I’m not the best writer in the world. I know this.
But it’s also not my job.
But I read a lot. Have for years. I have to do it professionally, I do it for entertainment. So I really appreciate good writers. If you write for a living, a journalist maybe, you should have some level of craftsmanship for the trade.
I’ve seen some really bad writing from reporters, journalists, even marketing. Seems no one teaches proper writing. Or, maybe these people didn’t read the classics, and haven’t been mentored by old school editors. There was a post awhile ago about a woman who melted down because her editor corrected her spelling of “Hamster“.
Sad thing is, most of the time crap writing simply gets published. Here are a couple examples:
When I travel, I usually buy Wall Street Journal. Seems like it’s the closest to an old school newspaper. But their front page writers are lazy and can only think of one way to reference a source. The literary crutch – “…according to those/someone familiar with the matter/situation.” Who is this someone? These days, probably a political operative, or the writer’s idiot barfly friend. When I see this once or twice, I count like the vampire on sesame street. I have a friend who, when speaking in public, uses a line – “..and all that like there..” over and over. I stop listening and count. So it is with WSJ. I counted an astonishing 37 uses of that term in the first two pages on one flight. There are better ways to say that.
The other one that gets me is misuse of Gender. Unlike many languages around the world, the English language isn’t tied to gender. Our nouns don’t have gender, like in Spanish – “o” for male, “a” for female like Chico, Chica, La Cerveza, el Diablo. We have pronouns that confer this – he/him/his, she/her/hers, it/its, they/them (and all like that there…). And no, pronouns aren’t optional. There is no ze/zer. The way I was taught back in the stone age is that when you are talking about a person, and the gender isn’t known, you use the masculine tense. Gender isn’t conferred on non persons. The only ones that get away with that are the Canadians, who for whatever reason refer to things as “She”. “She’s a good truck, we’ll get her running in no time, eh?”
So look at this abomination:
“Proof of when the right guy complains to the right guy, she gets what she wants. Now I have to add 3 of these to the domain so they can run spreadsheets.” I read that on a post in an IT thread.
I see iterations of this everywhere. “Guy” is a masculine tense. And, you don’t know who this person is, so it’s “..he gets what he wants”. This is confusing, bad grammar at best, and at worst, bullshit virtue signalling. This is especially irritating when a feminine pronoun is used for a position where we don’t know the gender the noun describes.
“A doctor will prescribe medicine for pain, but it may only be Tylenol if she thinks your a pillhead.” – We don’t know the doctor is female, and more than likely, the good doctor will be a man. So you use “He”. I’ve even seen a female reference to a totally male dominated field. Such as ” A plumber can replace that supply valve, but she’ll need access to the water cutoff”
I’ve never met a woman plumber. Trades, from what I can see, aren’t really a woman thing. Not really a millennial thing either. Most I see are men in their fifties.
I think it’s time to get back to proper grammar. Next time I hear someone talk like this I’ll call them out like I’d correct a child.
One thought on “Bad Grammar”
I first saw the use of female pronouns in philosphy. I agree it was just signaling, but later I realized it can be used for clarity when you’re contrasting two hypothetical people who it would be too wordy to name: make one he and the other she.
I don’t think such convoluted hypotheticals come up much outside of philosophy.
The use of gender pronouns is like sex and race in advertising. The plumber is always a woman of colour, unless he’s useless in which case he’s a white man. It is an attempt to change facts on the ground by changing the language, as in 1984. Not a beautifully written book, but sometimes the most brutal words are most honest.
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