Final Impressions

Mind your language

Written by James Combs

Sometimes, you have to right a wrong.

“Its the biggest bowl game Kentucky has ever played in.”

As a member of the grammar police, I cringed when I received this text message several weeks before this year’s Citrus Bowl college football game. The missing apostrophe that should’ve been wedged between the t and s in the word its was an obvious indication of my relative’s inability to understand the difference between a contraction and possessive. 

I corrected him. 

His response: “I couldn’t care less.” 

There are some of us who do care. That’s why grammar police like myself are constantly on patrol, busting anyone who cannot distinguish between “its” and “it’s,” “there” and “they’re,” and “your” and “you’re.” Contrary to popular belief, we do this not as a malevolently hidden form of one-upmanship but as a genuine concern for rapidly declining grammar usage. 

Grammar matters. Quality is in the details, and correctly using commas, semicolons, and quotation marks tells readers that you’re careful and competent. A résumé free of spelling errors and grammatical bloopers will keep it from going into the trash can. Also, using correct punctuation can make the difference in the message you’re trying to convey and how the message is interpreted. Consider the difference between these two sentences:

“It’s time to eat, Grandma.” 

“It’s time to eat Grandma.”

In the second sentence, Grandma is about to become a victim of cannibalism. So yes, much like our law enforcement brothers, grammar police have the ability to save lives. Unfortunately, not everybody is down with conveying ideas with clarity, professionalism, and precision.

I blame some of this on technology. First, while texting is one of the most popular forms of written communication, we’re hardly authoring Pulitzer Prize-worthy masterpieces. Most texts read like this: “C u 2nite at the par-t.” Unfortunately, this type of informal communication becomes ingrained in our writing habits. Second, the younger generation has displayed an overreliance on spell-check to the detriment of developing proofreading and editing skills. Spell-check never catches typos that are actual words, as in “I’ll drive the care to the beach.” Third, a social media site like Twitter allows for only 140 characters, so why waste one on a comma?

Of course, we cannot pin all of this on technology. Some people genuinely don’t think grammar matters, figuring they still can be clearly understood in their own ways of writing and communicating. 

Sorry, but that simply doesn’t fly. Grammar rules are a necessity because they ensure clear communication and understanding. Imagine a man sending an apologetic text message to his wife:

“I’m sorry. I love you.”

“I’m sorry I love you.”

A missing period could end your marriage.

Going forward, please don’t call us grammar police. Think of us as protectors of punctuation, guardians of grammar, correctors of comma splices, and regulators of run-on sentences. Just know that there’s no ill will, and we have your best interest at heart.

Still think we’re smug, uptight prigs?

I couldn’t care less.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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