katiefoolery: (Fear not the semi-colon)
I want to rant about this article. I want to rant about it so hard and I want to use bad grammar while I do so in the hopes that I'll make some sort of ironic point.

Because.

GAH.

So much wrong in so little time. So much that I was arguing with the screen as I read the article this morning. The author of the article states that she actually loves grammar; she's a fan of grammar; grammar makes her all kinds of happy. And yet, I'd happily stab her with an exclamation mark, should I ever happen across her in the street.

Let's start with this:
Most grammar rules don’t matter, though. That is, if you get them wrong, the reader still can find the meaning. For example, few people know when to use effect and when to use affect. But it doesn’t matter because the first is a noun and the second is a verb so the likelihood you'll mistake the meaning of a sentence because of a grammar error in this case is extremely low.

That's my bolding in there. Because I just love bold font. Or maybe to highlight a basic error before we go on to the substance of the paragraph. (Because you know you want to. You want to hear me ranting about grammar so damn bad, right? :P)

"...the first is a noun and the second is a verb" - actually, the first is a verb, too. Yes, most people confuse affect and effect. I used the wrong one by accident the other day. While messaging. And corrected myself a few lines down. But seriously, I was talking to my writer at the time and I didn't want to give the impression that their beta couldn't tell the different between effect and affect.

Let's see them in use:
He effected an air of jollity, although she wasn't deceived for a second. The effect reminded her somewhat of a puppy that was bravely attempting to pretend its favourite ball hadn't been stolen; it was impossible not to be affected by that.


Three different effect/affects, all used in different senses. Very easy to confuse. (So easy to confuse that I actually wrote "affect" instead of "effect" the first time around...) You could argue that it would still make sense if I'd used "affect" the whole way through. Then again, you could also argue that "ur" is a valid spelling of "your".

I WOULD NOT AGREE WITH YOU, should you try. Fair warning. We could still be friends, but your texts would probably make me wince whenever I read them.

If there's one thing I've learnt about bad grammar, it's this: You can read your own bad grammar, but you cannot read that of another. We're several centuries too young to remember when spelling and sentence structure was an optional, person-by-person concept... but it can't have been any fun at all. And it raises a question: why is it we're allowed to advance in technology, yet we're encouraged by some people to go backwards when it comes to communication?

Around half-way through, I experienced a small paroxysm as a result of the following statement:
We should judge people by their ideas, their creativity, their enthusiasm. None of this naturally comes at the heels of good grammar.

Oh. Oh. Oh.

This, my friends, is the one statement GUARANTEED TO DRIVE ME CRAZY. How, for the love of lamingtons, are people to express said ideas, creativity and enthusiasm if they don't have the tools that will allow them to do so? So you have ideas and creativity to hand... fantastic. What a shame you can't express them, due to your inability to spell or use words in a coherent, easily-understandable sense. Why are we constantly being told we don't have to use our brains? That we don't have to spell properly or understand how our own language works? I can only see one advantage to keeping the general populace in a state of ignorance, so let's just prepare ourselves for our new overlords right now, shall we?

And apparently, those overlords are going to be Google. Please see the following quote:
Anyway, if Google is deciding that these rules are no longer useful guidelines, then we can all follow suit.

Admittedly, at this point, I started wondering if the whole article had been an experiment in irony that had gone horribly wrong. Seriously. Who on earth is going to use Google as the standard by which all things are judged? Google.

I ask you.

We use this langauge of ours every day. Surely it's not asking too much to have a little care and love for it.
katiefoolery: (Busy now)
Did you ever have one of those days when words just won’t behave?  I’ve been trying to write this cursed post for the last half hour or so and it’s been rapidly driving me insane.  All I have to do is provide captions for three photos.  It’s not too much to ask.  But, oh no, the words would much rather hide just out of reach or run away giggling when they see me coming.

