Saturday, May 18, 2013

It must've been a given

Short post just to vent about how very annoying it is becoming to find very obvious, very silly and very well-known grammar mistakes.  I'm not even sure these can be correctly called grammar mistakes but I find it astonishing how often they occur.  Now, I will admit to finding spelling and grammar errors irritating and the prevalence of them on discussion forums and blogs somewhat distressing to be perfectly honest.  However, I also recognise that not everyone cares about that and that what they have to say can be interesting and informative regardless.  So although I prefer to read things that aren't littered with mistakes, I don't dismiss something just because it may be (txtspk is a whole other thing - that's far too annoying to slog through reading in my opinion).  I really do try to keep that aspect of my uptightedness under control.

I'm no grammar expert and can only remember one or two English classes at around age 13 in which we covered some of the basics like what a verb is and what an adjective is.  I do remember being taught the difference between "being" and "been" at some stage, for example.  I still manage to do fairly well at some of the online grammar tests I've seen but I'm definitely not perfect so don't ask me what a dangling participle is.  For the brief period I taught English as a second language I had to spend half-an-hour before each class going through a grammar book to make sure I had enough answers to cover what was going to happen in class.  And although I type well I'm still likely to find many typos when I read back through old posts.  I rarely read back through my posts or do any editing before posting and that's just all part of the way I like to blog.

Okay, this short post is getting long now but that's just how annoying I find this topic.  Bear with me (no, don't bare with me, that's something I only usually do with lovers or when I'm at the sauna) on this.  What has gotten my goat particularly in the past week is not the prevalence of silly mistakes on discussion forums and blogs written by people, like me, who are not professional writers or linguists or anything like that.  It's the same silly mistakes being made by professionals.  And I mean the type of mistakes that just make no sense at all.  Simple lack of knowledge of the English language.

For example, a line that I read in the Irish Times last week (it has since been corrected, it annoyed me so much on the day I actually wrote an email to them and I reckon I probably wasn't the only one): "Giving a choice, most stylish people choose... ..." - it's "given", people.  And saying "giving a choice" in that sentence just makes no sense whatsoever.  But it's not only journalists who are making this mistake.  I've now heard it distinctly on film on two separate occasions.  The first was when I was watching a DVD earlier this year of Life as we Know it, when Josh Duhamel's character is trying to convince the elderly father (grandfather?) of one of his recently deceased friends to take charge of the baby.  I actually rewound that part of the DVD twice because I just couldn't believe my ears.  And then today, watching episode 13 of The Americans, about 24 minutes in, the head FBI agent does the same thing, "I think it's safe to assume that giving the level of security, they'll come... ...".  Whatever about one person making the mistake when writing, do none of the actors, crew or editing staff notice this stuff at all?

The other one is even more well-known, I suppose: replacing the "'ve" abbreviation of "have" with "of".  It's perhaps an easier one to make, they really do sound so alike when speaking.  But do people really not think about or understand what they're saying?  So instead of "would've, could've" people write (and say!) "would of, could of" and it just makes no sense whatsoever.  I read The Silver Linings Playbook today.  I'd heard it was a great film, thought the trailer looked and when I was in Ireland the book was on special offer in the airport so I bought a copy (if there's a book I like to try and read it before seeing the film).  I loved this book and it's an easy read so it only took a few hours to get through it.  But there, on page 92 (yes, I am sad enough to have just skimmed through it again to find the exact place), we have the following line of dialogue, "I must of fallen asleep, and ..."   MAKES.NO.SENSE!  And whatever about an online newspaper article having mistakes in it, given that the turnaround time is probably fairly fast for getting things written, edited and published, there is just no excuse for a book to have that kind of error in it.  How many people are involved in getting a book published?  How many writers probably get friends and family to read their debut novels before sending them off to publishers?  What about the editors, the typesetters, the printers, etc., etc., etc.?  Did not one of them notice this stupid error?

Anyway, I intended this to be a very short post just outlining these places where I have noticed these mistakes recently and it has turned into more of a rant that I meant it to.  I know I'm not the only one to notice things like this though so if you've come across any other instances where you've found this kind of error in professional writing, feel free to leave a comment below to let off steam about it.



Fiona said...

This irritates me immensely in professional writing as well (note the disclaimer - "professional" - this therefore excludes my own typos and non-editing, particularly if any slip past in this comment!)

My biggest peeve is grammatically incomplete sentences. It's okay on a blog when you get that conversational style thing happening, but not if when gets to the point that you have to re-read every paragraph to translate it into something that makes sense.

It's also jarring when this error occasionally slips through in newspapers or other publications.

Fiona said...

Ha! I *did* make a typo in that comment! Smited by my own smugness :)

Moonwaves said...


I hesitated before hitting publish, badly wanting to read and re-read through what I had written but in the end I reckoned every time I read through probably increased my chances of having a mistake. It's always when you're talking about something like this that things like that happen. :)

Irish Berliner said...

Haha! Nothing like a good rant! But you're right of course. I don't know how many times I've seen someone make a good point only for the wisdom to be wasted on account of a grammar mistake. Your welcome. ;)