August is back-to-school month; however, for a true Grammar Guardian, learning never stops. I want to try something different this month. I want to ask everyone to log on to www.valleytowncrier.com and click on this column. Then I want you to send it to 10 people in your address book and ask them to do the same. Perhaps then we can slow the progression of grammatical errors in the world.
This month, I want to begin by telling you about a recent experience I had. I was typing an article for The Valley Town Crier. I wanted to share with readers the background of the person I interviewed. I typed, “She graduated from” and stopped. In so many newspaper and magazine articles I’ve read recently, “from” has been removed. I wondered if perhaps I had missed the English train that swept into town announcing that “from” should no longer be used with “graduated.”
I turned to Grammar Girl and got not only my answer but a hearty laugh. A reader wrote in to ask her whether “graduated” or “graduated from” was correct, and she responded, “…I haven’t really heard the phrase ‘graduated college’ or ‘graduated high school’ much myself, but apparently I just don’t get out enough because when I did a Google search, the phrase ‘graduated college’ was twice as popular as the phrase ‘graduated from college.’ Twice! The wrong way of saying it showed up twice as often.”
Grammar Girl said this sent her into the five stages of grief. She started with denial, quickly shot into depression, skipped right over bargaining and landed in depression. (She never really made it to acceptance.) She stressed to her readers, “If you go around saying you graduated college, you sound illiterate. The correct way to say it is that you graduated FROM college.” She provides a technical explanation as to why. Check out her Web site if you’d like to read it.
I continue to hear folks in the media say “return back” and “answer back.” After a station break, you “return” to the newscast. If you call a person for a comment, you wait for them to “answer.” Get rid of the “back.”
With the start of a new school year, I need to remind all educators of the accountability gold standard: EXEMPLARY. Again and again, educators say, “EMPLARARY,” adding an additional “ar.” The word is pronounced egg-xem-pluh-ry, not egg-xem-pluh-rare-ey (my pronunciation key, not the dictionary’s).
Do you have two “pairs” of pants or two “pair” of pants? According to The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, if a numeral precedes it, you use the plural. Thus, you have two “pairs” of pants.
Finally, let’s clear up the ongoing confusion of “everyday” versus “every day.” In most instances, “everyday” is an adjective. Some stores advertise “everyday low prices.” For me, falling asleep while reading a book is an “everyday occurrence.” When you split the words, you are answering the question “when?” For instance, you could say, “That store has low prices every day” or “I walk three miles every day.”
As many readers know, my students and I keep a list of words and phrases no one may use in my classroom. Make sure your friends get the Grammar Guardians’ (that includes all of you) list below. We will continue adding the most annoying grammatical errors.
• a lot is ALWAYS two words
• you’re welcome…NOT your welcome
• irregardless is not a word…use regardless
Send comments and suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next month….