Take the Grammartarian Grammar Test at WSJ

Employers say young people have fewer grammar skills than did their olde-tyme ancestors, according to the Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger. The hardest hit include Fort Lauderdale flack Don Silver

"I cringe every time I hear" people misuse "is" for "are," Mr. Silver says. The company's chief operations officer, Mr. Silver also hammers interns to stop peppering sentences with "like." For years, he imposed a 25-cent fine on new hires for each offense. "I am losing the battle," he says.

Managers are fighting an epidemic of grammar gaffes in the workplace. Many of them attribute slipping skills to the informality of email, texting and Twitter where slang and shortcuts are common. Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.

There's no easy fix.

You can also take a 22-question grammar quiz. (No guarantee on that link.) I got 20 right, barely an A. 

I'm not persuaded that Bryan A. Garner, a grammar entrepreneur quoted at length, knows about which he talks. Shellenbarger cites Garner's condemnation of "I could care less" without mentioning the controversy over that phrase's possible origin as a crop of "I could care less but it would take an effort." 

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  • ||

    Yeah, this is totally a Cavanaugh post. What the problem is?

  • Cytotoxic||

    I know this is already been mentioned, but it bears repeating: PROMTHEUS IS AWFUL. It is Avatar-stupid.

    I can only be consoled if Reasoners write an alternate script so RS can do a Dallas-style 'it was all a dream/simulation' retcon on it. Bonus points if the characters are Reason editors and/or HR contributors.

  • ||

  • Cytotoxic||

    1) Please tell me that was a joke.

    2)From the Engineers' perspective, so long as humans retained that notion of self-sacrifice as central

    So the characters are retarded AND this movie is at war with Objectivism? FTS

  • ||

    I find the discussions about Prometheus to be highly entertaining.

    If the movie itself can generate stuff i like then i can't very well say i hated it regardless if it had retarded characters.

    Your above "review" that Prometheus was awful seems only intended to end those discussion.

  • ||

    Or it's just his opinion that the characters and plot are fucking retarded and backward, because they are.

  • Cytotoxic||

    THANK YOU

  • Ted S.||

    Ridley Scott was an Objectivist?

  • ||

    Promethus wasn't awful. It was way way better than Avatar.

  • ||

  • Cytotoxic||

    No and no. I got 4:20 into that review before 1) "I liked Lost until the last season"-translation: I have no taste
    2) "Guy who wrote/directed/whatever Lost directed Prometheus" -translation: we know why it sucked asses.

  • ||

    Ridley Scott directed Prometheus. Did you really see the movie?

  • Cytotoxic||

    I know this is already been mentioned, but it bears repeating: PROMTHEUS IS AWFUL. It is Avatar-stupid.

    I can only be consoled if Reasoners write an alternate script so RS can do a Dallas-style 'it was all a dream/simulation' retcon on it. Bonus points if the characters are Reason editors and/or HR contributors.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I know this is already been mentioned, but it bears repeating: PROMTHEUS IS AWFUL. It is Avatar-stupid.

    I can only be consoled if Reasoners write an alternate script so RS can do a Dallas-style 'it was all a dream/simulation' retcon on it. Bonus points if the characters are Reason editors and/or HR contributors.

  • Almanian...still||

    Tims post was real good. I have got 20 of 22 also. So the same score as Tims'.

  • Suki||

    Your invitation to intern at reason is in the mail.

  • robc||

    Ditto and me and engineeer.

  • ||

    21/22! Suck it retards!

  • Mensan||

    I got 21/22; it's not that impressive.

  • Pro Libertate||

    22/22. Kneel before me.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I know this is already been mentioned, but it bears repeating: PROMTHEUS IS AWFUL. It is Avatar-stupid.

    I can only be consoled if Reasoners write an alternate script so RS can do a Dallas-style 'it was all a dream/simulation' retcon on it. Bonus points if the characters are Reason editors and/or HR contributors.

