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What happened to basic grammar? It’s now the year 2020, and I have observed a very steady decline in society’s ability to write simple, basic grammar over the past 10-15 years. I’m talking simple grammar… such as the ability to use the correct form of “your” or “you’re”, the ability to know which word to use when two words sound the same but have entirely different meanings, knowing the correct use of apostrophes, using the correct “tense” of words, and not using double negatives.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a grammar god. I do not know all the English grammar rules at all. In fact, this post probably has plenty of grammar mistakes. However, very simple grammar should not be as bad as it is today.
Do you want a tool that automatically checks your grammar as you write? This article was checked with Grammarly (aff link).
I never fully learned how to properly use “who” or “whom”, I probably end sentences with prepositions more than I should, and I like to use ellipses in sentences when they’re probably not even appropriate… like this! Hell, I don’t even consider myself a good writer. However, that’s not what I’m complaining about. It worries me that way too many people in society don’t even have a grasp of basic grammar anymore.
What’s the concern?
“I am happy to announce that I have finally excepted a position at [hospital name here] in the ER!” was a post I just recently saw on social media. *sigh* Excepted? I suppose it’s a good thing people don’t need someone to know correct grammar to take care of them… I mean come on. I’m not saying that these grammar mistakes were made on a resumé or anything, but if I were a manager hiring someone and saw a grammar mistake as simple as something like that on a resumé, they’d be thrown out right away. In my mind, knowing basic grammar shows intelligence, and in this day and age there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of intelligence left.
The concern is in all the different writing out there in the world today, especially on social media. The social media sites have become a convoluted mess as far as basic English grammar goes. Something that tends to actually entertain me is when there are two people having an argument back and forth through their computers on a website, and someone calls the other person out for being “dumb” or “stupid” by saying something along the lines of “your dumb” or “your stupid”. Ha! My dumb what? I’m telling you, even something as simple as knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” can make you look a lot smarter than the average Joe these days. Am I the only one who, when I see someone use the incorrect form of a word such as “your”, automatically assumes my IQ is higher than that person? 😀
I think perhaps my biggest concern with this whole matter is that people who are studying the English language in a different country, or people who come here from a different country and learn English know how to write English better than most Americans, especially when it comes to grammar. It’s sad, but it is entirely true. Many Americans grow up their entire lives learning and speaking English, and here we are with a large percentage of people who can barely even write that one language correctly. It doesn’t matter if they’re 16 or if they’re 60. I’ve seen all sorts of people do it. There are plenty of people who live in America who are bilingual, and even more people who live outside of America who know at least 2 languages. Not only do they know 2 or more languages, they can speak and write 2 languages very well. Then there is the rest of America… who knows English… somewhat. Saying they know English is even a stretch since most people can’t write basic grammar correctly. So, that is where my concern lies with this whole thing. Although it may sound funny when I poke fun at it, it is something I am genuinely concerned about for our younger generation especially growing up and how they are going to speak and write.
How did it all begin?
Well, I’m no expert on the matter, but I feel like this steady degradation of correct grammar use began around the time instant messaging and texting started to become popular. I’m going to mostly focus on texting, though, and when it started becoming popular. I’m talking around the year 2000 and beyond. R U w/me? Texting became the new thing. Everyone got their new phones with the classic T9 word texting ability, and it was wonderful! We could send text to each other through devices. People were saying all the useless things they could think of to another person in as few characters as possible. They had to say it in as few characters as possible… Why? Because texts were limited to a certain amount of characters! Not to mention the texting plans you were on. “Make sure our family doesn’t send more than 50 texts combined this month, or we’ll be paying a quarter per text after that!” In fact, most phones will still show a 160 character limit per text to this day, but luckily with MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), we are able to go past that limit and send bigger “chunks” of text at a time.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that I believe basic correct grammar use started to get abused with instant messaging and basic texting. You became ‘u’, your/you’re became ‘ur’, to/too/two became ‘2’, for/four became ‘4’, and so on and so forth. Every word became shortened up in any way possible because it saved space in your text, and that just became the “lingo” whether you were texting, instant messaging, or emailing a friend. g2g ttyl bye
Why is it still bad and getting worse?
Fast forward 20 years from the year 2000 and here we are today, the year 2020… and grammar is as bad as it ever has been. It’s just awful. This whole bad grammar thing is like a slow-moving disease that is expanding, creeping through the crevices, affecting more people than ever now. Its bad effects just seem to rub off on other people, who then slowly but surely succumb to the Bad Grammar Disease. Believe me, you don’t want to get infected by this nasty virus because by my observations, once you have been overtaken by the disease, it’s nearly impossible to get people to write correctly again. *screams* Sounds like a great plot to a horror movie – let’s do it.
