Practioner Unknown
Share this content
Tags:

Grammar and spelling - a dying art

20th Nov 2012
Practioner Unknown
Share this content

A client wrote to me today, a beautifully hand-written letter - albeit in block capitals - asking me if I had any "thorts" on his tax liability.

He clearly doesn't have a pedant like me proof-reading his mail before it goes in the post.

I am sure spelling and grammar must have been dropped from the school curriculum since I left, and as for punctuation ... I despair!

My own children demonstrated the same desire to make sentences as long as possible and sprinkle them liberally with unnecessary commas. Colons and semi-colons? Not a chance.

As for apostrophes, I don't think there's anyone in the office who uses them correctly all of the time. Even those who are old enough to know better can't resist the temptation to add an apostrophe to the occasional plural for no reason at all.

I did once draw up a list of the word pairs that the Microsoft spelling checker wouldn't spot if you used the wrong one - effect/affect, for example. My then secretary said she thought the more junior staff would fine my memo insulting, so I binned it. I think she meant embarrassed rather than insulted, because the standard of spelling and grammar is pretty embarrassing sometimes, considering clients tend to receive only a handful of communications from us each year. The least we can do is make sure they are written in correct English.

I suspect my fixation with language stems from my university days as a modern language student when both English and French grammar were of the utmost importance, and ever since it has been second nature. For me at least, the correct use of language is like correct arithmetic. There are basic rules, not difficult to learn, and usually there's only one correct answer. Yes, affect and effect, their and there, poor and pour - there's only one right word on each occasion. I just seem to be alone in wanting to use the right one each time!

Tags:

You might also be interested in

Replies (18)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By ShirleyM
20th Nov 2012 21:37

Standards have dropped

I am very poor at grammar, but even so I am better than the younger age groups. It shocked me that when we were interviewing for an AAT apprentice (a few years ago) that only one interviewee passed our maths test of being able to work out 10% of a number (without use of a calculator) and every single application had terrible spelling and grammar.

In my youth, you had to be reasonably good at maths & English to gain a 'white collar' position, otherwise you were destined for the factories. Times change, and not always for the better.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
20th Nov 2012 23:26

Your knot a loan

Eye two dispare the weigh standards have fallen and nothink makes me more angry than people who say they have another thing coming if they can't do things off there own back, Grrrr!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Rudolf
21st Nov 2012 00:00

Learn & teach

My pet hate is the mixing up of "teach" and "learn".  When I hear someone say "I'll learn you how to ...." I could scream.

 

That said, I'm not surprised that standards have fallen.  We have so much American TV and literature that I'm not at all surprised to see constant "Americanisation" of words.  Add to that reliance on spell checkers, plus the awful "text speak" which youngsters seem to mistake for English,  and unsurprisingly standards will fall.   

Thanks (0)
avatar
By pjd17mini
21st Nov 2012 08:56

A few reminders

I too think it's of real importance - especially in our profession with the heavy weighting towards the formal letter - but even with less formal letters and forms of communications, bad grammar stands out like a sore thumb, and I know I for one would react differently to bad grammar in a letter.

I must admit, I've been tempted to put some of these on the noticeboards...

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling 

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe 

P

Thanks (0)
Replying to lionofludesch:
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
21st Nov 2012 12:23

Like these ...

pjd17mini wrote:

I too think it's of real importance - especially in our profession with the heavy weighting towards the formal letter - but even with less formal letters and forms of communications, bad grammar stands out like a sore thumb, and I know I for one would react differently to bad grammar in a letter.

I must admit, I've been tempted to put some of these on the noticeboards...

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling 

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe 

P

... but there are 3 of these: weather, whether or wether, not just the 2 on the poster!

The best way to learn to spell, and to learn word meanings,  is to do crosswords, anything from Mail/\Express upwards although the red tops could start you off. Do your best, go back next day and look at those you didn't get and fill them in. If kids today picked up a puzzle magazine rather than a PS2 when they are bored literacy standards would increase rapidly.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Brend201
21st Nov 2012 10:02

Standards are important because they facilitate clear communication.  Those of us who care should seek to maintain high standards.  

It is worth being careful.  Those who don't know that something is wrong don't matter but sometimes the person who does know that something is wrong is the decision-maker.  