  • Almanian...still||

    Thanks for the warning - was thinking it might be good from the ads, but....

    Avatar awful? That's dangerous.

    Thanks again.

  • ||

    Don't listen to him. Watch this:

    http://redlettermedia.com/half.....rometheus/

  • Tulpa the White||

    Yes, it's already been mentioned at least thrice.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Well it had to be repeated. For safety.

  • Cytotoxic||

    The squirrels agree with me on Prometheus clearly.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Such looseness with language can create bad impressions with clients, ruin marketing materials and cause communications errors, many managers say.

    There's no easy fix.

    Huh? The fix is quite easy, actually. Learn the prestige dialect of your language. For American culture, this would be the speech of the college-educated, middle-class.

  • Suki||

    For American culture, this would be the speech of the college-educated, middle-class.

    What dat is?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    God, Suki, you even suck at "Ebonics". The correct form is "What dat be?"

  • Suki||

    Who dat is?

  • sloopyinca||

    Hey, where da white women at?

  • Sudden||

    Ebonics speakers know better than to end a sentence in a preposition. Seriously.

  • Paul.||

    "Where da warrant at" can be fixed by saying "where da warrant at, mufu"

  • ||

    Um...isn't it.."What be dat?"

  • Bam!||

    You mean, talk like a fag?

  • ||

    It's got electrolytes.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Poor writing education in public schools is a job creation program for copy editors and proofreaders.

  • Suki||

    It also appears to be a pathway to Black Studies grants.

  • anarch||

    I'm not persuaded convinced that Bryan A. Garner, a grammar entrepreneur quoted at length, knows about which he talks
  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    21 / 22

    I found a way to fuck up one of the "principal / principle" questions. I won't beat myself up over that, but if anyone ever sees me write "would of / could of / should of," please kill me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    For all intensive porpoises, grammar is a luxury of the rich. Meaning can be understood irregardless of weather a sentence is spelled right.

  • ||

    Spelling =/= grammar. I'll give you that spelling is a luxury, but sentences can mean completely different things when the grammar is incorrect.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I was trolling. I wanted to see how many horrific mistakes I could fit into 2 sentences and it still be somewhat believable.

  • ||

    Damn. Well, if you have a bridge to sell you may as well start your pitch, 'cos I'm obviously a sucker.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'm probably the wrong person for that; my writing is sloppier than average around here.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I meant I'm probably the wrong person to pull the crap I was talking about, since my writing is poor.

    I do have a bridge in Alaska I bought off a late Senator, though...

  • robc||

    Many of the grammar rules dont lead to confusion either.

    If you use less instead of fewer or that instead of which, no meaning is lost.

    And to quote one of my linguistics professors: Language is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    If the meaning is correctly communicated, you spoke/wrote correctly.

  • SugarFree||

    I sure hope this whole thread de-evolves into people arguing with griefer dipshits.

    Grammar is a prison of the mind. Learn to see the bars of the cage for what they are.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Grammar is a prison of the mind.

    Ed Sapir and Ben Whorf would agree.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Lojban FTW

  • db||

    That's what poetry is for.

  • db||

    I got 95.5% (screwed up a that/which question).

    I have seen this problem as well, but I don't think it is at all isolated to younger employees. I have seen some truly cringe-inducing grammar come out of all ages. There are reports I've read that make me wonder how the author could have communicated well enough to earn a degree, much less to get hired. Engineers are particularly bad because many seem to think that communication is unnecessary and burdensome.

    It is absolutely the case that people do themselves a great disservice with poor grammar and writing skills. I'm not perfect, myself, but some people are so embarrassingly bad at grammar that it becomes almost impossible to see past their terrible writing to the content.

  • shamalam||

    "Engineers are particularly bad because many seem to think that communication is unnecessary and burdensome."

    I work in an organization that is very engineer-heavy. many of the emails I get are comical. Some of the truly gifted engineers in the group look like morans in writing. I attribute this to them simply speaking a differunt language

  • ||

    Joez law strikes again!

