Good Grammar Is Hot

Brett Ekberg

Consider the following Facebook wall post: Angelina Jolie (Los Angeles, CA) at 9:40 p.m. wrote: “Hi I’m a famous actress and I think your sexy.”

Well, that’s great, Angelina, and I’m flattered, but your grammar is a huge turn-off. I don’t care if you’re People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman three years running; the fact that you’re incapable of delineating between a possessive adjective and a contraction is as downright unsexy as the dress Eva Longoria Parker wore to the Emmys last week. Just because you’ve adopted a child from every continent does not give you the right to walk all over the basic rules of English grammar. Now whether or not the real Mrs. Pitt knows when to use ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ I can’t vouch for; I’m simply using her as an example. Beauty can’t trump the rules of grammar. Unfortunately, many considerably less attractive people than Angelina think they can, and this defiance isn’t limited to Facebook wall posts or hastily written emails.

Take my roommate for example. Last week, he asked me to edit a paper that was due the next day. No problem, I thought. I’ll be a good guy and help out. Big mistake. On the first page alone, I counted six comma splices, three run-on sentences and it looked like he had been taught that ‘there’ and ‘their’ are interchangeable terms. Just FYI, THEY’RE NOT! Three pages later, I was on the verge of inserting my now inkless red pen into his frontal lobe. I mean come on; Microsoft Word even has those obnoxious little green squiggly lines to indicate that the semicolon you just tried to use to look smarter is totally erroneous. (Author’s note: I’ve never seen those little green lines before, at least not on anything I’ve written. I’ve just been told they exist.) Could they make it any more obvious? I don’t know who you think you are, but only e e cummings can disobey the rules of grammar and punctuation, and quite frankly, it’s annoying that he got away with it. Now that I’ve alienated and, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, pissed off everyone reading this article, I would like to tell you why it’s important that you use the appropriate verb tense and spell things correctly. The simple fact is, you’re judged by your written work. Every paper you hand in with your name on it is a reflection of your (note the possessive ‘your’ here, people) work. Do you honestly think that your professors will overlook your egregious misuse of commas? How about the fact that the first person narrative you just turned in was all about you’re dog? You are dog? Really? Fascinating. Or how about graduate schools? Good luck explaining to Harvard Medical School why your résumé states, “I were President of the Senior Class.” Now, to those of you who are thinking, “there’s nothing wrong with that sentence,” I can help. Consider the following:

1. Stop using poor grammar when you text, IM or email. In an age where BlackBerrys and phones with full QWERTY keyboards are much more common, taking the time to text you the word ‘you’ and using an apostrophe when you mean it won’t kill you.

2. Listen to Microsoft’s little squiggly lines. Like I said, unless you’re e e cummings back from the dead, chances are good that if you see a little green line, you screwed up. Statistically speaking, the computer is right a higher percent of the time.

3. Repeat first grade English. If you still can’t get your head around ‘there,’ ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, perhaps it’s time to take a couple of steps back.