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Does grammar matter anymore?

English teachers would say, “Yes.” After all, they’d be out of work if the powers that be felt instructing students on the fine points of understanding the parts of speech or appropriate sentence structure held no relevance today.  Those in the marketing realm, however, will tell you to disregard what you’ve been taught and write like you talk. They argue a more conversational style sells products, and in that respect, I’d have to agree. Yet a well-written sentence is to the reader what a Da Vinci masterpiece is to the art connoisseur. An artist could get his message across using stick figures or rudimentary drawings, but there’s certainly no comparison to Da Vinci’s renowned Last Supper. The same is true in writing. 

A friend sent me an interesting article by Jhumpa Lahiri entitled, My Life’s Sentences where the author describes her passion with words.  In the article, she seems to accomplish the best of both worlds described above.  The article is both grammatically correct and conversational. It’s interesting and engaging, yet she does not resort to slang or jargon to express herself. Her words paint a vivid picture that draws you in. Lahiri almost gives life to her words and hence develops a relationship with her ideas and the reader.  You can readily understand why she’s won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Coming from the business world where you almost need an interpreter to decipher an email message and glancing over essays of local teens, you wonder if that caliber of writing is a thing of the past. Do teachers continue to labor over diagramming sentences and reading fine literature so that they comprehend the value of excellence in writing? I, for one, hope they do and that they not only continue, but also step it up a notch.

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How do you write the date?

In today’s economy, both time and money are in short supply, so I can understand why we shorten words like your/you’re to ur and create acronyms like LOL (laugh out loud) rather than use a long line of text to let someone know what we said was intended to be humorous. I get it. It makes sense. Less is more. 

If this is true, then why is there an increasing trend to use an ordinal number (one with a suffix like th, nd, rd, st) when writing the date? More and more, I see the date written March 1st, 2012 instead of March 1, 2012. Not only is the former example grammatically incorrect, it adds two extra and unnecessary characters. With more dated equipment (no pun intended), you have to highlight and add the superscript to the font in order for the ordinal suffix to be raised. So much for economy of time. In fact, it’s actually easier to write it in the correct format. 

I can’t buy the excuse, “You read it March first so you should use an ordinal number.” It has been understood for at least a hundred years, that you read it first but write 1. (You don’t read ur as err.) Yet this method of writing the date keeps popping up so much that I continually check the Internet to see if the rule has changed.  (FYI –from the sources I’ve checked, not yet.) 

What is really scary is where you see it written like this – websites, brochures, posters, and even program bulletins at local schools. This begs the question, “What are they teaching the kids?” 

I know, in the scheme of life, the way you write the date holds little importance, and I should not lose sleep over it.  Really I don’t, though as a former English teacher, it does irritate me, and I’d love to understand the logic behind it. It just seems to me, there are easier ways to look stupid.  If you need a list, I can look back over my life and offer a few suggestions.