Perhaps they’re irritated by the fact that they’re out-numbered by the photos, because I do not intend to write three thousand words to balance out the thousand words allegedy contained by each of the photos.

Anyway, while they’re behaving, let’s continue.

The first photo is in honour of Buffy, my parents’ cat.  She came to live with us when I was about fourteen - a tiny little kitten with a ridiculously long tail.  She subsequently grew into a bloody great huge cat with a disproportionately short tail and spent her life sleeping in the sun, demanding food every ten minutes or so and chasing mice and rabbits if she happened to feel like a little exercise.  Then she moved to Beechy with the parents and embraced the concept of retirement with alarming alacrity.  She also found time to dedicate herself equally to the concepts of Not Doing Anything and Putting On A Bit Too Much Weight.  And a few weeks ago, after a very long life filled with plenty of food, creatures to chase and a little bit of travel, she died in her sleep.

Here she is, with one of her patented dirty looks.

Buffster


Next up is my confidante, to whom I have been relating all manner of angsty and possibly silly stuff, as per the instructions of my doctor.  I can’t remember how long I’ve been in possession of him - most likely a longer time than I care to recall.  And he didn’t come with that little jumper - I knitted it, probably around the same time I accidentally broke his glasses and left him with a monocle instead.  He was shoved in a box in the garage for years and years and is most likely quite happy to be out in the sunlight again.  He’s probably less happy to be listening to me ranting on at him for ten mintues a day, but he's bearing up well thus far.

Piery


And finally: GRAMMAR RAGE!  A few weeks ago, it was SSO week.  Basically, it’s a chance for everyone to pretend they care about the contribution the non-teaching staff make to the school by calling us “lovely SSOs” in a patronising tone of voice and giving us little treats such as the one in the photo below.  Apparently, we don’t even warrant proper grammar.

YOU ARE
  (Have I mentioned lately how much I need a new job?)
katiefoolery: (My beloved apostrophe)
I read an article over the weekend about the state of English education in this country and how we can hardly expect students to learn English and grammar if their own teachers have only the barest grip of it.  And wow ‑ did I just write a sentence that long without a single comma in it?  Why yes, it looks like I did.

But to return to my point: ’twas an interesting article ‑ one that made me nod in righteous affirmation and scowl and clench my fists in utter fury.  Let’s start with the title, shall we? “Can’t write can’t spell” ‑ where’s the comma?  I know I can hardly speak, given the comma‑less state of my opening sentence, but unless the title was intended as a piece of highly‑refined, ironic humour, there needs to be a comma in the middle.

*breaks out red pen and scribbles one in*

Once I got past the urge to beta the title, I moved on to the body of the article and read of universities and the difficulties they experience as they deal with students who haven’t been taught the basics of grammar and who can barely string a coherent sentence together.  And what would be the reason for that?  Could it be the amount of grammar that is taught to students at primary and secondary school?  Which would be “next to nothing”? You know, I think it might.  What did I know about grammar by the time I reached secondary school?  Let’s see... I knew the difference between a verb and a noun.

And that was it.

What a wonderful grounding I received in my own damn language.

Let’s look at the cause of that by taking a quote from the article:

And what happens to teachers struggling to come to terms with language structure, in particular those teachers who were school students during the “process writing period” of the ’70s and ’80s?
I’m not a teacher, but I was a product of that “process writing period” of the late eighties.

More quoteage:

We went through a period where we sometimes didn’t correct their (students’) written expression for fear of offending or demoralising them,” says Fred Ackerman, president of the Victorian Principals Association. “You could call it (the process writing approach) a bit of a fad . . . the general concept was, the more children wrote every day, the more creative it would be and self‑improvement would occur.
And this is why, exactly, I hate the education department so much.  It’s also where my ability to express my anger begins to slip away (but, hey, at least I know who to blame for that...).  I cannot adequately express how betrayed I feel.  The department responsible for educating me and ensuring I knew my own language decided it wasn’t worth the bother.  Oh no.  All of those pesky rules were only going to demoralise me!  Instead, let’s just throw me into the pool of whims and vagaries of one of the most illogical languages around and hope I can swim in it.

