I don’t have an inner child. In point of fact, I am a child; I just happen to have a lot of seniority. But I do have an inner eighth grade English teacher. And lately, he’s not amused. He sees the way English speakers abuse the language when they write, and he wants to hand out lousy grades. Or at least, he wants to correct their grammar and spelling. But what drives him to distraction is the way otherwise intelligent people write simple declarative sentences padded with colloquialisms that add no value, or word combinations that “sound like” the words which they should use.
“I’m going to try and quit smoking.” No, you’re going to quit smoking. Or you’re going to try to quit smoking. But not both! Search for “try and” and replace with “try to.” You can safely “replace all,” because there is no circumstance in which “try and” is correct!
“In the event of failure, get ahold of the support desk.” Get ahold? Get a grip! You should contact technical support. I thought this was a “Texas thang” until I saw it written by an author from Boston.
“You should of contacted the system administrator.” No, you should have contacted the system administrator. If you decide to use the contraction “should’ve,” I’ll look the other way. But there is no “should of,” “would of,” or “could of.”
“When I went to open a new application, the system froze.” No, you didn’t go anywhere. You attempted to open a new application. I manage to ignore this sort of thing when people say it in a conversation, but there are limits to my tolerance.
“We plan to keep on using Microsoft Project.” No, you plan to continue using MS Project. That old blues song lyric, “I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on” is only effective because it’s wrong.
It’s difficult sharing my otherwise easy-going personality with a strong-willed alter ego. Medication hasn’t helped. Scotch seems to work fairly well, but it’s difficult to justify four fingers of single-malt when I’m reviewing a draft project document. Consequently, I’ve had to find ways to channel my inner eighth grade English teacher’s energies. I let him find ways to focus the narrative; some descriptions are improved just by changing the order of the sentences. Sometimes, I give him a chance to improve a list of bullet points by putting them in a common structure. Other times, I let him re-write a painfully worded paragraph. It keeps him from outright rebellion, without annoying my colleagues and clients.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to redline The Lord’s Prayer …