Is grammar a dying art?

A few years ago a friend told me that she had never been taught the difference between a verb and a noun, or a adjective and an adverb. I was stunned as I learned that when she was at school (in the 80s/90s) grammar was off the syllabus.

The problem was almost certainly compounded by text speak – the original SMS was limited to about the same size as a tweet and so we abbreviated everything.  Admittedly text speak had much of its roots in bulletin board and online chat abbreviations, but nonetheless a whole new idiom was spawned: abbreviated, unstructured, and sometimes almost incomprehensible.

Of course, there are also the perils of assuming that everyone reads the same thing into each abbreviation – from the friend who perceived an insult at the bottom of a friendly “how to” email (misunderstanding that YMMV meant ‘your mileage may vary’ rather than ‘you make me vomit’), to the vaguely sinister misinterpretation of LOL in the wrong context (“lots of love’/’laughs out loud’).

Anyway, back to the original question: with a lack of grammar being taught, with a tendency towards abbreviation, and with incorrect English being thrust upon us each day, should we be surprised that grammatical mistakes are not even spotted by most people?

Here are just a few of the grammatical goofs which I have seen recently – can you spot the errors?

  • “Please keep John and I informed.”
    • should be “Please keep John and me informed.”
  • “Where is it’s cable?”
    • should be “Where is its cable.”
  • “Your correct.”
    • should be “You’re correct.”
  • “8 items or less.”
    • should be “8 items of fewer.”
  • “Free carrier’s bags.”
    • should be “Free carrier bags.”
  • “That won’t effect me.”
    • should be “That won’t affect me.”
  • “You could of been hurt.”
    • should be “You could have been hurt.”

English will evolve as indeed it has over the last few hundred years – Olde English was very different to the modern idiom.  It also wouldn’t be fair to criticise individuals for something which they weren’t taught.  But just as text speak has its place (on our phones), so too does correct grammar and usage.

So, what are your pet peeves when it comes to spotting grammar goofs?

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