Columnist - Headlines with Jonny Mitchell: Crimes against grammar

Amongst the many accusations levelled against me, the one that I don’t mind at all is the one that labels me a Grammar-Nazi.

Monday, 10th March 2014, 3:14 pm
Jonny Mitchell

I am a trained linguist and I am passionate about language, written and spoken, and have been known to explode, not literally of course, at it’s abuse by all manner of people, many of whom should know better.

Of course, there are many occasions when students in school make me squirm with their “creative grammar”, their text-speak (LOL) and their abbreviations. In fact, they have me “ROFL” sometimes.

My esteemed colleague Mr Burton, aka the Musharaf Whisperer, has a similar penchant for lambasting grammar miscreants, and invites the Twitterati to send him photographic evidence of heinous crimes against good grammar on his “Errant Apostrophe Wednesday”. And he gets plenty of responses. And no, there’s nothing wrong with a sentence which starts with “And”, before you write in. And there’s more.

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To clear up the myth that this is evidence of a drop in literacy standards, I can confirm that errors are made by those from every generation in existence. And every single day.

And standards are not falling. Standards are changing. FYI, there’s a difference. What young people need to survive these days is different than in previous generations. The pressure they are under, as well, is huge: no guaranteed jobs upon leaving school; no direct access to college courses; and fewer apprenticeships and employment wonder that some students feel so much at risk that they take drastic measures. You only have to read the papers to see evidence of children taking their own lives because they cannot cope with the pressure. What on Earth has society done to these kids? If you can give me an answer to this one, btw, I will be putting you forward for a Nobel prize.

But I don’t really want to get into that. It’s depressing, and perhaps a theme for a future piece.

I just want you to reflect on the perceived drop in standards. And what better way to check the temperature than with a quick quiz? So, see how you fare with these little beauties.

Are any of the following sentences written correctly? If not, how can they be corrected?

l I hope you don’t mind me saying, but less students are leaving school with appropriate qualifications.

l “Can I lend a red pen, Miss? None of mine are working!”

l I cannot count the amount of times I have been stood outside the school gates watching children misbehaving on there way to school.

l I was so annoyed to see the children sat in class doing nothing that I literally hit the roof.

l My friends were daunted by the enormity of the task which faced you and I.

l Due to the teachers’ late arrival, the class did not get underway on time.

OK, clever clogs. So you found all 13 deliberate errors, did you? Well done, I am very impressed.

Your extension task is to find one more error within the column this week.

Good luck.