Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Am I a Snob?

I get uncomfortable feelings when people who are supposed to know better make grammatical errors in serious writing or speaking. "Charlotte Talks" on WFAE the other day had a grammar show. On the panel was a writer who has come out with a book on grammar snobs. I don't want to be one of them, and I would never correct anyone's grammar in public, but that doesn't mean I don't care. I guess being a writer makes me more aware of things, just as I would be more aware of my car's problems if I were a mechanic, or the weather if I were a farmer.

I have grown to learn that some things I learned in elementary school no longer apply, if they ever did. Examples: It's okay to occasionally split an infinitive. You can sometimes use a preposition to end a sentence with. Some adverbs modify sentences, such as ultimately, victoriously, finally, and, yes, hopefully.

There are some rules that are still valid, though. And as I look back on it I realize they are mostly from the sixth grade. That was a rough year for me, and I'm surprised at how much I learned.

For example: "Between you and (I, me). To decide which is proper, leave out the "you and." Then it will be clear: Between I? No. The same thing applies to "and (I, me) after any other preposition.

The same thing applies at the beginning of a sentence: "Joe and (I, me) went to the movies." Leave off the "Joe and" and you get "(I, me) went to the movies." Easy.

Other rules are harder to remember. Between has the same root as two. Therefore, you use "between" when you are talking about two entities, and "among" when you refer to three or more. When you're talking spatially, you use "among" instead of "between" when you're talking about more than two.

The one that hits me hardest is the difference between "convince" and "persuade." The simple rule: "Persuade to, convince that." You don't convince somebody to do something; you persuade him or her.

Unfortunately, I have been hearing "convince" used instead of "persuade" on the major media, up to and including the BBC!

I wrote James J. Kilpatrick (who writes the column, "The Writer's Art") about this, and he agreed, but I have yet to see him address this issue in his column.

Well, maybe the language is evolving, after all. But we who care will continue on in our lonely crusades. Without being snobs about it, that is.

Anyway, I will always remember something I saw on a classroom blackboard at seminary: "Eschew semantic obfuscation."


Blogger olderNwiser said...

Re: the distinction between "convince" and "persuade," Kilpatrick wrote in his book The Writer's Art, "An argument that is persuasive may not be convincing. But once we are convinced of something, persuasion has done its job. (Check the index in either book.) And in his later book, Fine Print, he said, more colorfully, "Persuasion is foreplay. Conviction is the real thing."

February 22, 2007 at 11:25 PM  

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