The online grammar police need to find a new beat.
And it’s and its. Too/two/to, too.
But I’m not ready to join the homophone supremacy movement.
How did this even become a movement? How did “I know the difference between you’re and your” become something people add to their Facebook profiles? Something to gloat about?
So far, this seems to be an internet-only phenomenon.
If you’ve visited the internet (ever), you’ve probably noticed that it’s full of bad spelling and terrible grammar. The internet is bad grammar’s natural habitat; it’s where spelling errors mate in the wild.
But it’s also where people go to complain about bad spelling and grammar.
Not just to complain about it, but to lament and lord over it.
For every person online who doesn’t know the difference between they’re and their, there’s someone else who does know the difference and can’t wait to say so.
Often not so politely.
If you drop an apostrophe somewhere public online, like in a comments section, the other commenters will shove it directly down your throat. Whatever point you were trying to make won’t matter. The very next comment will always be, “Says the moron who doesn’t know the difference between it’s and its.”
You’d think I’d be pro grammar rage. I am a professional writer. This is one arena where I’m actually superior to most people. (It’s this and “Name That Tune,” that’s all I’ve got.)
But grammar is a very civilized pursuit. We agree to follow certain rules for clarity’s sake — and to protect the integrity of language. It’s noble.
The sort of grammar-sniping that happens online rarely has anything to do with clarity. The grammar police understand what you mean; they just want you to know that you’re not saying it right. They’re not noble, they’re snobby.
I don’t believe, by the way, that all the bad spelling and grammar online are an indication that people are getting dumber by the hour — or that our culture is sliding into a sewage pit. (Though both of these statements may be true.)
I think that, thanks to the internet, there are more people and more kinds of people publicly trying to put things into words.
Pre-internet, if you didn’t write for work or write for pleasure, you probably didn’t write at all.
But now we’re all writing constantly. We’re texting, we’re emailing, we’re updating, we’re commenting.
All that typing and public writing must be scary for people who don’t feel comfortable with their writing skills. (I’m fairly comfortable with mine, and I still won’t leave comments on web sites other than my own. I’m afraid to sound stupid. I’m afraid I’ll say something incorrectly or flat-out wrong, or that someone will find fault with me. I’m really, really afraid of typos.)
My mom sent me an email for the first time a month or so ago, and it struck me how rarely I’d read something from her before the internet — besides to-do lists and greeting cards and “Rainbow was not in school yesterday because she was ill” notes.
Now she has an internet shop and she’s constantly typing at her computer. She’s a pretty good writer, actually — she’s funny — though spelling isn’t her strong suit.
Spelling isn’t a strong suit for most people. (We can’t all win the grade school spelling bee two years in a row.) That doesn’t mean they don’t have something to share.
I hate to think of my mom posting her opinion on a forum and getting slammed with the old “why don’t you learn the difference between it’s and its” club.
I guess that’s what bothers me most about grammar bullying … It pretends to be about improving the discourse and making the web smarter, but it’s really just another way to log on and tell someone “your dumb.”
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One more thing about knowing the difference between their, they’re and there: It’s such a minor thing to brag about, from a grammatical standpoint. If you’re going to brag about your mad word skills, make it something impressive. Make it “I understand the difference between comprise and compose.” Or even “Lay and lie – I get it.” You know the difference between you’re and your? So does my 12-year-old niece.
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