Tag Archives: grammatical rules

National Grammar Day: Ain’t Got No Good Reason Why Not to Celebrate

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Today is National Grammar Day and word nerds across the country are celebrating.  There are grammar haiku contests on Twitter, a litany of grammar-related memes on Facebook and it is likely that students will be subject to the whims of their over-eager English teachers on this most glorious grammar-focused day.

The word grammar comes from the Greek word grammatikē technē, which means “letters.” The word is related to all Greek-derived words that refer to writing; for instance, the Greek word for photography means “writing with light.”  Grammar, as a form of study, entered the English language sometime in the 1300s and it was more or less based on the concept of learning in general.  It took a few centuries for the field to be narrowed down and applied specifically to classical language and literature study.  Today, per the Macmillan Dictionary, grammar means, “the set of rules that describe the structure of a language and control the way that sentences are formed.”

But what is National Grammar Day exactly?  And why should anyone care? William Safire, the famed American author, journalist and speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, said, “Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.”  Considering his boss was far from perfect, figuratively speaking, I would say that this statement is true.  So, with that idea in mind, is National Grammar Day a holiday based on the goal of attaining grammatical perfection?

The day itself was only established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, who is the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.

Sounds like an organization with a lofty cause and indeed, it is.  The organization’s blog states, “There are huge problems in this world, and then there are problems that can be solved by everyday people with red pens and a little moxie.  The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar is for pen-toters appalled by wanton displays of Bad English. (And we’re not talking about Bad English, the band, although their song, ‘Heaven is a 4 letter word’ needs a hyphen.”

I like their mindset!

And here is a bit more background.  National Grammar Day is celebrated on March 4th of the year in an effort to play on the idea of “March Forth” in the name of good grammar.  Plus, “March Forth!” in and of itself is a complete sentence.

Personally, I believe that there is a huge disconnect in the world of grammar.  You have people who care about it deeply, like Brockenbrough, and then you have people who knowingly and proudly slaughter the rules of grammar all over the Internet. So what does this say exactly about our nation’s relationship with its language?

Richard Turner, the self-professed “Grammar Curmudgeon,” made a statement before his passing in 2011 that I feel accurately assesses our culture’s attitude toward grammar: “Grammar Checker—A software program that is not needed by those who know grammar and virtually useless for those who don’t.”

While I agree with Turner’s words, I do believe that events like National Grammar Day have the ability to raise awareness about the importance of writing and language and their role in the preservation of our culture.  Language and words should be celebrated.  Moreover, good grammar can be fun and its proper delivery shouldn’t be something deserving of an eye roll and a yawn.

So, in honor of National Grammar Day, I encourage everyone to “March Forth!” and engage in a bit of grammar vigilantism.  Correct the Facebook status updates of your friends and instruct them on the difference between to, two and too, use the hashtag #GrammarDay unabashedly if you highlight errors in someone else’s tweet and unapologetically split infinitives—you owe it to your language.   Consider it public service.

And if anyone accuses you of being a Grammar Nazi explain to them that it’s just your way of celebrating a very important National Holiday.

The team at Grammar Chic specializes in a variety of professional writing and editing services.  For more information about how we can help you, visit www.grammarchic.net or call 803-831-7444.  We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc for the latest in content writing tips and give a “like” to our Facebook page.  Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.

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The House of Grammar: A Haunted Place with Many Rooms – Part 1

Grammar Chic Grammar Rules Blog

The House of Grammar is a large, foreboding and confusing place. It has myriad rooms and more uncharted secret passageways than a game of Clue. Indeed, the House of Grammar is haunted—filled with myths, half-truths and downright fabrications that have the ability to leave you curled in the fetal position on the floor. As a writer, you have to be very prepared for what you may find when you enter the House of Grammar. And you must also have a bit of courage, a healthy amount of nerve and be in control of your gag reflex if you decide to venture in too deep.

Think I am being dramatic?

Maybe.

Still, on my last trip into the House of Grammar, I made some interesting findings. What’s more is I discovered that some myths are nothing but that, and other “rules” deserve to be cast to the sands of time.

Grammar Tombstones

R.I.P. Rule: Don’t split an infinitive

If it’s been a while since you learned the tenets of grammar in a classroom, an infinitive is a verb in its simplest form. Usually, you can recognize an infinitive by the word that is used in front of it. For instance, The man helped his brother to escape from prison. The “to,” in this instance, isn’t necessary, as you could say, The man helped his brother escape. The “to” is a preposition and it allows readers to realize that an infinitive is next up in a sentence.

So ultimately, the phrase “split infinitive” is very misleading, as the word “to” isn’t actually part of the infinitive; therefore, there is nothing to split. But a sentence can sound better when there does happen to be a “to” close to an infinitive, and there is no harm done if you choose to place a separator in between them via a descriptive word or two. For instance: Mary decided to strongly oppose management’s decision.

It also needs to be said that this isn’t a new trend and indeed, splitting infinitives is an old ghost in the House of Grammar. In all actuality, it has been a thing since the 1300s and only became some sort of grammar “crime” (not an exaggeration) when a Latin scholar by the name of Henry Alford labeled it a serious no-no in the book, “A Plea for the Queen’s English.” However, there is also history here, and old Henry might have just been following what he knew to be proper Latin grammar. You see, the Victorians, as a group of very proper people, were incredibly fond of the Latin language, mostly because they saw themselves as the intellectual heirs to the Roman Empire, which yes, primarily spoke Latin. My point here is that in Latin, it is impossible to divide an infinitive, or so I have researched.

I’ll be the first to point out that you should never have me edit your Latin language documents—that would be a huge mistake.

So getting back to taking infinitives to splitsville, grammarians have ruled that it is fine to do this, but as with all things, it should be done in moderation. For instance, as an editor, I would shorten this sentence with absolute glee: Mary decided to strongly and without further delay stand up and voice her ire and oppose management’s decision.

I’ll be writing more on Grammar Tombstones in the future. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the new Grammar Chic, Inc. website and follow our team on Twitter @GrammarChicInc.

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