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Opening Arguments

Pedant's holiday

Clean up you're writing; Tuesday will be National Grammar Day, and I is watching you:

I confess: I'm one of those people who cares about the difference between a gerund and a participle, between a restrictive and non-restrictive relative clause. This puts me in a tiny minority of deranged grammatical eccentrics -- people you should generally try to avoid.

But I have converted from my former life as a grammar prosecutor.

Only now do I know the truth: Sometimes it is best to follow the conventions of standard written English, as quirky, arbitrary and illogical as they often are (explain to me why "aren't I?" is considered grammatically correct?).

But most of the time -- when we're among friends, family, or anyone we feel comfortable with -- we should simply let our hair down and allow our unpolished emissions of language to burst out of us in all their untidy splendor.

That's sort of how I feel. I care about grammar -- in my job, I have to -- and I have on occasion corrected people, especially when it involves a pet peeve (I infer what you imply, dammit, and don't every let me catch you in a "comprising of" situation!) of mine. But the strident Language Police are more than a little annoying. As long as meaning is clear, the purpose of language is served.


larry morris
Thu, 02/28/2008 - 4:25pm

here, here, ...

Jim Howard
Thu, 02/28/2008 - 8:22pm

Clearly, I need to clean up my language, for this.