  • Pi Guy||

    WTF is a moran?

    At any rate, if you screen really hard for "engineers" who can communicate effectively, you might discount which ones can, you know, do engineering stuff.

  • shamalam||

    "WTF is a moran?"

    You know, a really dum guy. geesh, for a site called "reason", you guys shure are dum!

  • SweatingGin||

  • Atanarjuat||

    Get a brain, Moran!

  • Killazontherun||

    WTF is a moran?

    Something Virginians do every two years.

  • ||

    link your name to your email Pi Guy and I will send you a photograph of a moran.

  • ||

    Never mind, Atanajuat linked to it. See photo in link.

  • ||

    Chachi's girlfriend.

    Moran

  • Brutus||

    Hey, I'm a EE and I got 21/22!

    I will say that two years of Latin and speaking a couple of other languages helps me understand English grammar far better, however.

  • robc||

    Speaking of which, any english grammar rule based on latin can be chucked out. Its a fucking germanic language, stop artificially forcing latin constructs upon it, fuckers.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    So, basically, "fuck off slaver?" Yes.

  • Sudden||

    And clearly missed one because you failed to recognize that you're an EE instead of a EE.

  • Brutus||

    It keeps me humble.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    So you're saying you could tell a wise man by the way he speaks or spells?

    Then mister, you're a better man than I.

    I've worked with engineers my entire professional career, and would gladly take an easily-correctable document of grammatical errors than a marketing summary where the non-science author clearly has not understood the technology. I know that's not the point you were making, but superficial mistakes in writing, however annoying, are much smaller deals than substantive ones, and maybe engineers get that.

  • Killazontherun||

    There are trade offs that the human mind adjusts to given context. My grammar and syntax errors are much more prevalent after a work day spent doing something that is intensely creative like creating media assets (my main line of employment is with a third party company that supplies media and software assets) or involves a lot of programming decisions. A chill week of just reading through literature, and those problems pretty much go away.

  • Killazontherun||

    third party company that supplies media and software assets

    Yeah, it begs the question, but NDAs and all of that.

  • Sudden||

    It begs the question, how much of the technical errors being committed by marketing professionals are the direct result of those technical details being poorly relayed to them by functionally illiterate engineers?

  • General Butt Naked||

    His comment certainly raises that question.

    Good catch.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Many, many do. Talking about technology at different levels for business, marketing, and operations is probably the hardest part of technology development. You can often tell because the level of technical writing will be mismatched, and you know it came from a "just write this!" moment of communication/nervous breakdown. I'm not blaming the marketing people - God bless them, they do their best - but I don't think those difficulties come from grammar.

    As an aside, how many computer people here have read Bebop to the Boolean Boogie? I've heard of a few businesses that require non-EE/CE/CSC marketing people to read the book. If you can understand that book, you're ahead of most EE's graduating before 1980.

  • db||

    I am an engineer. I'm talking about the kinds of errors that make you cringe. A typo here or there is nothing. Some of the shit I've seen would turn you white!

  • shamalam||

    This test are stupid! I gots to have my money refunded.

    Cancel my prescription!!!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Three months ago I could not spell "illiterite"; now I is one.

  • Bob Straub||

    21/22. I'm happy.

  • West Texas||

    22/22... My mom was a high school English teacher and I think she would have died of embarrassment if it hadn't rubbed off on me.

  • sloopyinca||

    Your mother rubbed off on you? She nasty!

  • BoscoH||

    21/22. Honestly, I misread the first "principal" fill-in. I am happy they had a fewer/less on the test. Misuse of those drives (that is correct!) me up the fucking wall.

  • GlenchristLaw||

    1. A test ought not quiz the same concept repeatedly (e.g., affect/effect, principal/principle).

    2. Both "that/which" questions are actually wrong, in the sense that the purportedly "correct" sentences are so poorly constructed as to be grammatically unacceptable anyway: "That [sic 1] book is a reference guide that [sic 2] covers the entire industry."?

