Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Two Cents for the Day

I won't elaborate on the news story; it's grim. While reading a Detroit Free Press article online, however, I ran across this sentence:
    Police still don’t know who the gun belonged to or how the boys’ got a hold of it. But the weapon has been retrieved.
Ahem. Now look: I don't have an English degree or anything, but anyone with a 10th grade Language Arts class ought to know what's wrong with this passage. The article was written by two (TWO!) journalists, presumably with some higher education in something that involves writing, and they still can't get their damned apostrophes right. And while it may be a matter of style to begin a sentence with conjunction in one's personal writing (see?), as far as I know it's never been considered acceptable with any professional work. And since when is the phrase "get a hold of" proper? Sure everyone knows what it means, and everyone uses it, but give me a break! You are not writing a note to your buddy here, guys, it's the news!

I used to work a lot with kids in middle and high school, and I'd see their writing. Anyone who's starting at any level of writing will probably automatically begin by writing the words they'd otherwise speak, but we're supposed to get over that by eighth grade or so. (If you read anything decent on a regular basis, you'll know it much earlier. ) I used to think that since these kids were young, or inexperienced at writing, that the writing they were doing would at least rise to basic rules of the language. If these journalists' work is any indication, I was sorely wrong.

Once, I believed I was just being too harsh (or worse, uppity) in my criticism of what passed for acceptable public writing, and in my judgment that in my lifetime I've seen the English language increasingly abused in ways for which Mrs. King at Pontiac Northern would have beaten me. Now I'm pretty sure I've been hitting the nail on the head the whole time.

I'm not trying to be a stick in the mud, and I know that languages evolve just like species do, but it's my opinion that the lack of attention to basic rules of grammar and spelling constitute not evolution, but degradation of the English language. If our college-educated journalists can't get an apostrophe correct, we're in serious intellectual trouble.

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