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This is why grammar is important

12 May

I just received a sheaf of election material through the letterbox. As regular readers of my blog will know, I don’t tend to share examples of bad grammar and spelling that are just ‘amusing’, as I work with many non-native speakers of English and people who need assistance with their English text production (such as people with dyslexia or those who use voice-recognition software, which can’t always tell the difference between homophones), and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad for not producing ‘perfect’ textbook English sentences.

But I did want to share this example because it demonstrates that the correct or incorrect use of grammar can make a huge difference. Here we go:

when incorrect grammar gives a meaning you didn't mean

Grammatically, the underlined section expresses this: “she was working for her own redundancy and that of every other UK MEP. As now, she will fight for your redundancy and Britain’s interests in Brussels”. OK, there would be a comma before “and Britain’s”, but people don’t always insert sufficient commas …

I’m pretty sure that they meant to express this: “… she will fight for your interests in Brussels and Britain’s interests in Brussels”. If you’re not sure of which form of a noun pronoun to use, making the sentence repetitive in this way will often help, or just removing the other word – “she will fight for your interests in Brussels” (this is how to remember when to use “x and I” and when to use “x and me”, by the way).

All that went wrong was a simple “s”. What this leaflet should have said was: “she was working for her own redundancy and that of every other UK MEP. As now, she will fight for your and Britain’s interests in Brussels”. Oh, and let’s not get into the “As now”, before you say anything …

If you need help with pairs of words or word use, you might like to take a look at my Troublesome Pairs and Be Careful! posts. You might also find this post on the value of proofreading interesting. Enjoy!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Be careful, Errors, Why bother, Writing

 

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4 responses to “This is why grammar is important

  1. spencefried

    May 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Bad grammar always just seems unprofessional to me!

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    • Liz at Libro

      May 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Well, I encounter many examples where “bad” grammar is the result of English not being the person’s first language, or of them having various issues around writing, so I can’t say that bad grammar is always unprofessional in itself, but yes, as I am a medium between the language production and its eventual publication, I would have expected them to have used an editor of some sort to work over this text before actually publishing it. Published bad grammar is unprofessional.

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  2. Eileen Steele

    May 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I think I spotted another boo-boo! Shouldn’t the first sentence read something like “First elected in 2009, Nikki included the following words in her maiden speech…”? It’s Nikki who was elected, not her maiden speech. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

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    • Liz at Libro

      May 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Oh yes, it’s full of horrors, but the one I wanted to point out was the one where she directly expresses that she wants to make us all redundant! I would say that the first sentence is garbled and dodgy but doesn’t express the exact opposite of what she means. I didn’t want to shoot the whole thing down in flames. But yes, you’re correct.

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