    The sentence, "I ate the breakfast that I ate." is technically "grammatically correct" in terms of "that versus which," but it's still lousy writing.

  • Cytotoxic||

    OT: Paraguay ousts its local proto-Caudillo leftist asshole in Chief. There is hope for that region even if Paraguay is being criticised by all its neighbor even its conservative ones. The latter are just being weak and lame to be agreeable.

  • Suki||

    Start the countdown clock for the Maobamatrons to re-install him following the theme of Zelaya.

  • Cytotoxic||

    They failed in Honduras. But yeah you're right. That really was the first clue that Obama was 'something else' and the conservative vapors over him were actually pretty justified.

  • Pi Guy||

    And, FWIW, I got 19/22. But isn't the most important thing when writing the actual ability to communicate ideas?

    I actually believe that forums such as texting and Twitter simply demonstrate that spelling and grammar are less important than actually being able to speak the King's English.

  • Voros McCracken||

    "And, FWIW, I got 19/22. But isn't the most important thing when writing the actual ability to communicate ideas?"

    Not if your goal is to appear smarter than other people.

    I think Twitter has been a breakthrough for writing. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that.

  • robc||

    Brevity is wit.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Ha!

  • Sudden||

    You can't spell Twitter without wit.

  • grrizzly||

    I've got 22.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Eighteen. Stupid principle/principal and that/which. Whatever, English isn't even my first language.

  • ||

    Agreed.

    This is bull shit.

    If an employee says to the manager, "Sirs, I gots the network back up." This should be all the manager should care about.

    If the manager cares more about the grammar than the work he is total fucking jackass or racist shitbag and should be fired.

  • MattJ||

    Did your employee bring the network back online after a failure, or is he in possession of a copy of all the network data?

  • Tulpa the White||

    With principal/principle and affect/effect it's best to go by the rule of thumb that one version is almost always a noun (principle/effect) while the other is a verb or adjective (principal/affect). Of course there are exceptions in both cases.

  • Old Dave||

    The test really was easy. They avoided some of the most quirky aspects of English grammar, for instance:

    "I'd like to meet whoever/whomever wrote that quiz."

    "Let he/him who is without sin among you cast the first stone."

  • Bitter Taxpayer||

    Better still:

    "The award will be given to whoever/whomever gets the highest score."

    And

    "He's the guy who/whom they claim is the best electrician."

  • hotsy totsy||

    How about "whosoever"?

  • Tulpa the White||

    "Whom" and all its derivatives have basically disappeared from actual English speech, except for those actively trying to effect an air of superiority.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Actively and effectively. If you can use 'whom' correctly and consistently, the world is yours.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    "Aks not for who the bell rings - they ring for yins." - That One Guy

  • shamalam||

    My advice is this:

    1. strike affect and effect from your vocabulary.
    2. strike your, you're, there, their, and they're from you're vocabulary.
    3. strike apostrphees from your vocabulary, but first learn to spell it (or is it them?).
    4. fuck english, learn chinese. you're gonna need it to talk to your masters soon.

  • Killazontherun||

    Rules are for the played.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Wow dude you said chinese when you meant binary when you think about it Lol!

    www.killallhumansandrapetheirlaptops.tk

  • shamalam||

    +,1

  • Sudden||

    +01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110111 01100101 01110011 01101111 01101101 01100101

  • Tulpa the White||

    H R is already striking ampersands from my vocabulary.

  • Bitter Taxpayer||

    22/22, but I used to work in publishing and know what the answers are supposed to be.

    BTW, don't be too quick to brush Garner aside. He's wrong about a few things, but his usage guides are overall the best on the market.

  • Voros McCracken||

    20/22 = Math major

    Stephen Fry shares my opinion on this topic:

    Stephen Fry on Language

  • Paul.||

    Link gets posted in almost every grammar thread. But it's always appreciated.

