The Acceptability of Bad Grammar

Posted Feb 28 2012, 11:16 am in , , , , ,

I used to be an English teacher. I’ve edited for a couple of small e-publishers. I currently work as an editor for an education company. I love writers and the English language. All that being said, I’ve never considered myself a grammar Nazi or a grammar diva. I know the rules, but I can’t always explain them or quote them from the rule book.

I make grammar mistakes.

Not often mind you, and most of the time, I’m aware of it and don’t correct the errors. Why? Because in everyday language, some things just sound better. That’s the way I write my books. I find that if something is grammatically perfect, it sounds too formal and it pulls me out of the story. It starts to feel more like a textbook than a novel.

But there are some offenses that I can’t ignore. Paul McCartney & Wings sang a song called “Live and Let Die.” It’s a great song and I love it, but one line kills me– “But if this ever changing world in which we live in…” There is no reason for the extra “in.” Well, the song needs it for cadence and rhythm, but it’s not a rhyme or anything. Couldn’t he have found a different syllable somewhere else to get the flow he needed?

My biggest pet peeve is the constant use of ‘you and I’ regardless of case. It’s like people hold on to this one grammar notion and apply it all the time. I see it on TV often and it makes me nuts.

Without going into a long grammar lesson, the position of the pronoun determines which one you use. You would never say, “Give I the ball.” The pronoun is in the objective case and you should then use the objective pronoun me. I find the mistake most often happen with the phrase “between you and I.”

Rascal Flatts does it in their song, “Life is a Highway.” The line reads, “There was a distance between you and I” and every time I hear it, I cringe. I know it was necessary in order to make the rhyme work, but it still bugs me.

Here’s a girl who felt the need to make a video about the poor grammar in songs:


Do you have any grammar triggers? Do you skim over errors as if they’re not there, or do they pull you out of a story or song?



21 responses to “The Acceptability of Bad Grammar”

  1. Awesome blog!! This post made my day. Bad grammer is more inevitable than my beer on friday night…….
    hit me back!
    follow if you like.

  2. I still make cringe-inducing grammar errors, but at least I’m aware of my tendency to do so. The Strict Grammarian in my family is my older son. He yells at his friends when they play video games together online; he makes them correct their grammar and convert textspeak to plain English before he’ll help them in the game.

  3. Mary Stella says:

    Like you, I let some grammar goofs slide, citing “common usage” and “just sounds better.” That said, I have a few pet peeves. “Where is it at?” drives me bonkers.

  4. I’m more sensitive to grammar gaffes in writing, especially misused homonyms. It drives me nuts (short drive, I know) when people use “it’s” for a possessive or worse, a plural! There/they’re/their and you’re/your are also frequent offenders. Like transparentguy’s kid, my 16y.o. daughter is proof that grammar is not dead. She refuses to use text-speak, and corrects her friends and classmates’ grammar mistakes. 🙂

  5. I suck at grammar, which is why I have made fast friends and critique partner with a grammar goddess.

  6. Thea says:

    “Good” for “well,” as in “I’m doing good.” “Real” for “really,” as in “it was a real good deal.” And a real snit trigger, “anxious” for “eager,” as in “we were real anxious to visit the fairgrounds.”

    Thank you for enabling.

    • Of the ones you listed, the only one to really bug me is the real/really one. The rest kind of wash past me.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your snit triggers (love that phrase) 🙂

  7. Debra Eve says:

    Great article, Shannyn! Here are two of my favorite pieces of famous bad grammar: Eric Clapton “Lay Down Sally” (should be “lie”) and Star Trek “To boldy go where no man has gone before” (split infinitive).

  8. Nan says:

    I’m a freelance copyeditor and so grammar is a sticking point in my life and it affects my writing. I want to edit as I go along and that can really slow down a writing binge. My fellow freelancers and I get together frequently to share “snit triggers”–totally love that one! Great post, Shannon, thanks!

  9. Braless Betty says:

    I never got to finish my degree in English, so I can’t claim expertise, but I do have one big peeve. “Those ones.” It may be a northwestern thing, I’m not sure, but it drives me crazy and I want to yell out, “THOSE!” just say THOSE and end it!

    And now that I live in the south, we say “Where you at?” Just because it’s fun to say.

    Lastly, “Why is it…” vs. “How come…”

    • Hey, Braless, Thanks for stopping by. I love it when Betties stop by to say hi 🙂

      I don’t think you need an English degree to have snit triggers (I don’t think I’ll ever tire of saying that). I think it’s a love of language. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, “Those ones,” but I can understand why it would drive you batty.

  10. Emma Burcart says:

    Certain grammatical errors really bug me, so I loved that video! When she said the line from the Skaterboy song I was picturing a girl who had all of her friends shoved up her nose. So silly! As an ESL teacher, it is my job to teach grammar and I do correct it. The kids sometimes call me the Grammar Police as a joke. I like it. The error that bugs me the most is myriad. People misuse it all the time and it makes my skin crawl. Myriad means a variety of, so when you use myriad you don’t use a and of. It’s myriad choices, not a myriad of choices! People should learn it or stop using it. For me, spelling is the issue. I didn’t use the work tomorrow in print until I learned a trick for spelling it (it’s tom-or-row). I spent years using the Spanish word instead because I didn’t want to type an error. Now I’m working on embarrassed. I hope I just got it right!

    • Oh, I didn’t know you’re an ESL teacher. I bet you have a bunch of snit triggers. I didn’t even touch on spelling because that bugs me more than some grammar errors. I’ve been blessed with 3 kids who are naturally good spellers, so going over homework with them doesn’t make me cringe.

      It’s funny that you bring up the use of myriad. I know the correct way to use and say it, but it sounds funny after hearing it misused so often. I just try to avoid using it altogether 🙂