and I'll make sure that I cautious to point the razor-tipped point of my directional angst only at those who TRULY deserve it.

@ Ed - you are perhaps the greatest example of "spell check is not enough" that I have ever known. Despite the tomes that you've written here and elsewhere - the Broo faithful will ALWAYS have "dick confit" to remember you fondly by. PROOFREAD PEOPLE!

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By Glenn T on March 18, 2010 at 03:24 am

@all... thank for the support and comments. If you like the THREE THINGS format, head on over to the new blog - creatively entitled:



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By zuuzee on September 01, 2011 at 03:53 pm

". . .much to the chagrin of you and I." Add this one to your list. Either this variation is used as a picture caption: "My mom and I at Disneyland," instead of "My mom and me." What I learned was: if you omit the other person from the sentence, which form of me, myself and I would you use? Actually, another editing of this sentence could be: "much to my, and your, chagrin."

Also, ". . .me and Amy went walking on the beach." When my kids used this variation, I would invariably state that 'Amy is not mean -- oh, you meant, Amy and I?'"

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By Felicia Stevenson on November 08, 2011 at 01:56 am

"If you got it so wrong that even the spell checker can't help you, you probably shouldn't be using it anyway."

"turn off your computer and back slowly away from thekeyboard. Nobody has to get hurt today. "


I also love that I'm french, so I get a free pass ;)

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By Glenn T on November 08, 2011 at 12:32 pm

@Felicia, THANK YOU so much... I never expected this would be my most widely viewed article, but I suppose that language mistakes are more prevalent and frustrating than I thought... I'm also happy to see that my frustration translates into more than one language :)

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By Felicia Stevenson on November 08, 2011 at 09:24 pm

No problem Glenn, but truth be told, I'm as English as I am French, though my eduction was in French. So it's not really about translation, but it's still nice to hold in my back pocket to use when needed! LOL

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By Credo on October 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm

The spell check is getting better but mistakes can still stand proud amidst your otherwise perfect document.

Good deal....


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