Instead, I learnt my grammar through reading.  Luckily, I seem to have a memory based on pattern‑recognition, so I was able to develop a feel of when a sentence was right or wrong.  I could fix sentences and feel relatively confident that they were grammatically accurate... but I had no idea what I was actually doing.

And here’s my favourite quote from the article, tacked on to the end as though it’s making a point:

In 2005, a study by Professor Richard Andrews from the University of York found no evidence to suggest that the teaching of traditional grammar, specifically word order or syntax, was effective in assisting writing quality or accuracy of five‑ to 16‑year‑olds.
Um, so?  Also, have they been into a school lately?  Have they seen how students write?  I’m sorry, but I don’t believe for one minute that this is at all true or even accurate.  It’s like suggesting that teaching students how to use tools won’t help them in woodwork, or that showing students how to use PhotoShop won’t help them learn how to create graphics.

Once again, I’m annoyed by the arrogance that assumes we implicitly know the rules of our own language, simply because we speak it from birth.  We don’t.  And I just wish the education department would start living in the real world and grant to students the ability to communicate their ideas.  We’re living in a world where the written word is possibly more important than ever: if we don’t know how to express ourselves and communicate with others, then we fail.

Just like the education department failed before us.
katiefoolery: (My country)
I wish my camera phone took better pictures.  Actually, what I really wish is that I hadn't forgotten to take my camera with me to Beechworth, but I'm over that.  I've moved onto the camera-phone-hate.

Nevertheless, it was all I had and I used it when necessary although I now have cause to curse its complete inability to focus on anything, anything at all and its general crapitude.

With this bitter disclaimer out of the way, I hereby present for your viewing pleasure, the following images...

Oh, this cat has a hard life.  How tedious, to be forced to spend all day napping in the sun and occasionally being woken up in order to be fed.  No wonder she always looks so damn smug.  Notice the sun.  There was a lot of that.  I approved.

Canola is a big crop in the north east.  It grows heartily even in the midst of the severe lack of rain and it looks incredibly impressive.  Fields of yellow, stretching out to the horizon...

Well, this is a cute little house.  It seemed to require me to take a photo of it, so I did.  Who am I to argue with cute little houses?

Grammar rage!  Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrghghghghghgh!  I saw the same ad on TV, too, with the same lack of spelling.  Are things really this bad?  Are people now unaware that the plural of any word ending in "y" should be "ies"?

See, I told you it's a hard life for Buffy.  She really knows how to look relaxed, does that cat.


And that was my trip to Beechworth.
katiefoolery: (Girl writing in cap)
If you're a writer, then you love words.  You love putting them together correctly.  You love spelling.  You love grammar.

You couldn't imagine writing anything anywhere that wasn't correctly-phrased, well-spelt and grammatically accurate.

In my, possibly rather harsh, opinion: if you don't care enough about words to use them properly in every situation, then you're not a writer.

Yesterday, I was browsing through the wonderful collection of blogs at Authors' Blogs, when I came across the blog of an aspiring writer.  I read the most recent post on her journal and all was going reasonably well, until I reached the last paragraph.  In this paragraph, she claimed that, as a result of the event described in the post, she wasn't going to start using correct "grammer" and spelling.  No way.  That's for losers.  Apparently.

I then went and read the blurb of her blog, wherein she claimed to be a writer... but I wasn't to expect proper spelling and grammar (at least she spelt it correctly this time) on her blog.  No, this blog is a place where the pressure's off, where she can relax and forget about treating words with respect.

I was incredulous.  How can you claim to be a writer in one breath and in the next, claim to find it "relaxing" not to have to bother with spelling?  No real writer would ever feel like that.

