Sunday, September 6, 2015

Grammar Doesn’t Matter

I can prove it.

There’s an awful lot of writing (and a lot of awful writing) by people who write on the Internet, and some of those people even claim to teach writing. Having learned my grammar back in the pleistocene era of education when the rules were drilled into schoolchildren, I’m always surprised to see ostensibly professional writers making elementary mistakes. Lots of confusion out there about “its” and “it’s,” for example, and  “your” vs “you’re, “ and “who’s” and “whose.”  (Them apostrophes are tricky.) But does it matter?

It does to me, and I’m sure to some other people, yet I can prove that in the bigger picture, it doesn’t.

I would divide things three ways:

If the message in important or useful, as long as the meaning comes through, you'll overlook some mistakes. Assuming they're not so bad as to obscure the message, they may make some of us wince, but from a practical standpoint -- it doesn't matter that much in today's communication setting.

Compare it to having a good piece of furniture that works well for your purpose but you discover that for no apparent structural reason, the cabinetmaker has used one phillips-head screw in with 29 slotted ones. Probably ran out of the right ones and reached for one nearby, would be a reasonable guess. It may make you think a little less of the cabinetmaker’s dedication to his craft, but you can still store your shirts and socks in the drawers.

The other end of the spectrum:  if the message is among the many that are of little or no value  -- what then? Well, in that case, who cares? Correct grammar isn’t going to save it, and bad grammar is one of its lesser problems and becomes irrelevant.

The last case is the anonymous strings of obscenities that pass for comment on line from some of our linguistically challenged brethren. In yet another way this further reinforces the case. You wouldn’t want to see grammatical rules applied to this stuff; you might begin to understand it.

 So -- Grammar Doesn’t Matter. QED.