Something reported by the Associated Press — the creator of the style guide I will probably name my first-born child in honor of — caught my eye recently.
A Dictionary.com survey found that 74 percent of those from 18 to 34 years old feel perturbed when they encounter grammatical mistakes on social media. Fifty-nine percent said their biggest English language pet peeve is improper grammar.
Yes, the young adults who “can’t even” (do what? — I’ll never be sure) cannot put up with syntactic stumbles. The generation that thinks taking a shower each morning is its “aesthetic” hates it when your tweets aren’t on fleek structurally.
Like a popular Internet meme I’ve come across on multiple occasions, I casually sipped my tea and thought, “I bet half of these millennials have used ‘travesty’ when they meant ‘tragedy,’ but that’s none of my business.”
Apparently, misuse of “their,” “there” and “they’re” is a major irritant, but guess what: You aren’t a grammar guru for catching that mistake — or “your” versus “you’re,” or “its” versus “it’s.” In fact, if you’re in college or out of college and you catch a simple error that any sensible sixth-grader could have identified, what right do you have to say that slip-ups completely infuriate you? There’s more to life than what’s tested in the ACT’s English section.
I’m talking to the people who go, “Ugh, I hate when people say, ‘I could care less,’ ” then turn around and pretend “different than” is a real thing. To the people who go, “Oh my God, it’s ‘regardless,’ not ‘irregardless,’ ” then say they feel “nauseous.”
I hope we didn’t get off on the wrong foot, though. I am nowhere near a “comma queen” of Mary Norris’ caliber (although as copy editors, both Norris and I agree that our decisions have to be subjective). In fact, while researching for this article, I realized that I probably use “whether” incorrectly 75 percent of the time and that there’s a pretty substantial difference between “may” and “might.”
And that terrifies me.
Because if I’m looking at a list of merely “20 common grammar mistakes that (almost) everyone makes,” imagine how many more I’m unaware of. (Stop right there — I am indeed knowledgeable of the rule that you’re not supposed to end sentences with prepositions. Sue me.) I make it a point, however, to educate myself on something new every day, usually by flipping through the AP Stylebook or reading the New York Times’ After Deadline blog.
The point is, there are so many mistakes lurking out there, and you — the millennials who claim linguistic blunders piss you off — are most likely guilty of making the vast majority of them. To truly be entitled to say that bad grammar gets under your skin, break free of your semantic sins.
And no, it’s not “everyday” — that’s an adjective.