...about correct grammar, spelling and punctuation? As someone who has pursued a career as a proofreader and copy editor for almost 20 years, I consider myself part of that withering breed of cranks who do care, but are at the same time aware we're fighting a losing battle.
The publishing and news media industries, for the most part, do not pay their editors a living wage (it's more of a live-at-home wage), and why should they, with all the chuckleheads out there nursing Jimmy Olsen dreams? As a result, newspapers, magazines, Web pages and even books in print are riddled with typos, misused punctuation and poorly written sentences. Just look at this doozy (pictured) I found on CNN.com a while back—sentences like this are commonplace on CNN, MSN and other Web media outlets.
If you want to make a living wage as an editor, you'll most likely need to go to work for THE MAN, in one of several "evil" corporate industries such as law, finance, pharmaceuticals or healthcare. These industries don't generally care about correctness, either. They care only inasmuch as it affects their bottom line, i.e., if something in print isn't as it should be, they could be fined, be sued, or even (gasp!) lose an important client. (Don't even get me started on Continuing Medical Education, a wholly corporate-funded scam, and the subject of another blog post for another time.)
So who really cares? Lynne Truss does. Truss expanded her well-received BBC Radio 4 series, Cutting a Dash, into the best selling book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Anyone with even the slightest reverence for correct punctuation usage and grammar will find this a laugh-out-loud read. To demonstrate the strength of her convictions, upon the opening of the film Two Weeks Notice, Ms. Truss went to Leicester Square with a six-inch apostrophe mounted on a stick, holding it strategically aloft so that, for a time at least, "Weeks" carried its proper possessive.
Most passersby told Truss to "get a life." The sting of this comment, in this context, has been felt at one time or another by all intrusive, stickler-types like myself. My own wife, bless her, has weathered years of my "pronunciation tips," and never once told me to "get a life." But just try telling someone to "get a life" as they blab on about last night's NFL spectacle, the "tribal council" on Survivor, or Lindsay Lohan's drunken escapades. These things, apparently, are more legitimate stuff of which to make up a life than our glorious and complex written language.
There are others who care, or are at least ready to help us laugh at the abundant incorrectness in the world. Banterist is a wonderful humor site, worthy of hours of perusal during office downtime. I draw your attention to the site's Grammar Cop feature, where writer Brian Sack cites worthy offenders (with accompanying photos) in hilarious fashion, his determinations often funnier than the offenses themselves. (Though not relevant to the topic of this post, I take special pleasure in Sack's Fatherhood Dispatch, featuring riotous observations by and for the new Dad.)
Also check out Grammarpuss, a group log, and part of the Fotolog online community. Members post their offensive finds, and other site users post commentary (which is often where the real hilarity ensues.)
Also see these demonstrative (and funny) tips for good writing from Paul Hensel at FSU. (I must admit, especially with blog writing, that it's often fun to creatively break some of these rules.)
As we careen into the widening abyss of the information age, wherein our statesmen cannot pronounce "nuclear," and no one can pronounce "radiator," I will continue to fight the good fight, with the knowledge that one must learn to peacefully coexist with bad spelling, apostrophe abuse and a lack of subject-verb agreement.
(Photo by Elisabeth Berger)