Maybe you all have, and I'm just slow, but it really annoys me to read an article, or hear a newscast, or read a story where ordinary words are misused. My three most annoying examples are - flaunt for flout, as in "He flaunts the law," when what is meant is "He flouts the law."

Then there's "diffuse" for "defuse" ("He diffused the bomb;" interesting way to get one through a wall, I guess).

And, finally, on a story about a revolutionary war hero, the, ahem!, reporter had the man's family standing around the grave, and referred to them as his "ancestors."

Perhaps I am just too curmudgeonly, but it seems to me that if one's words are going into a public venue, one might take a bit of care to ascertain the proper word.

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"...even a passing level of writing...". Amazing. I guess that could be a commentary on the direction of a large chunk, at least, of our culture.
My absolute bete noir, notwithstanding that I've thrown in the towel on this one, is "their." Without pondering the well-known, and well-justified, feminist arguments against "he" and "his" being universally accepted as meaning "someone" and "someone's" the reaction against sexist usage has given birth to "everyone has their own [whatever]" which makes my teeth ache.

It's too much to expect anyone these days to understand the difference between "that" and "which," "classic/classical," "historic/historical," "revolve/rotate" ad nauseum.

I admit to having railed against diagramming sentences, back in junior high, but it's really the most effective way of learning how a language works. I've never seen it done, but diagramming sentences in a highly inflected language like Latin might make it considerably easier to pick out the connections between the words.

My generation should definitely take the rap on this one, folks. The great buzzword of the late 60s, "relevance," led the charge against proscriptive grammar and syntax. Creativity was all, rules were for the square and the insensitive. Unfortunately, this attitude seeped into other areas of learning, with the result that memorization came to be regarded as a loathsome extension of, I don't know, colonialism or capitalism. No one has managed to develop a system for learning geography or history without memorizing factual data, but what the hell?
"My absolute bete noir, notwithstanding that I've thrown in the towel on this one, is 'their.' Without pondering the well-known, and well-justified, feminist arguments against 'he' and 'his' being universally accepted as meaning 'someone' and 'someone's' the reaction against sexist usage has given birth to 'everyone has their own [whatever]' which makes my teeth ache."

I'm with you on this one, Bill. How about "could of" instead of "could have" or, better yet, "could of went", instead of "could have gone?" Or another of my favorites, "If I was you," rather than, "If I were you."

I'm not a writer, but as an attorney, my use of the written word is my stock-in-trade. I learned to diagram sentences in the third grade (1959), and I am appalled at the poor grammar of the latest generation, not to mention many of my peers. Judging by my two kids, one of whom graduated from college this weekend, and the other of whom will graduate in December, I fear the deterioration we're seeing is also an outgrowth of their disdain for pleasure reading. In my experience, those people who read more seem more attuned to grammar and punctuation, not to mention the artful use of the language.
It's a bit unfair to blame the 'singular their' on a modern reaction against sexist usage when previous offenders include Austen, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Swift and Dickens, amongst others, and it appears to have been in common usage in English since the fourteenth century.
As an editor of academic and government writing, I have dozens. Almost anything with -ized, for example, or less vs. fewer. But I'm about to surrender to my all time wall-climber. That's impact as a verb.

But it's become so ubiquitous that I've given up. I've been impacted by impact too many times.
Laxadaisical, off his own back, can I lend it, he done it, I seen him, as a pose to, should of, I never, I'm not cared, I learnt him to... and on and on and on. But bearing in mind the fact that language evolves, if the incorrect usage of a word or phrase becomes the most widely adopted, does that make it right?
I have a pet peeve too. A lot of people say "I could care less" when they mean "I couldn't care less." Drives me nuts.

At the same time, as an 8th grade writing teacher, I firmly believe that teaching grammar comes last. What has to be taught first is getting a clear thought on the page. Students have to learn to get what they mean down ont he page. Then they can learn how to say it correctly. But having correct grammar is useless if you're not going to put a complete idea on the page.
Hmmm. Well, I was taught grammar in the seventh grade, and it was a help in structuring thoughts into coherent sentences and stories. But to each his own...
Isn't it like saying you'll just focus on teaching someone the mechanics of driving first and then the rules of the road? Here, you have to pass a written before you can get a learner's permit so that you can begin the physical process of driving.

Since working with kids with developmental delays and such required emphasis on correct use I guess I'd lean your way Pepper. I could understand the idea some of the children with speech delays were conveying, for example. I knew what they meant - I learned to speak and hear on their level, know what sounds they were dropping or substituting for. As did their parents. And there was the rub - people knew what they meant so they didn't correct them.

Getting them to say it properly meant not acknowledging you understood the meaning, which meant they had to learn to express it properly. Proof was putting them in class with other children who really didn't know what they meant. If anyone thinks we were cruel to play dumb, those kids learned day 1 in a social environment that they couldn't communicate. Better to learn it one on one with me and start fixing it than to go to school and be isolated and ridiculed. From the work I did with kids with reading/writing delays, it's the same philosophy. Bad habits become ingrained and harder to break.

But we do have some differences in our educational philosophies up here.
My thought here is enough of my students' writing needs to be a coherent thought before anything else. They have to learn how to get their meaning across first. And how to even come up with a meaning. They have to learn logical arguemnts and logical progression. Once they can do that, I think you can go back and get the sentences to sound right. Spelling and knowing what a past particple is isn't as important and having meaning to your sentences and writing. (At the same time, simple grammar is something they should have learned up until 8th grade. So this point should be moot.) Most of the grammar in their writing can be fixed by saying "Okay, now read this alound and see if it sounds right to you." They can then go back and fix it. But overall meaning is so much more important than correct technical grammar.
Hmm, I think "peak" vs. "pique," as in "peaked my interest" makes me nuts. It's "piqued my interest." I understand why the mistake is made, but it's crazy-making.
I read a compendium of author suggestions for book marketing. No attempt was made to edit, so the results included some oddities. It amazed me how many authors "took a quick peak," and of course their "interest was peeked". Someone probably "reached the pique of their expectations," too, though I didn't notice it. Lol.


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