  • shamalam||

    You know you are on HR when a post about; grammar garners this many responses.

  • Tulpa the White||

    If Don Silver time traveled back to the year 1850 the grammarians of that time would probably be aghast at his "grammatical errors" too.

    Once incorrect grammar becomes widespread enough, it becomes correct grammar.

    Of course, while the transition is underway you need to be careful to appease people on both sides, so you don't end sentences with prepositions at a university professor cocktail party but make damn sure not to say anything resembling "to whom" when sitting with the homies at the bus stop.

  • robc||

    This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.

  • Paul.||

    Irregardless, we have to tow the lion.

  • ||

    "But isn't the most important thing when writing the actual ability to communicate ideas?"

    Thanks Pi, that is the heart of the matter right there. Still, I admit my head nearly exploded once when I was browsing the local grocery store's produce section and overheard;

    Question - " Hey! I hasnt seen you foreva! How you been? Watchu been doin?"

    Answer - " I teaches english now!"

  • SIV||

    Only 20 of 22 and from a former editorial page editor at the storied LA Times? While I keep getting knocked "out cold" in more ways than one at my dead-end low-paying job. 20/22 and with no formal English education beyond a joint enrollment community college class when I was 16(2 quarters). State U thought I was so proficient they let me skip English and take advanced dope smoking. The US Foreign Service exam was somewhat less impressed with my native language skillz.

  • SIV||

    When my local grocer changed the signs on express aisles to read "10 items or fewer" (they used to say "less") I noticed a hell of a lot more EBT deadbeats trying to go through with full carts.

  • Brutus||

    21 of 22.

    I think I missed of the "which/that" questions.

  • Paul.||

    I missed almost all the which/that questions. Even answered a couple differently than I would have written them, thinking they were trying to trick my ass.

    Got all the 'it's/its' questions. Missed a couple of the 's/s' questions, and can't lose on the me/i questions. In my opinion, no one should ever get a me/i question wrong, because there's a very simple trick to always knowing which you should use.

  • Voros McCracken||

    Taking Latin generally helps a bunch with grammar issues, the biggest one being the "predicate nominative."

    Correct: It's I.
    Incorrect: It's me.

    The problem,of course, is that the second sentence is "correct" in almost all situations you would normally run across. The correct sentence sounds horribly pretentious because we normally don't use all of those cases in English. So I almost always use "It's me" despite knowing that it is incorrect.

  • ||

    21 of 22. I still think that book they publish is the one that I like to read on weekends.

  • Elphie||

    22/22, bitches. And this from a man who barely graduated high school.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Perfect score for me, too—and I dropped out of college.

  • edcoast||

    I've made a career writing for big tech companies - not tech writing, mostly proposals. The state of written communication is terrible, but it comes from all areas. I know "writers" who are pretty bad, and I know technical SMEs who are some of the best no-bullshit communicators around. I've learned a lot from them. This article made the rounds on my team the other day. We were especially interested in how many companies are initiating writing training. It's a big part of our job and has the support from the highest levels.

  • Paul.||

    The company: its employees vs their employees. Easy to remember because corporations aren't people.

  • DeadLenny||

    18 of 22. Not bad for someone whose education ended at high school graduation... And that was (*ahem*) in Southern California.

  • RantoYang||

    I think we are going to have to hit it on up dude. Wow.

    www.Dot-Anon.tk

  • Pro Libertate||

    Grammar the Grammarian. How is there not a line of barbarian reading books with this name?

  • Joseph C. Moore (USN Ret.||

    "I could care less but it would take effort".

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    I could care fewer

  • Juice||

    22 out of 22. The questions were easy.

  • Syd Henderson||

    20 of 22, with both misses being which/that choices.

  • Cell||

    Is it ok to say "I could care less" even if you don't know the origin?

    Maybe it's just an idiomatic phrase at this point with its own understood meaning.

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