So, why then, is it still bad and getting worse? I blame social media. Facebook. Twitter. Etc. Facebook and the Twittersphere are honestly filled with so much crap that they’re just making us more dumb. Seriously. There is hardly ever anything that is intellectually stimulating shared on Facebook or Twitter… just a bunch of useless, pointless pictures, words, and videos. We’ve basically become these vegetables that stare at our phones all day with drool coming out of our mouths scrolling through Facebook and Twitter while our brains turn to mush. Not only that, but what do we see and read all day long as we scroll through our feeds? Yes, that’s right, a bunch of people posting statuses or pictures with bad grammar written on them… memes anyone?
Ahh yes, memes. I remember when memes became a thing. Memes can be classified as “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users”. They were funny, the new hype. In fact, they still are. But they have taken on all sorts of variations including pictures that only have words shown on them. My Facebook feed has been overtaken by these things. I would say that 50% of the posts on my feed are memes or what I like to call “meme videos” which is basically just a vine (short video) with a caption written around it. That’s all Facebook is anymore. I’m not saying that these things aren’t entertaining, because they are. If they weren’t entertaining, these things wouldn’t be so popular and blowing up news feeds. My problem with them is the horrible grammar and use of words on the memes themselves. If all these things continually have bad grammar and spelling mistakes on them, people (especially younger people who generally use social media more) are probably going to adopt that at some point. It may not be in a day, or even a year, but it seems to finally take over. Even 5 years ago, I feel like there were so many more people using good grammar. Now, today, using correct basic English grammar seems to be a thing of the past for many.
How easy is it to get it right?
Very easy. Knowing and being able to write simple grammar is extremely simple which I guess is one of the main reasons I am beyond confused as to why so many people can’t get it right. If people at least went to high school, I know they learned these things because they are etched into your memory by your teachers. Also, these rules apply to every paper your write throughout high school and college (if you went or go to college). So, how did that work? Do they actually know proper grammar and use it on their papers, but once the paper is done, all that goes flying out the window? Or were their papers unreadable after being reviewed because there were so many mistakes corrected with a red pen? I just don’t get it. In fact, if you struggle with basic grammar (which in my observation is a lot of people), or even if you just want a refresher, I made a nice, easy-to-read simple chart below that is taken from one of my favorite memes. It normally has a few choice words in there, too, but I’ll leave those out 🙂
Basic Grammar Chart:
THEY’RE = THEY ARE
THEIR = SHOWS POSSESSION
THERE = SPECIFIES A LOCATION
YOU’RE = YOU ARE
YOUR = SHOWS POSSESSION
IT’S = IT IS
ITS = SHOWS POSSESSION
WE’RE = WE ARE
WERE = PAST TENSE OF ‘ARE’
WHERE = SPECIFIES A LOCATION
LOOSE = NOT FIXED IN PLACE
LOSE = CEASE TO KEEP, OR THE OPPOSITE OF WIN. GAME OVER.
WHO’S = WHO IS
WHOSE = SHOWS POSSESSION
AFFECT = AN ACTION (VERB)
EFFECT = A RESULT (NOUN)
COULD’VE = COULD HAVE
COULD OF = DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE, STOP SAYING IT
TO = WHERE IT’S GOING, INDICATES MOTION
TOO = ALSO OR EXCESSIVE
TWO = THE NUMBER 2
THAN = A COMPARISON BETWEEN THINGS
THEN = A POINT IN TIME
Please people, study this.
It’s (it is) not too (as in excessive) hard to (where it’s going) learn these things. If you were (past tense of ‘are’) to study this a few times, you would be happy with the effect (as in the outcome) it would have on you. You’re (you are) going to do great! I have faith in your (possessive, they belong to you) abilities.
Here are some funny and helpful tips to help out your grammar skills:
- Remember, ‘i’ before ‘e’ … except when you run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbor.
- Grammar – The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.
- I like cooking my family and my pets. – Don’t be a psycho, use commas.
- “Let’s eat grandpa.” vs “Let’s eat, grandpa.” – Correct punctuation can save a person’s life.
- Good grammar is sexy. Seriously… you had me at the correct use of the word “you’re”.