Thanks (0)
By A mum and an accountant
21st Nov 2012 11:19

I agree spelling and grammar is a dying art
There was a time when writing the prefect letter was an art form,with the correct way to address someone that you know or don't know and to sign it off properly. Now most correspondence starts with "Hi" and ends with "kind regards" which I happily do aswell but there never seems to be much need to write it any other way.
Some changes are inevitable but proper English needs to be preserved.
My nephew just had his entrance exams and I helped him a bit with his English without the use of a computer! He seems to have spell check on for any words he doesn't know how to spell which I think defeats the purpose of learning to spell a word. I'm now eagerly waiting to see how he did, whether he got the apostrophes in the right place and whether he managed to use the correct there, their or they're.

Thanks (0)
By A mum and an accountant
21st Nov 2012 12:40

Tempted
I am actually tempted to buy the posters. It might not have everything but its a good start.

Thanks (0)
Replying to mr. mischief:
By Red Leader
21st Nov 2012 16:49

its

Just waiting for someone to comment on "its" .... go on, you know you want to!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
21st Nov 2012 19:17

Go on then ...

Lilac1 wrote:
I am actually tempted to buy the posters. It might not have everything but its a good start.
 

You should, you may learn how to use apostrophe's proper like what I do.

:oP

Thanks (0)
avatar
By GaryMc
21st Nov 2012 21:18

Dying art or just evolution?

I wonder what Shakespeare would make of written and spoken English today?  Language and grammar evolve as the years go by. Complaining about it isn't really going to change anything.  Maybe we should just go along for the ride

Innit?

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
21st Nov 2012 21:24

Big difference ...

... between evolution and ignorance!

 

Thanks (0)
By A mum and an accountant
21st Nov 2012 21:48

Damn!!!!
Can I blame my iPhone and the lack of grammatically correct predictive text?! My nephew has no hope. I now await in dread for my nephew's results! Teach me to get on my high horse and preach about the good ole days!

Thanks (0)
By k743snx
23rd Nov 2012 13:02

grammar/spelling

Three of my bugbears:

"Should of" and variants thereon.

"Loose" for "lose".

The American spelling of "centre" becoming more common.

Despite all the world-beating(?) exam results of recent years, grammar and spelling must be low priority. As late as the mid 80's, we were warned by our tutors about our standard of English when answering our accountancy exam questions.

 

Perhaps not quite on the same topic, but another irritant (to me anyway), is when people misquote common expressions, example: "one foul swoop" instead of "fell swoop".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks (0)
Replying to Cheshire:
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
25th Nov 2012 23:23

Exactly ...

k743snx wrote:

Perhaps not quite on the same topic, but another irritant (to me anyway), is when people misquote common expressions, example: "one foul swoop" instead of "fell swoop".

As I alluded to above:

You do things off your own bat, not back

You have another think coming, not thing (this is real red mist to me, the clue is in the phrase, "if you think that" ... you are mistaken, therefore ... "you have another think coming" - why oh why would you use thing unless you are a complete moron!).

You don't know or want anything/something, not anythink /somethink (or more commonly, anyfink/somefink)

If you don't know nothing you are lying, as clearly you do!

Closely linked is those who can't pronounce words like controversy or epitome, and next time Delia says silly cone paper my boot will be going through the TV screen! 

(Interestingly, although the term from the Macduff line  is "fell swoop", it should more accurately be "fell stoop", so not even Shalespeare is immune!)

 

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
By jmwaa
27th Nov 2012 11:00

Everybody makes mistakes!

My then secretary said she thought the more junior staff would fine my memo insulting, so I binned it. 

 

Did she really say 'fine'???

Thanks (0)
Replying to Locutus:
avatar
By Old Greying Accountant
27th Nov 2012 11:12

Everyone makes mistakes?

jmwaa wrote:

My then secretary said she thought the more junior staff would fine my memo insulting, so I binned it. 

 

Did she really say 'fine'???

This is true, even I. Once I thought I had got something wrong, but I hadn't!

Thanks (0)
By robertbeard
27th Nov 2012 11:57

Pet Hate & Despair

My daughter went to a girls grammar school followed up by 6 years at university and now she is a senior teacher at the grammer school where she was at school.

Her worse mistake, though usually spoken rather than written, is the use of "of" when it should be "have"

e.g. I should of gone to the bank today and stems from should've, short for should have, but it is distinctly pronounced as "of" rather than "have".

I always correct her but it seems to be engrained!

I despair!

Thanks (0)