• Carol Reeve

On Grammar


I had lunch earlier this week with a gentleman who runs a reputable production company in Knoxville. We happened upon the subject of communication and its unfortunate demise. He said that he recently posed the following question to a classroom of MBA students: “Who in this room has hand-written a letter in the last year?” Only one student raised her hand.

For those of us who still believe in hand-writing thank-you notes and snail-mailing birthday cards, it is saddening that so many of our future leaders scoff at such efforts, considering them trivial and inefficient. No matter how well intended, a text message doesn’t pack quite the same punch as a hand-written note from a friend; and an e-card doesn’t reflect the same thoughtfulness as a well selected greeting card signed by a loved one. Zeroes and ones are as easily deleted as they are written; but a card is savored, even displayed, with lingering sentiment.

I say this not simply because I am old fashioned. I say this because we are raising a generation of people who lack writing skills. Our built-in auto-correct and grammar tools have taken a parallel role to the “calculator” for the English language. I say this humbly, because I have lost the ability to confidently calculate even a simple 2-digit math calculation in my head. Fortunately for me, I don’t walk around speaking math, and math is not required in every personal interaction that I have throughout my day. Grammar is.

The ability to construct a complete and well-written sentence is no longer an assumed job skill. It is rare, this gentleman and I agreed, for either of us to review a résumé or cover letter that does not contain at least one (oftentimes multiple) grammatical errors. This is potentially the most important document of your career! If you can’t get this one right, why should I trust you to represent my business?

My husband, another advocate for the written word, recently pointed out a frustration with the iPhone auto-correction of “its” to “it’s.” While in most other ways I treasure this handy device, on this point I stand firm: If I type “its,” I mean “its.” Don’t we have enough trouble with possessiveness in this country? Do we really need a device to further muddy the waters even for those of us who know the rules? Folks, IT’S is short for IT IS (e.g. It’s unfortunate when people don’t respect the rules of grammar). Its is the possessive form of it (e.g. The iPhone cannot be fully trusted for its auto-correct feature).

Of course, writers of even reputable television shows commonly make chill-inducing errors like, “Her and I went for a walk.” Seriously? Her and I? Would anyone dream of saying, “Her went for a walk?” Of course not! So why, when we add ourselves to the equation, do we change the rules? A subject pronoun is a subject pronoun, whether it has company or not.

Similarly offensive is, “He gave it to her and I.” You wouldn’t say, “He gave it to I.” At least, I hope you wouldn’t. If ever in doubt, drop the partner and see how it sounds alone. “He gave it to me.” Furthermore, contrary to popular opinion, using “myself” in place of I or me in one of the above scenarios does not make it correct. Use I or me when the right word should be used. Then you can say, “I am proud of myself for speaking correctly.”


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