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Get ready….. because tomorrow, Sunday March 4 (“March Forth”) is National Grammar Day, and it has become an annual CD tradition to recognize this important day with a special grammar post. According to the organizing group’s Facebook page:
Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!
To celebrate National Grammar Day, here are ten of my favorite grammar-related items:
1. It’s vs. Its I. I frequently post on CD about my personal choice for the most common grammar/spelling/punctuation mistake in the English language: the frequent misuse of “it’s” (a contraction for “it is”) when it should be “its” (a possessive pronoun). Here’s some evidence for my claim that this is the most common grammar/spelling mistake in the English language:
Exhibit A: A Google search shows nearly 3,000 results for the incorrect phrase “meet it’s obligations.”
Exhibit B: A Google search finds more than 9,000,000 results for the incorrect phrase “at it’s best.”
Exhibit C: A Google search for the incorrect phrase “it’s fullest” finds more than 400,000 results.
Exhibit D: Do a Google search for “in it’s own right,” and you’ll also get more than 400,000 results.
Exhibit E: See the photo above for a typical example of the misuse of “it’s” when it should be its.
What’s so difficult about such a simple grammar/spelling/punctuation rule that had traditionally been taught in elementary school (at least it used to be)? It’s really pretty basic: “It’s” is always a contraction for “it is,” and if you can’t substitute “it is” for “it’s” in a sentence, you know it’s wrong, e.g., “the company couldn’t meet it’s obligation” and “pizza at it’s best” are both wrong because you can’t substitute “it is” in those sentences for “it’s.”
Note: You can review the rule for the correct usage of its here and here. And for any help with grammar, you can contact The Grammar Hotline at the University of West Florida (UWF). Since 1984, the UWF Grammar Hotline has responded to 6,000 inquiries about grammar, syntax, diction, mechanics, spelling, pronunciation, and usage.
2. It’s vs. Its II. From the comment section of CD and from the web, here are some recent examples of the misuse of it’s for its:
3. Zero Tolerance CEO. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, and founder of Dozuki, a software company dedicated to helping manufacturers publish amazing documentation, explains on the Harvard Business Review blog why “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” Here’s a slice:
On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right? Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.
Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts. I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.
And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does. That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.
4. The Skills Gap Employers are Most Concerned About Today? Writing.
5. What Corporate America Can’t Build? A sentence.
6. The Bad Grammar Epidemic, from the Wall Street Journal in 2012: Managers are fighting an epidemic of bad grammar in the workplace.
8. Apostrophe Abuse. a) America’s apostrophe catastrophe: What’s with the growing misuse of that puny piece of punctuation? by Arianna Huffington in Salon, b) ApostropheAbuse.com, and c) the UK-based Apostrophe Protection Society.
9. Grammar Cartoon above.
10. Grammar Video (below). In his viral video “Word Crimes” with more than 39 million views on YouTube, “Weird Al” Yankovic reviews some basic grammar rules, including when to use the contraction “it’s” versus when to use the possessive pronoun “its.”
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