Wednesday, August 03, 2011

It's Important

Photo from this site; awesome use of punctuation! I want one of those rings!

I come from a family of grammar fiends. My mother once took a short story I’d written and illustrated when I was a very young child, marked it up with red pen and handed it back to me, graded. Graded!

We are editors at heart. I still have a collection of old love letters written by hopeful suitors. I keep them not for the nostalgic value, but because they still make me giggle: my name is spelled incorrectly, they are riddled with errors and, since the authors have long since faded from my social circle and can remain anonymous, no one is hurt by my using them as examples.

My anonymous commenter from a few posts back was miffed that his posts were mocked for their grammatical and spelling inconsistencies. I felt I restrained myself admirably in not tittering about his unintentional homoerotic mistakes and preteen spelling. (Of course, I just lost all restraint...) Am I just a snob? Is proper English really all that important in today’s Twitter-fed world?

I’m not alone in my resounding “yes!” And as we all know, truth is definitely found in numbers, right?

Here’s a visual:

Punctuation prevents cannibalism and saves lives!

Or how about a Biblical example? I’ll quote Wikipedia here: “Matthew (5:18): "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (NKJV). The quotation uses them as an example of extremely minor details. The phrase "jot and tittle" indicates that every small detail has received attention.”

Every small detail. Huh. Sounds like Jesus cared about not only grammar, but punctuation! (By the way, I love the sound of that phrase. “Jot and tittle” brings a sneaky grin to my face. Say it fast a couple of times; it totally sounds dirty, with the explosive t’s all over the place.)

People who care about literal readings of the Bible might want to sit up and take note. If Biblical writers and translators weren’t concerned about accuracy, we might still be reading translations such as these, copied from The Christian Century:
-- A 1631 edition now called the "Wicked Bible" had Exodus 20:14 as "Thou shall commit adultery." The printers were heavily fined for this lascivious mistake.
-- In 1653, an edition rendered I Corinthians 6:9 as "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?" They will not, according to later (corrected) editions.
-- A 1795 edition has Jesus exhorting his followers, "Let the children first be killed," instead of "filled," that is, fed. Talk about suffering the little children.


And from a purely practical standpoint, errors, particularly written ones, can create serious communication issues. When body language and tone are not taken into account, being rather impossible to recreate in normal writing (unless we are speaking about fiction), confusion is bound to occur. See hilarious Facebook mistake websites for glaring examples, which are, on the whole, NSFW (not safe for work).

For those of you who need yet another reason why bothering to speak and write your first, second or third language properly is worth your time, I give you this:

So you don't look like a blithering idiot.

Mediocrity (or worse) is not something to be proud of.

There. Now go forth and punctuate, edit, proof, reprimand and mock, if necessary.


anne said...

"There. No go forth and punctuate, edit, proof, reprimand and mock, if necessary."

assume you mention NOW go forth ?!?:)

I am all for proofing, and good grammar and etc. Was not impressed w/your anon-writer who fussed because you'd noted the inability to spell Christian correctly, when that was what the subject was...
Back in the way old days, days of typewriters and therefore NO spell-check, wrote a big old long paper about curriculum, and misspelled it every prof, who couldn't spell, but noticed when others couldn't, circled each and every one...about 20 in all. I felt pretty DUMB.......
one looks less than swift when one can't present the words in the proper way. Doesn't make you less than a person, but you won't be taken as seriously.

--jenna said...

Haha! Fixed. :)
There are some words I have to google EVERY time as I have no idea what the correct spelling is, and the more you look at the word, the more you're sure it's wrong.

Anonymous said...

Really? I graded your paper? Sorry!! Love, Mom

Jennifer said...

...another thing I always tell my children is...

"There is no substitute for the correct word"

...and the correct word is rarely ever "get" or "got".

Born Again Brazilian said...

Oh my - I'm embarrassed to say that I was originally an English major, but if you read my posts, I'm sure they are full of errors. That's what happens when you spend the majority of your time watching Shaun the Sheep and Pingu with your offspring. I'm probably making errors right now... :)