Matt Rogers (@rogerscreations on Twitter) has animated a statement given by Stephen Fry against the closeness of grammar and usage to being pedantic–most especially if you’re throwing the Writer’s Inc. book just because you’ve got hold of it.
While I agree with Fry’s statement about the fluidity of grammar and language–that to languish in its looseness is to be equated with loving it–I also believe that grammar rules and language guidelines are not to be utterly forgotten for the sake of whim or to seem less like I’m looking down my nose at people who don’t care (or simply don’t know) where an apostrophe actually goes.
To me, grammar, punctuation, and usage make my writing easy for just about everyone to read. You know what I’m emphasizing for impact, and what I’m treating as a sentence, a fragment, or a phrase. All of that universal knowledge stems from a basic understanding of those rules. Words could just end up letters or forms, sounds and misunderstood, if they are left to such informal devices.
Am I writing to my local newspaper about Mr. Greengrocer’s misuse of an apostrophe when he’s telling me: “Apple’s $5.00 per pound”? Of course not, but I am going to wonder if he managed to pass 5th grade English. Will I buy my apples there? Maybe, but I might leave my business card behind.
Yes, language is alive and definitely transforming in this expanding digital world. But I don’t think I’m pedantic for expecting business owners to care enough about the messages they send to make them correct.