As I was sitting there with my lower jaw somewhere in the region of the floor, I began thinking about the realities of the situation.  Every day, we learn that it's harder and harder to be published.  The vast majority of publishing houses no longer read unsolicited manuscripts.  They've fired their readers and the onus on reading these manuscripts has fallen to agents.  Unsurprisingly, many agents are now refusing to read unsolicited manuscripts, claiming that this job should be undertaken by publishers, as it was in the past.

With all of these obstacles in your way, why would you jeopardise your chances of publication by espousing such an attitude of indifference to the tools of your trade?  The reality is that you can write an amazing, breath-taking book but it's no damn good if it's rife with errors of grammar and spelling.  No publishing house is going to take the time to fix that, not when they have another story on hand that's well-written and simply in need of a little editorial direction.

Further to this, how would your potential publisher feel if they visited your blog in order to investigate you, only to find that you disdain to use correct spelling and "grammer" there?  What sort of attitude does that reveal to your visitors?  How much respect would that really generate for you and your dream to be published?

Words are a writer's tools and they should be treated with respect.  Tradesmen look after their tools and make sure they're in working condition.  They know that if the tools aren't clean and the wires aren't intact, then they won't work properly and they won't be able to do a decent job.  Just because you can't polish words with an oily cloth is no reason not to make sure they're in proper working order.

If you truly are a writer, then you'll love words and the idea of not using them correctly will fill you with revulsion.
katiefoolery: (My beloved apostrophe)
Here's a quick quiz for you all. Tell me which of the following is correct:

1. There's plenty of options...

- or -

2. There are plenty of options...


Did you guess correctly? Are you aware that you have to use "are" with plurals and "is" with singular items? If so: congratulations! You're more intelligent than the new vice principal at my work.

Yesterday afternoon, we were treated that most pointless of creations: the work meeting. After a long and busy day, we all filed in to the staff lounge and prepared to be bored within an inch of our lives. Firstly, the principal read out information that had already been handily placed on a sheet of paper that we were all quite capable of reading ourselves. Perhaps he just wanted to make sure we were all still awake.

Then came the introductory speech of the new vice principal. She told us all about her adventures in working in the main office, the headquarters, if you will, of the Education Department. Or "at the region", as we call it in the trade. There she was, working on building curriculum and creating a well-educated state, without being able to properly conjugate one of the most basic verbs in the English language.

And let's not forget the fact she didn't know when to use "its" or "it's", as evidenced by her powerpoint display.

I sat there in the dark, grinding my teeth in annoyance and watching the education and literacy standards of today's youth disappear down a well of ignorance and illiteracy. What hope do the kids have when the people in high positions reveal themselves to be lacking in basic knowledge? It's all quite incredibly depressing.

What can be done about it? Personally, I think that the case is all but hopeless. A decision made by the education department in the seventies has ensured that nobody knows proper grammar any more. You see it on TV, in magazines on signs on windows - people don't know the basic concepts of stringing together letters and words in meaningful ways. In five years' time, I am willing to bet that nobody will believe me if I tell them that you don't use an apostrophe to indicate a plural.

Language is vital. Even more so now, with the majority of communication being carried out on the internet. You are judged by the words you use and the way in which you use them and to fail to give kids the tools with which to express themselves in a meaningful manner is one of the biggest crimes being committed in our country today. Why not just lock them all in small, dark rooms for the rest of their lives? We're taking away their ability to communicate and to express themselves and that is just not cricket.

In the past few years, I have befriended several people for whom English is not their first language and they have a better grasp of grammar than the average English speaker. They're taught respect for their language and how to construct and use it properly. No-one teaches respect for English. Some lucky people learn that for themselves. I, for one, love my language. I love its stupid rules and the way it's constantly breaking all of those rules. I love its versatility and the way it likes to create new words and new ways of using old words. I respect it and it's good to me in return.

The question is: how do we stop ourselves from producing generations of people who are unable to understand the very language they use to communicate? I'm only one person and I have no idea.

April 2011

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