Although I am a card-carrying Grammar Nazi, I really don’t care if John Q. Public makes an occasional mistake while posting something on social media. I recognize that the standards on Facebook are lower than they would be in a formal letter.
But lately, I’ve seen Facebook postings — usually from friends of friends or total strangers — replete with so many spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes, not to mention incorrect word choices and clumsy phrasing — that I’m left with no earthly clue what the poor schmuck is trying to say. I’ve seen word salads that would make Sarah Palin’s head spin.
So this is not about an unnecessary apostrophe or two, or a proper noun that isn’t capitalized. My beef is with the people turning English into a blur of incomprehensible gibberish.
For starters: punctuation is free, gang. Look into it. The period is especially helpful. I like to stop every once in a while as I read something. You should, too: it will give you time to reflect on such inadvertently hilarious gems as “Your an idiot” (wrong “you’re,” genius) or the misspelling of always-tricky “the.”
Spare me the nonsensical acronyms. Memo to humanity: we can retire “LOL,” whether it’s upper or lower case. The novelty wore off about three presidents ago.
We can also consign “OMG” to the ash heap of history. I am willing to compromise, however. If we can pronounce it as a word (“omg”) and dispense with stating the letters O-M-G, I can tolerate it.
As long as anyone with opposable thumbs can coin these things, allow me to join in. How about:
COL — “Cringing out loud.” That will work well because I’m doing more cringing than laughing on social media these days.
IACS — “I’m a complete sheep.”
CTOAOTS — “Can’t think of anything original to say.”
Or one that, admittedly, is a bit of catch-all: ACBAA — “Anything can be an acronym.” Feel free to work these into everyday conversation. After all, they have to start somewhere.
AND HOW ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO LOVE POSTING THINGS IN NOTHING BUT CAPITAL LETTERS? Please stop screaming at me. As baseball great Don Newcombe once said, “You’re not only wrong, you’re loud wrong.”
Are people getting paid by the adverb? The adverb enthusiasts — online and in everyday conversations — aren’t shy about multiple usages of actually, apparently, basically and literally, separately or together. Wake me when you get to the meat of the sentence.
These adverbs are used in the most absurd contexts. I once heard someone tell someone else to “basically open a door.” Sorry, but I don’t know how. I know how to open a door, but I don’t know how to basically open one. Not a lot of nuance to this.
The word “apparently” takes a beating, too. It doesn’t feel necessary to say that I’m apparently eating soup, or apparently holding a pencil. Is there some doubt about this stuff? People can see me doing these things. You can go out on a limb, and say I’m holding a pencil. No need to hedge.
Misuse of “literally” is well-documented. If you “literally” laughed your head off, I look forward to reading about it in the New England Journal of Medicine.
I mean no offense to graduates of the YouTube Comment Writers’ School — an outstanding online educational institution — but a few small corrections will make it easier for me to read the caption under that picture of your dinner.
Toby Gibbs, a native of Winchester, lives in Lexington, where he’s a news line producer for WTVQ. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org