All in all, I wrote this post mostly because I had to vent a bit. I’m nowhere near perfect when it comes to grammar, and I certainly do not know every single English grammar rule by any means. I do not wish to start any arguments or be ratted out for the many grammar mistakes this post probably has. However, I do think that society needs to begin pushing the use of correct grammar more again. It never used to be a big problem, but I have observed a steady decline in the use of correct English grammar in the past 10-15 years, and I don’t believe I’m the only one out there that would say that. Is it the end of the world if people use incorrect grammar as long as people know what they’re talking about? No, it’s not. However, you’re going to look much more intelligent than the other guy if you use correct grammar. This can help for a job, in any writing you do, blogging, communicating electronically with people, and much more. Just spend a little bit of time, refresh your brain, learn correct basic English grammar, and start using it again. You’ll be doing yourself and everyone else a favor!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in another post I wrote: 10 Commonly Misused Words and Phrases.
What are your thoughts? Does bad grammar drive you as crazy as it does for me?
I found this article today and read it with glee. This is exactly what I have been observing for years. I have noticed the endless stream of shortened or deformed words, made-up words, combining words together, the gross overuse and misuse of trendy words (R.I.P “awesome” and “epic”) and the trend of turning every word possible into an adverb. One of my newest observations is the complete lack of punctuation. I have seen social media posts that are one big long meandering incomprehensible jumble of words. Then there is newest trend of capitalizing the first letter of every word in a sentence or random capitalizing letters throughout a sentence (LikE tHis) I’m constantly saying the English language is on life support. I won’t say I am an expert at grammar but I do know the basics and I go out of my way to try and be as accurate and correct as I can. I suppose my primary motivation is to make sure I do not sound or come across as a vacuous minded teenager. It really is becoming an epidemic in the United States. Like I said, the English language is on life support.
In addition to the comment I just posted, do not get me started on “conversating”. Ugh! It’s converse, folks!
Wow! I am so glad to see that someone else is as irritated as I am with bad grammar, but I’m not sure where the blame should be laid. I was in high school in the Northeast from 1998-2002, and I clearly remember that my best friend had really bad written grammar. For one thing, her writings were one long sentence without punctuation marks. My excuse for her is that we all lived in the ghetto and did not have quality instructors for the most part.
In college, the place for smart kids who ran an academic marathon in high school to be accepted (sarcastic, obviously), I remember proofreading a classmate’s paper in my Rhetoric I or II class with a red pen. Let’s just say it looked like I dipped his report in blood. When we were put together again he protested (gee, I wonder why) and the professor gave us new partners. My excuse for him is that ours was not the best college in the US. They really accepted anyone with a student loan, so it was no surprise when a few kids were accepted who could not string two sentences together.
I’ll skip over the supervisor at my second job who could not even write a simple five-sentence memo without at least ten errors.
Then I moved to the Southeast. I found some very genuine and friendly people here, but I must acknowledge that a lot of their written grammar is the worst I have ever seen. A friend of mine recently had me proofread a paragraph that she wrote. It took an hour for me to point all of the errors out to her by text! It’s to the point where I am getting embarrassed because I have to respond to co-workers’ IMs and emails asking them to clarify what they sent because I have no idea what they are saying. A friend of my husband texts him using a shorthand that is so difficult to understand; we have to put our two heads together to figure them out.
It’s surprising because where we live there are several powerhouse colleges and universities, but most of our friends have a high school education or less. I’m not going to slight them for that. I did not have enough money to finish college myself, and my experience has taught me that college is a con, but that is a subject for another time. My point is that with these schools in the backdrop you would not expect to see so many people who write poorly. And it’s people of all ages, both old (who were probably passed through school without any real education) and young since many of them go to the lower quality high school in the area. It’s just really sad.
I definitely agree that those who learn English as a second language write better than native American English speakers. In fact, they also speak and read a lot better. I have a few Hispanic friends from different parts of South America and Puerto Rico, and it blows me away how well they do in these areas than my friends who were born in the South.
I think the problem is that many Americans are lazy. We accept that we are not good at something and keep it moving, but other cultures will keep working at something until they improve. Personally, I have made it my business to learn different grammatical rules that trip people up, practice reading out loud to get rid of the harsh “Northeastern” sound that I used to have, and look up words when I am unsure of their meaning. Even Elevate has helped tremendously with my grammar. I always thought I was a solid writer, but I’m am constantly looking for ways to improve.
And yes, I do know when to use who and whom, but I had to research it two or three times over the years, though it really isn’t complex.
Who is referring to the subject: Who is going to pick up the kids from daycare?
Whom is referring to the object: Caroline received her ring back from whom?
But the subject and object sometimes change, in a sentence which is where it gets tricky: I had a meeting with my boss Jeff, who said it was okay to issue the customer a refund.
It helps to replace the word with he/she and him/her and see which fits best. Of it is the former, you should who. If the latter, you should use whom. Once I practiced using who and whom correctly, I could use them without thinking about it. It also helped with not ending my sentences in prepositions: To whom did you address the letter? With whom did you go to the concert?
