Sunday, September 09, 2007

My first interview.

We got our first real press coverage this week when The Canadian Press decided to interview me about the Facebook group. Here's the article (The Ottawa Sun):

By Angela Pacienza

TORONTO (CP) - Tired of hearing the word "like" at the end of every sentence? Does a wayward apostrophe drive you round the bend? You're not alone.

There are plenty of people who are fed up with what they say is a growing epidemic of bad grammar. Among them are more than two dozen groups on Facebook -everything from "Citizens Against Poor Grammar" to "Grammar and Punctuation Are Your Friends" and "Grammar Freaks United" - dedicated to improving the world's linguistic skills.

Many blame the Internet and its ubiquitous abbreviations for disintegrating proper language. "I hate misplaced apostrophes, but what winds me up possibly even more is when people use 'txt spk' when writing online. Surely it takes longer to work out which letters to miss out and make sure it still makes sense, than the time it takes to just type the sodding word!" wrote Rhea D on the "Actually, Good Grammar IS Important" group, which boasts more than 1,500 members.

Listing her grammar pet peeves, Sarah-Jane Smith of South Africa wrote: " 'Could of,' 'would of'... etc... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH."

One U.S.-based Facebook group, "I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar," went so far as to have T-shirts made mocking U.S. President George W. Bush's use of English. The shirts are emblazoned with Bush's face and the phrase: "I judge you when you use poor grammar."(

Led by Sharon Nichols, a 22-year-old University of Alabama law student, the group boasts 180,000 members and has sold several hundred Bush T-shirts.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the huge response," said Nichols. "I think the group is a lighthearted way to address something annoying."

The Facebook groups typically have a heavy educational component.

"Citizens Against Poor Grammar" was started as a forum for people to learn about commonly used phrases that are grammatically incorrect, says founder Meredith Maloney, a 35-year-old Torontonian who works in the social service sector.

"I am by no means a grammar expert," admits Maloney. "I initially wanted to expand my vocabulary and change some phrases that I may say incorrectly." The group's membership was initially made up of Maloney's friends. But it's now grown to about 60 members from all over the world.

"People seem to enjoy venting about things that their co-workers, strangers and family members have said to them. It's a bit of comic relief too," Maloney said. Her favourite incorrect phrase? "'I didn't mean to earsdrop on your conversation,"' she said.

Grammatical correctness is also making its way into reality TV. CBC will air "Test the Nation: Watch Your Language" on Sunday, a game show testing contestants' knowledge of the English language.

Participants will include romance novelists, word gamers, ad agents, comedians and English teachers.

"It's kind of sloppy," contestant Mary Ellen Perley, a teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton, said about the state of grammar among today's youth. "Sloppy spelling, sloppy use of past and present tense."

"When you try to explain to them why it's got to be (a certain) way, there's a blank look." Perley, a self-professed grammar cop, blames the school system for not putting more emphasis on teaching the basic ABCs of grammar.

What does she consider the most cringe-worthy error? The "it's" versus "its" blunder.

"That one drives me cra-aaa-zy. That's a big one. And you see it everywhere. You don't just see it in schools. It's creeping into published documents."

Maloney hopes Facebook groups like hers encourage more young people to openly discuss the state of grammar.

"I don't want the onslaught of technology to encourage people to become lazy. That would be a true shame."


Anonymous said...

You spelled "Ottawa" wrong. Just thought I'd let you know!


Sharon said...

Fixed! Thanks for letting me know.

letters said...

I would judge you when you spell the capital of my home country wrong, but everyone makes mitsakes.

Desmund said...

Congratulations, Sharon! I'm a member of the group, I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar, that happened to stumble upon your blog. Keep up the good work, and thank you for the hours of entertainment you have brought to us pedantic punctuationists. And don't forget about the bastard children in, I judge you when you use poor grammar's photos, part II.

tangled said...

I'm a member, too!

"Our condescension and their humiliation will eventually cause them to change their wicked ways."

It isn't working. :(

Anonymous said...

I think it's ironic that a "self-professed grammar cop" could be quoted as saying "When you try to explain to them why it's got to be (a certain) way, there's a blank look."

I may be wrong (as I'm not a grammar expert myself), but I think that the sentence should have said "it has", not "it's got".

Choosy Beggar said...

I think it's ironic that a "self-professed grammar cop" could be quoted as saying "When you try to explain to them why it's got to be (a certain) way, there's a blank look."

I may be wrong (as I'm not a grammar expert myself), but I think that the sentence should have said "it has", not "it's got".

Actually, I think it's OK, since the "it's" in "it's got" is just a contraction of "it has", which I've never been told was disallowable. The "got" may just be an intensifier, so to speak, but I think it's OK as well.

BTW, I split infinitives all over the place, but I take that as a privilege granted by my 780 Verbal SAT. (Partially kidding. I did get that score.) Also, I think it helps certain verb phrases flow more smoothly... One can be too serious about all of this.

Meredith said...

I stumbled across your blog when I googled myself (how egotistical!)

I'm sooo happy to see that there are others that care about grammar in this day and age.

Keep it up!

Meredith Maloney

Ernie said...

I love everything you are doing to shed light on this growing grammar problem. People are increasingly typing letters and e-mails in a more casual "conversational" format which tends to lower the bar regarding proper grammatical techniques. I noticed a sentence in your interview where you said: "what winds me up even more is when people use 'txt speak'". The less casual way to say this is: "what winds me up even more is people using txt speak". Subtle differences in writing style can make a great difference in presentation.

Ernie Meggison