You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Grammar

By Davis Hill, Staff Writer


Much has been written recently about the financial dangers facing America, but I would like to call attention to an even graver threat to our nation. This danger threatens to erode our communications networks, inhibit our freedoms, scatter our military and destroy our economy. I am speaking of word terrorism.

What is word terrorism? Much like other forms of terrorism, word terrorism aims to spread panic and confusion.

Instead of threatening physical harm, however, word terrorism uses misspelling, incorrect punctuation, syntactic errors and discombobulated grammar to threaten our very language itself.

Many readers may be unaware of word terrorism. Because word terrorists do not threaten physical, bodily harm, word attacks are under-reported in the media, and in many cases, those American citizens who do know about word attacks are foolishly unconcerned.

For the first time, The Easterner is able to uncover the truth about word attacks.

The FOGSP Badge

In 2008, the President created, by secret emergency mandate, the Federal Orthography, Grammar and Spelling Police in order to protect American citizens from linguistic attacks on American soil.

Members of Congress grumbled initially, but in 2009 FOGSP, in collaboration with British intelligence officers from the Oxford Comma Bureau, uncovered a chilling plot to attack American words.

Members of the New Zealand word terror cell “HAI LOL” were training cellphone spelling “bombers” to send mass texts with phrases such as “Your rly nice” and “Im ready for piza!” to American cellphone users in an attempt to desensitize them to proper spelling and punctuation. The attack was planned for early 2011.

Thankfully, agents were able to spell check the cell before it could attack, but in the aftermath of the incident, the country remained on edge. In March 2011, only several weeks after the averted catastrophe, the president signed the Zealot Act, which lifted restrictions against federal spell-checking and broadened the discretion of word enforcement agencies regarding the detainment and deportation of suspected illegal words.

However, robotic artificial intelligence spell-checkers have only a limited ability to detect and defuse dangerous deviations in spelling, punctuation and especially alliteration. A 2010 FOGSP report recommended that local government agencies employ human proofreaders as a final line of defense, citing findings from a 2002 study that suggest that the only useful feature of Microsoft Word’s grammar checker is the “ignore” button.

A White House internal report published last month found that more than 70 percent of writers rely solely on their spell-checkers for proofreading. This results in what the report called a “truly horrifying parade of misspellings and other preventable typographical errors.”

This sort of thing is exactly what the word terrorists want. They want our churches and public spaces to suffer from typos, misspellings and strange twists of syntax. They want our party invitations and welcome mats to be unreadable.

They want us to omit apostrophes. They want us to use commas to separate independent clauses. They want us to leave our children’s linguistic education to Reddit.

We citizens can help in the war on word terror. We can avoid sloppiness in our writing and speech. We can proofread each other’s papers and adhere to normative forms of syntax.

We can also be vigilant. If you should spot any of the following dangerously incorrect words or phrases, call FOGSP or your local governmental word enforcement agency. You never know if they are a secret code phrase for militant anti-language operatives.

Missing apostrophe in a contraction: “Im very excited.” “Hes nothing special.” “Dont glare.”

Incorrect apostrophe use: “Welcome to the Smith’s house.”

Wrong form of “your”: “Your great.” “Get you’re socks on.”

Lay & lie: “Let sleeping dogs lay.” “Lie it on the table.”

Lose & Loose: “What a sore looser.” “The dog got lose.”

Using commas to separate independent clauses: “We’re going to the beach, want to come?”

Epic: “That [entirely mundane experience unrelated to acquisition of culturally accepted virtue, which is also unlikely to live forever in song] was epic.”

Ending with a preposition: “Where do you want to go to?”

Good vs. Well: “I’m doing good; thank you for asking.” “That pie was really well.”

Let us not cower in the face of texting abbreviations and errant apostrophes. Let us resolve to use language carefully and precisely. Let us use words for good rather than evil.

If Benjamin Franklin were alive, perhaps he would say, “Those who would give up syntax for commas deserve neither commas nor syntax.” I think we deserve them both.

Views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect The views of the Easterner.