Grammar – Where are we now?


[Note: This is a Hoboken411 reader contributed article]

As this reader and I discussed the possibility of posting an article about grammar, I certainly played Devil’s Advocate, because I certainly don’t make too much of a big deal about it these days. I make mistakes quite regularly, and felt that it’s quite possible that the abbreviated ways some people communicate is “evolution” (or de-evolution) to a degree. Because people seem to be busier than ever, the quicker you can communicate, the better.

But I do still believe it’s important to at least learn proper grammar, and use it wherever possible.

Grammar: Where are we now? Hoboken, NJ 2008

hoboken-grammar-police.jpgThis question of grammar and usage has been plaguing me for a while now. I AM a grammar nerd, and a teacher, but for the record, only really learned “proper” grammar when I recently got in front of kids and actually had to explain and use it. Now I see it everywhere, grammar (and I also mean “usage,” too). I am not perfect with it, but I love trying.

(Are you good at grammar? take an easy quiz here: the limit of people who can take it is 100. I’ll post results as a follow-up)

It was while reading Hoboken411 that my grammar nerd really started kicking up trouble. I longed to correct every error I saw. It’s not that I saw errors here that I hadn’t seen all my life, but somehow these just stood out to me more.

I saw how offended some people on this blog get about having their grammar corrected, or even seeing someone else doing it. Why? How insulting is it to be corrected, and how insulting is it to dare correct another adult?? Did it matter that it was “just a blog”? Did the professional appearance of the blog fool some into thinking this was like being published, so take it seriously, and fool others into thinking it was an anonymous posting board and thus, meant to be casual?

Ponder how deep the issue of grammar really is. It touches upon life concerns in endless ways. And when all is said and done, I think it becomes an issue of morality. Am I wrong? Am I the only one who thinks this?

Read much more about her viewpoints on grammar after the jump…

(grammar, continued…)

I posed some questions to students and colleagues at my somewhat local public school. I selected very different groups of people to try for a broader perspective. I surveyed 13 adults and 63 8th grade students.

I asked two questions that concerned judgments we make of other people, based on their grammar usage.

Question #1

hoboken-grammar-police-2.jpg“Does improper grammar make you think that people are less smart than those who use proper grammar?”

  • Of the adults: 10 said yes, 2 said no, 1 didn’t put an answer down. Comments: “No. Just less smart in grammar. Some people are very skilled in their own areas and pay less attention to grammar details.”
  • Of the students: 30 said yes, 32 said no, and 1 didn’t answer. Comments: “No, we’re all the same.” ”Yes, I assume they dont’ know the proper way.”

Question #10

hoboken-grammar-store-signs.jpg“Do you judge people by their grammar usage?”

  • Of the adults: 12 said yes, 1 said no. Comments: “No, people are a product of environment and as society allows this, people just follow.” “Sometimes/usually.”
  • Of the students: 25 said yes, 38 said no. Comments: “Nope, they say US is a free country.” “Sometimes, but it matters on their background.”

The answer that stood out to me the most was a student’s response to question #1, “No, we’re all the same.” It is something I tell my students all the time. I teach middle school, and those kids can be mean to each other! So I always stress this mantra as a way to hopefully de-escalate someone.

I also really believe it. If we could focus on similarities rather than differences between people, I think we’d feel better with each other.

To see my words used so openly kind of thrilled me. Yet, I don’t agree with this sentiment in every circumstance. Like grammar for instance; I’d hate to see this left without standards just for the sake of democracy.

And if we can extrapolate data from those I already surveyed, most of you will agree with having some standards.


Question #9

“Does grammar matter in texting, chat rooms, or when posting on blogs?”

  • Of the adults: 10 said it matters, 3 for it doesn’t. Comments: “No, but it should.” “Less so than in other written venues. Expediency is more important than taking the extra time.”
  • Of the students: 5 said it matters “on blogs only”. 58 said it doesn’t matter. Comments: “No, as long as people understand.” “No way!”

Obviously, kids care less than adults, no surprise there.

What is interesting is that, for those very few kids who DO care, they care about it exclusively on blogs.

Adults care too. Case in point: H411’s post about the update to the lead-laden soccer field. It quickly degenerated into a question about grammar, which led to numerous judgments being made, both personal AND about the city. You care about how language is projected, and nudge us towards seeing the “right” way.
What DOES grammar mean to us, if we’re beyond school age? What NOW is the role of grammar in our lives: how often do you think about it, put the trouble in to fix it, or do not bother at all? WHY?

Parents, are you sitting your kids down to chat about nouns, or the importance of them? Are you parents active teachers in that respect? Or have we left this to the certified teachers, who no longer have much sway in this department?

I am certainly not advocating establishing anything formal for grammar usage on blogs! It simply seems to me to be worth taking the time to stop, look, assess. Get a feel for this new zeitgeist we’re involved in.

Share your thoughts in this survey (I think this is also limited to 100).

Peace out,

Sister Rose

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31 Comments on "Grammar – Where are we now?"

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Has the preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence been beaten to death yet?

It eventually occurred to me: the sentence “Get a feel for this new zeitgeist we’re involved in” does not end in a preposition. It’s a phrasal verb.

To illustrate: “Pissing off bridges pisses the authorities off.” The first “off” is a preposition and the second is an adverb, one half of the phrasal verb.

One dim memory from HS English is that words slip easily from being one part of speech to being another, and sometimes it’s hard to determine just what part of speech a word is.

In any event, think it’s okay (OK?) to use a preposition to end a sentence with. But, if you do, you’ll piss off many. (see posts above) So go easy doing it.

Illiterates are annoying but grammar scolds can be worse.


[quote comment=”83348″][quote comment=”83342″][quote comment=”83272″]I hate to sound ignorant, but what is wrong with the yellow sign pictured? Is it that vinyl and videogames are written in all caps rather than a mix of caps and lower case?[/quote]

nothing is wrong with it[/quote]

yes there is[/quote]

oops, my mistake. the yellow sign is the good sign; the one next to it is bad. sorry


[quote comment=”83342″][quote comment=”83272″]I hate to sound ignorant, but what is wrong with the yellow sign pictured? Is it that vinyl and videogames are written in all caps rather than a mix of caps and lower case?[/quote]

nothing is wrong with it[/quote]

yes there is


Also, colloquialisms are tricky. Over the years, many of them, by virtue of their ubiquitous use, have become an accepted, “correct” part of our vernacular.

The word “f*ck” has FOUR pages (!) of definitions in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. All uses are, of course, slang phrases. I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules for this.

I personally dig that the lines get blurred. Keeps it real. ; D


I believe the point of contention is whether or not to include an apostrophe in the word “Kids”. If it’s THEIR night out, then it should have one.