Then I pick up my coffee cup and bonk myself on the head with it.
It’s always the same thing: Some columnist in Polukaville has written a column about how readers shredded her for using “their” to refer to a singular. Invariably, the columnist concludes that there are a lot of people out there who like to play gotcha (who knew?). Then some clown posts a comment ranting about how the New York Times (gasp) split an infinitive and another clown bemoans the widespread horror of people using “healthy” to mean “healthful.”
(None of these linguistic crimes is actually a crime, by the way. Split infinitives, if there exist such things, are fine. “Healthy” now means “healthful” and the use of “their” to refer to a singular is defended by some of the nation’s top language authorities.)
And then I remember why so many people hate grammar: Because the people who claim to love it give it a bad name.
To me, grammar is more about understanding phrase and clause structure and using that understanding to write the most effective sentences possible. But not today. Today it’s about a never-ending bumble dance between anti-split-infinitive thugs and dazed columnists who never saw ’em coming.
So today, instead of writing my column or some other grammar-related project, I’m going to work on my novel. To give you an idea of how dedicated I am to my fiction writing, here’s a picture of the space in my home set up specifically for fiction writing. To encourage me to write more fiction. (Note that the only evidence of life is of feline life -- cat hair on the tree thing).
And here’s where I usually write my columns and other grammar stuff. (Note the actual signs of human life.)
Wish me luck.
* If you want to try this grammar search at home, kids, do an “advanced” search and specify that you want hits only from the United States. Otherwise, you’ll have to sift through hundreds of hits from news sources in countries where they actually teach grammar.