Proper grammer should be the American way

I have three major pet peeves: (1) people who complain constantly, (2) people who leave random products around Target because they decide halfway through their trip that something (e.g. swim suits, video games, "Welcome" mats) isn’t absolutely necessary at the time, and (3) people who use improper English.

That third one is definitely my worst. Among my family, friends, teachers and complete strangers, I’m notorious for correcting their mistakes in grammar, punctuation or usage. I’m known at LeRoy-Ostrander High School for my love of proofreading papers, and anyone who knows me will tell you how I cringe when they err in pronoun-verb agreement or if they’ve — heaven forbid — ended a sentence with a preposition.

Don’t even get me started on the Oxford comma: Is it required? No, but it makes the sentence more complete (therefore, more correct!) so use it.

By now you’re no doubt shaking your head, rolling your eyes at my slight obsession with proper English and thinking, "What a freak. It’s not that big of a deal."

I disagree.


Last week, I returned from a 10-day trip to Europe with our school’s Overseas Club and am now even more fond of improving my own — and my peers’ — English. After spending a week and a half soaking in the sights and sounds of London, Paris and the Swiss Alps, I have a new appreciation for our great language, which seems to have been kicked to the wayside as of late.

Over the course of our tour, we communicated with countless people, and it was surprisingly easy. Nearly everyone we met spoke a little English, and some were even fluent. Signs were in English. Directions were in English. Even most menus were in English!

I think it’s pretty embarrassing how our language has been adopted all around the world yet many Americans couldn’t care less how they speak. What does that say about our culture when many people can speak two or even three languages flawlessly, and we can’t master the one we were raised speaking?

I was privileged enough to have an amazing English teacher for three years and could probably tell you anything you’d care to know about where to place a comma, how to fix a fragment, or exactly what a misplaced modifier is. Since she retired, I’ve actually bought and studied several books on improving my grammar and mechanics.

William Zinsser said, "Words are the only tools you will be given. Learn to use them with originality and care. Value them for their strength and diversity. And also remember that somebody out there is listening." Smart guy, huh? He’s so right, though, especially today.

I’m not saying everyone needs to be quite as gung-ho on verbals and subordinating conjunctions as I am, but I think America should make a little more effort to use our language correctly when so many all around the world do, too.

So how about we all stop using "irregardless," remember to put the comma before "too" at the end of a sentence, and please stop using double negatives (hardly and barely are negative words too, people!).

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