So, I’m at a writers’ conference—a professional setting, yes? With folks who are clearly well educated, especially about the use of words, yes?–and this is what I hear: “Just give Jim and I a call, and we’ll talk it over.”
Then came a recent commercial on TV, where a supposed doctor was saying, “This product has been tested by myself and others in the medical field.” Good grief. I shut off the TV and escaped to a published book, where I’d surely find respite from the rotten use of language, only to find this awaiting me: “…the choices which he had made would come back to haunt him.”
And don’t even get me started on those signs in grocery stores that say the express lane is for “10 items or less.”
Okay, yes, I know you can’t edit speech. And expecting grocery store owners to know proper grammar is a bit pie-in-the-sky. But here’s the deal: we writers are surrounded by the improper use of the English language. And while walking around correcting the errors people make in speech will garner you far more resentment than gratitude, I do think we need to be aware enough to (a) use these terms correctly in our writing and speech and (b) correct improper usage in our personal sphere of influence, such as with our kids or those who consider us mentors of any kind. Or the folks who read what we write. Not because we’re the grammar police or want to show others how very intelligent we are, but because we’re wordsmiths. And because, Twitter and texts notwithstanding, using language well still matters. And trying to sound intelligent only works when use language correctly.
Next week, I’ll give you some guidelines that I keep in mind (not, you will notice, which I keep in mind) as a wordsmith. But for now, I want to hear from you, fellow wordsmiths, about two things:
First, if you have elements of English that cause you grief. Does the use of which/that stymie you? Are you confused (as I confess I still am at times) as to whether something is laying or lying? Let me know and if it’s something I’m not already addressing next week, I’ll suss out simple tricks to help.
Second, what language or grammar gaffes set your teeth on edge? I’m guessing I’m not the only one bothered by these kinds of things.
Ready? Set. Go!