What Common Grammatical Mistakes Can Tell You About the Shameful Moral Failings of Others

Posted by Blair Thornburgh

Friends, these are dark times. Gangs of misused homophones run wild and unfettered through the streets. Tongues wag in nonsensical sentence fragments and keyboards transcribe contractions of words that should never be shortened. Superfluous commas and apostrophes glitter in the sky like the trail of an ominous, ungrammatical comet.

Sure, some may claim that “it’s no big deal” or that “you still get what I mean,” or that we should “stop being such a total jerk about it, Blair,” but we all know the truth. The Day of Judgment is at hand, when the ears of the deaf will be unstopped to how many times they’ve said “where is it at?” and the eyes of the blind will be forced to read all their flippant substitution of the second person possessive pronoun for the contracted form of “you are.” But we, the grammatically righteous, shall peer down the shining walls of our ivory tower and watch the doomed writhe in agony! We must accept the scepter of our sacred duty and must judge the erroneous in accordance with their grievous sins…which, conveniently, I have cataloged here, for ease of punition.

1. Improper apostriphication or excessive commification
Oh, it’s easy to think that a dull plural noun could be jazzed up with one of those “funny curlicue thingies,” or that what that lifeless string of words is missing is a, few, of, these. All is vanity! Perking up prose with unnecessary typographical doodads is basically as bad as the Whore of Babylon cramming another few rings on her evil, apocalyptic fingers.

2. Incorrect use of the reflexive pronoun
Someone who casually drops a phrase like “You can get a ride with Alexander and myself,” is likely suffering from the inflated sense of self-importance that is narcissism. Know, therefore, that you are superior (but not too superior. Narcissism’s a slippery slope). Also possible is hero syndrome, narcissism’s scrappy little brother devoted to overcorrection.

3. Homophone confusion
The inability to care about the difference between “your” and “you’re” (or, God forbid, “there,” “they’re,” and “their”) is obviously attributable to sloth. As Thomas Aquinas more or less pointed out in his treatise on acedia, there exists both spiritual  laziness (the lack of wherewithal to learn the difference) and physical laziness (the inability to summon the strength to type out the long version of a word when something else sounds pretty much the same). Be vigilant, and do not cease to toil in spelling out each word properly; your adherence to orthography seals your place as one of the elect.

4. Dangling participles
The cagey self-doubt of a redundant sentence like “where’s the party at” reflects a clear inferiority complex on the part of the speaker. Feel free to rain down judgment on these fools, even though that kind of makes their problem a self-fulfilling prophecy, but who cares, because you have other things to look down your nose at like…

5. The word “impactful”
This nonword harbinger of business-speak goes hand in glove with unchecked hubris. Sure, it sounds like a real enough word—to those already doomed! Avoid descent into a lurid Wolf of Wall Street situation and silence them before they are allowed to go on to their next PowerPoint slide and start bringing up things like “maximizing synergistic synchronicity.”


So, verily I say unto you, go out into the world and find people to cast judgment upon!

I mean, WAIT, no, upon which to cast—


Blair Thornburgh

Blair Thornburgh

BLAIR THORNBURGH is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in medieval studies and delivered a pretty good commencement speech. She lives in Philadelphia.