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I'm sorry, but I really have to rant about grammar!

(151 Posts)
feesh Thu 26-Apr-18 07:21:53

I will probably get flamed/have my own errors pointed out, but here goes.....

I am finding British people's writing increasingly difficult to understand. I am a member of two Facebook support groups for a particular medical condition. One is for Americans; the other is for Brits.

The posts by the Brits are, for the most part, almost illegible, with long, rambling sentences which last for a whole paragraph, punctuated only by commas and 'howevers'. The American posts are nearly always well-written with impeccable grammar.

I also see it elsewhere on Facebook and in real life too (I'm living overseas, so I mix with a lot of different English-speaking nationalities and it's seemingly mainly Brits with this issue). Most irritatingly, I am studying for a Masters at the moment which is examined in part through online discussions. I am in the middle of a discussion and struggling to reply to posts which are barely legible, again with paragraph-long sentences punctuated only with commas and 'howevers'.

I have recently had to assess the websites of various well-known organisations for an assignment, and one of them has a website that is peppered with such dreadful grammar (including in its downloadable notes for schools) that it's embarrassing to read it.

It's driving me nuts and I really needed this rant to get it off my chest, before I go back to my assessed discussion!

I have seen people on here defending bad grammar and accusing people like me of being pedantic. I fully accept that people write in a more informal note form on Facebook and on here, which is fine, but you can still use punctuation to make it easy to read.

What is going on? Did we go through a period of really appalling teaching in the 1990s or something? It seems to be the current cohort of people in their late 20s and early 30s which suffer the most from this affliction, and I'm sure it's not entirely their fault, but down to poor teaching/schooling. I'm 41 and I was taught most of this stuff in my state primary school.

Go on, tear my grammar apart ;)

OdileDeCaray Thu 26-Apr-18 07:27:06

U wot mate?

Daftquestion1 Thu 26-Apr-18 07:29:46

Have you ever read a US newspaper article on line? It makes no sense whatsoever. There is no way their grammar is better.

MaisyPops Thu 26-Apr-18 07:30:44

Everything about this simply demonstrates your own limited understanding of how language use changes by context.

Technological language (chat rooms, messaging, social media, message boards, texts etc) will tend to not follow all the rules of written language as it is half way between writing and speech. It is why you get lots of sentence fragments and grammatically incomplete sentences (hence writing resembling speech with lots of commas)

Equally, there's no such thing as 'one proper type of grammar'. Standard English is what is taught in schools and it is required for formal writing. Dialects often use non standard grammar. Both are fine by context.
Many people shift between dialects and standard english with no problems. Some don't.

The entire thread sounds like you want a pat on the back for being so much more educated than anyone else.

sandgrown Thu 26-Apr-18 07:32:32

I see these mistakes every day at work. Grammar has definitely gone downhill.

SuttonHooHoo Thu 26-Apr-18 07:36:09

I’m not sure what the point of this is? There are poorly educated people in the US and the UK.

I’m a grammar pedant (privately, I don’t spend time correcting people’s grammar online) but even I am finding this thread irritating.

Have my very first biscuit

DartfordBridge Thu 26-Apr-18 07:37:09

It’s a personal not national issue

DartfordBridge Thu 26-Apr-18 07:39:00

Not even an issue really to me though - I have never not been able to understand long rambling paragraphs or bad grammar.

I wouldn’t criticise someone for it like some members of the grammar police do.

whiteradiator Thu 26-Apr-18 07:39:57


AsAProfessionalFekko Thu 26-Apr-18 07:43:15

My writing here is often rushed and done on the hoof. Plus my autocorrect is crazy.

I write a lot for work and that is well crafted, intelligent and (blows trumpet) very good!

Different styles for different mediums, innit? (Never used 'innit' in an article... Maybe I should)

hidinginthenightgarden Thu 26-Apr-18 07:44:07

I think because grammar isn't corrected past high school, people lose sight of how to use it correctly.
I only take issue when there are whole paragraphs with only one full stop, or when people do not put a question mark at the end of a question.

feesh Thu 26-Apr-18 08:02:16

Maisypops I'm aware that language evolves, but I still would like to be able to read someone's writing. It's absolutely fine to write in note form on Facebook and on here, or to write in a conversational style, but there are still ways of doing it legibly. Punctuation can help to read someone's sentence in the style that they would say it out loud.

I can tolerate it more on Facebook, but when we are in the middle of an assessed discussion for uni and I've got a 15-line sentence to read and refer back to, it is really hard.

I don't want a pat on the back and I don't think I'm more educated than anyone else; I just think I got lucky to have great primary school teachers and to go through primary at a time when grammar was on the curriculum. I said in my post that I'm not blaming the individuals - it's more to do with the system.

