By Nichole Giles
Recently, I overheard someone on a cell phone asking the person on the other end, “Where you at?” The woman speaking was well groomed and, as she was in the garden section of a home improvement store buying armloads of flowers, I assumed she was neither completely uneducated, nor living in a ghetto. So why, I wondered, had she sounded as if she was? And why was I wondering?
It was the way she spoke. Unfortunately, so many people in our country have become so accustomed to using slang they forget about basic sentence structure, as well as basic rules of grammar. Even more unfortunately, many people write the same way they speak.
People write all the time. In everyday living, and in a great many jobs, there is some amount of writing required. You don’t have to be a writer to write. Police officers write reports, construction workers write invoices and bids for jobs, fast food employees write assembly instructions and recipes. The mother who stays at home with her children must write notes to teachers, grocery lists, and instructions for the occasional babysitter. Everyone has written a letter. People write, no matter their professions.
Fortunately, when it comes to publication, editors require a higher standard of writing. I am so grateful for good grammar when I read a book that I find myself wanting to jump up and shout, “Hooray for editors!” When I do come across a poorly written piece, I throw it down and never look at it again.
As I sat in the office of some important people the other day, a man in his forties who has worked his way up the ladder to a respectable position in his profession said, “I ain’t gonna be the one to find it. Last time I seen it, so-and-so had it.”
I don’t know what he was looking for, and I don’t care. I couldn’t get past his grammar. How sad that his poor grammar stood out so badly that I will always associate him with bad speech. It left me wondering if he writes his work reports using the same language habits. I later found out he does, indeed.
You don’t have to have a college degree to use proper grammar, but using bad grammar is almost a sure sign that you don’t have one. Words, when used correctly, can be powerful tools for anyone in any profession. A person who is grammatically correct rarely stands out when speaking; the words become invisible in speech, as you would want them to in writing. However, a person who uses bad grammar distinguishes him or herself as uneducated or dimwitted, when they often are not. For example: A person who speaks of feelings but pronounces the word fillings. Another good one is a human being spoken as human bean. My all-time favorite was actually written in a place where many people had the misfortune of reading it. In reference to a chest of drawers was written the Chester drawers.
Maybe someday someone will invent a spelling and grammar check for the human brain. That way when we open our mouths, we can delete the not-so-smart sounding phrases that want to fly out. Fillings will be left in jelly doughnuts and teeth, human beans will be a great side dish, and Chester can keep his drawers to himself.