The Grammar Police Can Get a Wee Bit Aggressive


Through these many years of blogging, a few trends have caught my attention. Perhaps the one most surprising to me has been the consistent misspelling of the word “lightning” which I often encounter in the guise of “lightening”. I’ve often marveled at the persistence of this typographical oversight and how it took hold of so many minds.

Not that it’s a big deal, however. As long as I can understand what I’m reading, I don’t think it matters terribly when writers mistake one word for another if they sound highly similar. Another example: “then” and “than”. The former refers to cause and effect or ordinality, the latter to a comparative antecedent, but people use the two of them interchangeably. Since each word has a distinct definition, we could easily combine them into one word anyway, something which happens a lot as language evolves.

So, I do think that the self-appointed correctors of the English Language ought to chill a bit (and not in the temperature lowering definition of that word, he clarified archly.) There is however one misusage that does annoy me more than a smidge which is the use of “literally” to imply obvious exaggeration, as in “I literally died laughing.” This butchering of the concept of literalness, though intentionally ironic, does undermine the ability of people to tell when said irony is taking place. If I were to say, “I literally ran ten miles.” and mean it, people in this day and age likely would take that as hyperbole, which is precisely what the term “literally” was invented to disambiguate.

Then, let me leave you all with this last thought. Some mistakes trip us up, some expand our minds, and some become monuments to both the ignorance and creativity of the human mind. This is language, all.


10 thoughts on “The Grammar Police Can Get a Wee Bit Aggressive

  1. I have been guilty of the “lightning” error. I type fast (not lightning fast), which sometimes results in an entirely different word than was in my mind appearing in the text. I’ll think “there” and type “their.” My brain knows the difference but apparently my fingers don’t. I have to proofread. Yes, the grammar cops must lighten up. Or should I say they should be lightning up? Blessings to you, Michael…


  2. I would hope that when you read mine, you’d pick out the words I trash and really know it was on “porpoise” or “Altering Vows”. i’ve been playing with a short story about the profits taking money from the broken hearts, etc.


  3. Oh don’t get me started on grammar errors! I have been a professional proofreader in the past and it seems to be in my nature to see errors. But I’m like Carol, my fingers will sometimes type one word when my brain intends another. I do see the mistakes that others make and also catch them in my own writings…it drives me nuts. Yes, I do need to lighten up and I do understand that it can be hard to proofread your own writing. That “literally” business is ridiculous… ๐Ÿ™‚


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