SuttonHooHoo thanks for my biscuit! There was no real point to my post. I was in the middle of some Uni work and I needed a rant to get it off my chest. I know there are poorly educated people on both sides of the Atlantic, but it's only since joining these two Facebook groups that I have seen the stark differences and started to think about it more. It is VERY rare to get an illegible post in the American group. I used to think that the American education system wasn't as good as the British one, but since I've moved overseas and made friends who have sent their children to American schools, I've realised that I wasn't necessarily correct to assume that.

AsAProfessionalFekko I totally agree with you. I can write properly, but I do sometimes write very informally on here (especially on my phone - I'm on my computer now). You can write in note form and make your points clearly though, or you can write enormous long sentences without using any paragraphs or full stops at all and make it very easy for people to miss your point.

ofcoursehesthefuckingfarmer Thu 26-Apr-18 08:08:07

I'm going against the grain here but I agree with you OP.

I hate it and don't care if that makes me a crushing snob.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Thu 26-Apr-18 08:29:30

I dislike it too, because I find that it is often difficult to understand the gist of the writing. I accept that people may need to write speedily and in note form, but I don’t see the point if I can’t decipher what has been written.

I don’t wholly accept the idea that it is due to poor teaching though. That was my career for many years and was something I regarded as being important. Frequent changes in curriculum emphasis and a change in the culture of education had a part to play, I believe.

Undercoverbanana Thu 26-Apr-18 08:39:16

I consider myself pretty stupid. (My boss certainly thinks so, and in fact, has said so.) I take pride in being literate and knowing the difference between your, you’re and their, there, they’re. I’m also confident with using apostrophes.

I get a bit ragey too but I keep it in.

Other people have posh jobs so must be quite good at things that I’m not.

We all have skills. Different skills. Different priorities.

One of the things that made me fall in love with DP was that his texts were literate and grammatical. Odd, but true.

KeithLeMonde Thu 26-Apr-18 08:43:10

I'm the same age as you, OP, and learnt little if any grammar at school. I'm well-read and fairly intelligent but always a bit self-conscious that my written English is prone to grammatical errors.

underthestarrysky Thu 26-Apr-18 09:05:11

It's the adding of an apostrophe whenever there is an 's' at the end of a word that drives me mad!

NewNameNewStart0 Thu 26-Apr-18 09:10:41

I agree with you OP. There are grammatical mistakes on official signs etc these days! That doesn't seem to happen in other countries.

HereBeFuckery Thu 26-Apr-18 09:15:58

Maisy of course language evolves. However, writing in an incomprehensible style is not 'evolution', since language is a communication tool. That's a lazy argument.

MrsFrisbyMouse Thu 26-Apr-18 09:50:07

If they are not getting their message across it's a communication problem, and nothing to do with grammar. Older British English writing styles were, for the most part, very wordy - with very long and grammatically complex sentences with lots of embedded clauses. This is changing in more modern writing but change takes time.

There may also be something more subtle going on with regards to directness - Americans generally more happy to go straight to the point.

It may be nothing to do with nationality at all, and just a random selection with some more verbose UK types. Or maybe some of the British are actually writing in a second language.

I think without proper linguistic evidence you just can't say.

I do understand you are finding it frustrating - so maybe say something? It may be as simple as someone is using a phone to write on and isn't aware how it's coming across.

ThisIsTheFirstStep Thu 26-Apr-18 09:55:49

Without wanting to be a Daily Mail style alarmist, I met a woman the other week who got a first in history from a good university and she called Nelson Mandela ‘that black fella that got out of prison in America’.

From that alone, I got the impression that academic standards may be slipping.

Maybe not.

But it was mental.

dangermouseisace Thu 26-Apr-18 09:56:26

When I did a masters recently there was a big focus on producing intelligible work. There are plenty of free online tools that assess grammar and readability, so there is no excuse for pointlessly meandering prose.

LifeBeginsAtGin Thu 26-Apr-18 10:05:46

Sadly, despite the 'establishment' and teachers/schools trying to increase attainment and improve education, people just don't see it as important. Parents only get involved in school when their kids can't wear a pink mohican or Vans trainers.

The worst is on MN where posts have no paragraphs. If you can't write correctly I'm not interested in what you are saying.

KeneftYakimoski Thu 26-Apr-18 10:07:10

The posts by the Brits are, for the most part, almost illegible, with long, rambling sentences which last for a whole paragraph, punctuated only by commas and 'howevers'. The American posts are nearly always well-written with impeccable grammar.

You're very proud of the Masters you're doing.

One of the things that a Masters should be doing, as a Level 7 qualification, is developing critical reading skills so that you can engage with sources of evidence and be aware of the limitations they may have.

First, can you think why "it's because of differences between British and Americans" is not a reasonable response to two corpora of text, one of which is labelled as "British" and one as "American"?

Secondly, Mumsnet and NetMums, both largely British websites, have very different discourse; can you think why that might be? It's not just the hunning, annoying though that might be, it's the grammar and lexis as well.

There's a nice little essay there, I'd say.

50shadesofgreyismylaundry Thu 26-Apr-18 10:11:11

How can we comment without an example? I've never noticed a problem but then again I'm not reading the same texts.

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