One of my favourite television personalities, Faith Salie, recently provided an opinion on an episode of CBS Sunday Morning about the misuse of the word “really“. She called using the word “really” to launch a withering put down an unimaginative repose. After all, “really” is an adverb, and adverbs are meant to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb. They don’t make a statement.
I have to agree. Really!
Recently I have been involved in a fun and at times rather lively exchange of discourse with Sherri Rossi (@sherrirossi) about the written language. This has involved pulling grammar books, non-scholarly articles, Youtube videos and the like to make certain points. Sherri, who writes great blog posts, has listened to repeated diatribes about my two pet peeves about written sentence structure–no dangling prepositions and no split infinitives. Perhaps because as a young communications and journalism student long ago I was graded harshly whenever I used sloppy language, or perhaps because often things I write are reviewed by others, I have committed to memory these rules and am careful not to introduce these faux pas into my writing unintentionally, even though I express myself verbally using poor grammar all the time.
Even so, I live in the Twitter universe where sometimes you have to be quite sloppy (or clever, depending on your point of view) to get your point across. And, the world is full of people who are too young to be exposed to the grammar lessons of Schoolhouse Rock. You know, Conjunction Junction and Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla? Or maybe you don’t. . .
I was thinking about my conversations with Sherri when I realized something specifically about HR professionals–we are what we say, or more importantly how we say it. I wonder how “OK” it is for us folks to reach into the familiar and use less-than-perfect grammar to make points.
Absolutely, I make regular mistakes in grammar. Although my use of “really” as an interjection is fairly recent, I have long-used the words “go”, “like” “totally”, “literally” and “actually” in ways that do not fit their definitions. (As in, he tells me he can’t fix it, and then I go, “Really? I’m like totally spent already, and actually, do you mean that literally I am going to have to fix this all by myself?”
Yuck, but true. Seriously!
Pam Ross (@pamelamaeross) recently described me in her list of HR pros you meet on Twitter as someone who does “palm sweating HR”. I think she thinks this in part because I spend a lot of time in the back office preparing recommendations which have to be supported by math–an HR pro’s worst nightmare. In reality, despite my cheerful and outgoing demeanour, the more time I spend in the social media world, the more I find the live communication part to be at times more palm sweaty for me, and I’m jealous of people who can communicate so naturally (like Pam Ross!). This is because great communication is directly related to the delivery, and getting the delivery right often involves a professional elegance that for me falls victim to my everyday cadence. Sure, I can present to a broad audience, but I’m left wondering if the younger folks in the audience think I’m lost in the 1980s and whether the older folks think I’ve gone too radical (poor grammar noted).
So, to get back to my discussion with Sherri, absolutely you have a point that there are places for dangling prepositions in written sentence structure. And, when should we be also guarded about letting poor grammar lead the message?
Rebuttal by Sherri Rossi
When Bonni says we have taken part in some fun conversations lately, she is correct. And now, just for fun, I have enjoyed throwing some dangling prepositions into the mix, as well as some split infinitives when I’m feeling jovial. However, let’s get something straight, Bonni is not old (don’t let her fool you) and I find that several generations, following hers, have still received lessons in proper grammar. Although I come from a bit of a different generation, texting did not exist when I was in high school. Therefore, we did not communicate through a series of LOL’s and OMG’s and ROTFL’s. We actually hung out with people, face-to-face and said those things IRL (In real life). We also took part in English and grammar classes and I was, at the start of my university career, an English major. Unfortunately, my Professor was so mean that I switched to Psychology so I could analyze her behavior. But I digress…
Social Media and texting have drastically altered the grammar landscape with Generation Y. I have noticed the terrible spelling and grammar exhibited by some younger people I know and I often wonder how this change has been allowed to happen! I guess the talk of extinguishing lessons on proper penmanship in schools helps to explain the lack of grammar proficiency. Let’s hope teachers hold onto the importance and professionalism that grammar will have on the future lives of their current students. So far, I am pleased with the lessons my daughter has received (Grade 3) and I find she is quite grammatical in the way she writes and communicates. Perhaps we parents need to take up the slack, as we do in so many other ways. Here’s to the future…