Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Elements of Style, 2000 editionImage via Wikipedia

One of my favorite shirts from the recent presidential campaign said “Change in Which We Can Believe”. You can find it at CafePress under writers, editors and grammarians for Obama.

Of course, the slogan heard nationally was “Change We Can Believe In”. Catchy, but not grammatically correct. I mention this because today, March 4, is National Grammar Day, so proclaimed by the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.

I do not like to call myself a grammar snob, because I make mistakes. I sometimes (but seldom) misuse “who” and “whom”. I find my Southern heritage creeping in with “towards” rather than “toward”. But I am educated enough that grammatical errors in others’ work tend to leap out at me, and this can be a problem. I was reading a historical last week by a well-respected author, and the sentence “He wanted to lie her down...” hit me like the sight of the proverbial turd in a punch bowl, taking me so far out of the moment I was tempted to not finish reading the book. I had already forgiven the author her misuse of “who” and “whom” in an earlier scene, but this was going too far!

There’s the possibility that it was not the author’s error, but the editor’s error. If so, that is even sadder. I depend on my editors to keep me in line, to catch those errors that might slip past me, like whether I should have used the word “may” instead of “might”. The editors I know, the ones who have managed to cling to their jobs in an age when editing appears to be considered a luxury for academic presses, but not necessary for publishers of mass market fiction, I honor those editors. They are fighting the good fight!

So as you go through your day today, red pen in hand, Elements of Style by your side, be ready to fight the good fight yourself! Grammar counts! Spelling counts! Punctuation counts!

We owe it to our readers. Someday they’ll thank us for it. Maybe. Regardless (NEVER IRREGARDLESS!!!), it’s the right thing to do.

Oh, and if you spot any grammatical errors in this post, please let me know. I would appreciate it.

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