My head literally exploded. Really? Literally?
Bad grammar drives me crazy !!!!!!! It does, but so does the explosive use of the exclamation mark. Don’t get me started about the incorrect use of “a” and “an”.
Kwik, chik, kopy, cozi and other business names probably promote incorrect grammar too.
I worry that the teenagers who began texting abbreviations in 2000 are today’s teachers.
I am wondering why so many TV shows have bad grammar. They constantly use the wrong pronoun switching I and me. Can you tell me why? Is it the writers who do it? And if so, is it done on purpose? Surely professional writers know how to write, yes? Why is it so prevalent? Are we, as a society, so stupid that we can’t even screen write with correct grammar? I have given up on the common man, but professionals? Come on people!
My dissertation was on the relationship between the Oxford comma and the nuances of “your” vs. “you’re” and also how this relates to socialism within the English language. I would like to request to see your references so I can judge how you compiled this piece of literature?
What, you egg?
Thank you for this article. I’m beginning to think I’m “a grammar nazi” , and will, at times, correct those commenting online in response to any news. Especially there, their and they’re !!! As if it will change anything !
I am wondering where, when and if grammar is taught in schools at all ! Obviously I come from a generation where we were drilled in grammar on mimeographed sheets, spelling bees, and multiplication tables.
Is grammar important anymore ?
Again….Thanks for this article !
Hi, Nina! Thanks for the comment. I find myself wanting to correct people’s responses as well, but I unfortunately don’t think it will do any good!
Me, too. It’s like nails on a blackboard when I read poor grammar. I loved your own humorous interjections and, of course, the fave of grammar mavens – the cannibalistic, commaless, “Lets eat Grandpa.”
A particular trigger for me is the misuse of pronouns. May seem trivial, but using the wrong pronoun leads to fuzzy language that doesn’t clearly says exactly what you mean. Like this:
I read this in a national newspaper, “The most important point in the discussion around Sweden is the recognition . . . ”
Discussion AROUND Sweden? As in the topic of conversation all over Sweden? A discussion in multiple locations in Sweden? Or the discussion ABOUT Sweden? I believe what the writer meant was the latter, but the preposition choice didn’t say that. I’m not really sure what it said.
Language really does matter, because it’s how we communicate to others what we are thinking. Write poorly and people don’t really get your drift.
When someone says “you house” instead of “your house”,or “they car” instead of “their car”…that just irritates the heck out of me.”I could of see you car at they house and u kno they on they phone doe”….ARGHH
I totally agree! People’s grammar has gotten horrible and makes me crazy!
Thanks for the comment, Lisa!
Thank you so much for writing this article. For the record, the article only contained one grammar error, and one missed punctuation.
I, having been an English major in school, have been increasingly annoyed by people’s misuse of words, not only in person, but rampantly in the media. Nobody uses “who” instead of “that” when talking about a person or group of people (“He’s the guy WHO fell off his bike!”not THAT fell off is bike. And don’t get me started about people using “should of”. That and people using “A myriad of…” instead of just “myriad” are just ridiculous.
Thank you again for speaking up!
Hey, Ric! I appreciate your comment and completely agree. Glad you enjoyed the article!
If I “were” manager, not “was.” That’s one of my biggest grammar pet peeves.
There are so many little quirks to the English language!
Right, but now I’m seeing people not even know far simpler stuff, like the proper places to put periods in between sentences! I’m seeing huge run-on paragraph sentences that have these oddly chosen commas and periods sporadically placed that make no sense.
I know what you mean. I have been guilty of that in the past!
My bugbear is the way ‘unique ‘ is used. You hear/see ‘really unique’ or ‘very unique’ …..
It cannot be qualified. Something is unique (one of a kind) or not unique.
That’s a good point, Laurie! I have never thought about that 🙂
I totally agree! My biggest pet peeve is the nonsensical phase “could of” being used in place of the contraction “could’ve”!
I’m sharing this with the hope of making folks more aware.
Thanks for sharing B!
Finally this topic is being discussed!! I’m amazed at the terrible grammar I hear everyday in this country, even in commercials! A banking ad that says “get your money up to two days early”… seriously??! The correct sentence structure is “…. two days earlier” … for goodness sake. There’s no such thing as “guestimation”! You want something “badly”, not “bad”.. We’re getting dumber and dumber by the minute… it’s excruciating.
Hi, Josie! I appreciate your comment and passion. 🙂 It is true that I have seen several mistakes made even in marketing and advertisement which is disturbing!