When good grammar goes bad


By Sue Curtis



The other day, a friend showed me an Instagram post she had received from a massage business in New York. The caption read, “special on all message services.” We had a good laugh about it, because we knew they had intended to say “massage.”

Social media is everywhere these days. Even signage is digital. We have signs in front of churches, schools, and other non-profit enterprises reminding us of upcoming events, kindnesses, or days closed.

People have access to reaching hundreds, if not thousands, of people through signs, texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other internet programs. Unfortunately, at least a portion of those folks do not possess the skills necessary to post messages in a fashion that makes them appear at least reasonably intelligent.

Now, I’m not talking about epic “fails” that make newspaper headlines. I’m talking about everyday folk, like me, who simply don’t realize that we’re using technology in an incorrect or inappropriate way. That’s why, when I send a text message to my friend that I intend to say “I was giving you a choice” and it actually says “I was honing you a choice,” it causes a bit of confusion.

Some of that is autocorrect function’s fault. Some of it – okay, most of it – is my fault. I’m too quick, I don’t proofread, and sometimes I simply don’t know how to do something correctly. That’s why I have, on occasion, posted the same picture on Facebook three times.

I worry about my lack of knowledge and irritated for the seeming “ease” of using these kinds of programs that aren’t really easy at all. But it’s not just me who has a problem using technology.

Last spring, we drove by a school building every week that has a digital sign. The sign read “drive safe for our kids.” It drove me crazy. The message is a good one, of course. And had the sign been in front of almost any other business, I would probably not have noticed the massive grammatical error. Drive is a verb. To modify it correctly, one must use an adverb, not an adjective or noun. The correct message should have been “drive safely.” This is a school, for goodness’ sake! Use good grammar!

We were pleased that the sign now reads the appropriate message, though it was incorrect all summer.

We were driving one time and saw a sign on a motel that read, “Welcome Free Wife.” We giggled for about 20 miles, even though we knew they meant “Wifi.” Last week, I saw a man holding a sign up at a game protesting something or another. His sign read, “Get some brains! Morans!”

I have begun to think that perhaps we do need message therapy. Many of us struggle to use Facebook and Instagram, mis-text and cause confusion among our friends and family, or use questionable spelling and grammar in public forums. Perhaps there is a vocational niche for folks who could train us – in normal, everyday language – how to use our devices more appropriately. Message therapy, indeed.

Email me at suecurtis9@gmail.com.

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By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.