Grammar matters

OK, I’m treading into slightly scary territory here, as I write about grammar.

I am certainly not perfect when it comes to the grammar and editing department. But I am a writer and I try to do my best not to mangle the English language too much.

I generally give people plenty of leeway when it comes to grammar, especially spoken grammar. I never correct people who make grammatical mistakes when talking. I know I make plenty of grammatical errors when I talk. I often end sentences with prepositions and I used to be a repeat offender when it came to using “like” too much as a filler word.

I also generally don’t criticize non-professional writing. Does it matter that there was a grammatical misstep on a greeting card or in a personal e-mail message? Of course not. It’s the thought that counts.

But where I really draw the line is companies that should know better. So you can blame this post on Anheuser-Busch.

Why is it the beer company’s fault? Just check out this photo:

What is "Bud Light Limey's" supposed to mean? Does the beer belong to Limey? Who is Limey?

This abomination of a product was for sale in my friendly neighborhood liquor store. What initially caught my eye was the product itself — 7-ounce bottles of beer — although I quickly became angry about “Limey’s.”

The product development and marketing staff at Anheuser-Busch should have a basic grasp of grammar — at least enough to know that the proper way to make “Limey” plural is to write “Limeys.” The apostrophe has no business being there.

Ready for another one?

This is a TV screenshot I snapped with my iPhone. It was an ad promoting a new series on HGTV, and I’m not sure what they were going for here:

HGTV needs a grammatical intervention.

To set the record straight, I’m pretty sure they mean, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Or perhaps, you could extend the phrase to say, “Keeping up with the Joneses’ lifestyle.” (In other words, the lifestyle belongs to the Joneses, the people who make up the Jones family.)

Again, HGTV has scores of professionals who should have caught this error. I’m sure the commercial went through about 8 gazillion layers of approval. Did anyone flag the grammar problem? Guess not. And guess who won’t be watching the show?

While I’m on a roll, I’m going to send you over to Flickr, where there is a brilliant collection of photos of signs with creative grammar and spelling  from recent “tea party” protests around the country. The term “teabonics” has been coined to describe this the phenomenon.

The teabonics photo collection is worth a good laugh — and that’s a shame for the protest participants themselves. Their very real concerns about the government are overshadowed by their God-awful signs. These folks are being ridiculed instead of listened to, which really is too bad for them. Their poor grammar is preventing them from getting their message out.

See, that’s why grammar matters!

OK, now that I’ve got the complaining out of my system, I’m going to give a tip of the hat to two wonderful grammarians who can help us all out.

First is Grammar Girl, who has a podcast, website and books. Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) has a friendly approach to teaching grammar and she offers great tips and tricks for remembering grammatical rules. You can also follow her on Twitter or become her fan on Facebook.

For the more advanced grammar wannabes, I recommend John McIntyre’s great blog, “You Don’t Say.” My Baltimorean readers will appreciate that he’s a local fellow who used to lead the copy desk at The Baltimore Sun. John also is on Twitter and on Facebook.

PS: If I’ve made any errors (grammatical or factual) on this blog post or any others, please tell me!

3 thoughts on “Grammar matters

  1. Do you remember when we had assignments like this early in the j-schools days? Even then—when we knew so little—it was easy to find the lazy companies.

  2. John McIntyre also was on The Capital’s copy desk at one time – before you came aboard. Thanks for writing about this topic. One of my grammatical favorites also has to do with the apostrophe – as in it’s and its. You can have a field day with that one.

  3. My favorite story about the misuse of grammar is when my boss was giving a tour of our company to prospective clients. As he was discussing the company’s abilities to edit and make changes to copy, my boss said, “We’ll check all of your text to make sure that everything is grammerly correct.”

    That’s right, he used the made up word “grammerly” to sell the company’s ability to edit copy. Needless to say, he is not my boss anymore.

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