Steve Jobs, the leader of Apple Computer, created moans and groans from English teachers across the world when he came up with the marketing slogan “think different.”
To some, it’s a grammatical catastrophe.
However, most people don’t even know why the grammar might be wrong (and it may not be wrong, if you believe Steve Jobs’ explanation, which I cover much later in this book).
Jobs was no fool – he was fairly well educated and knew his grammar. He was just trying to get your attention (and it worked).
The point is not whether or not he did a bad thing. The point is that you should know yourself when the grammar is bad, and if you’re going to make mistakes, at least do them knowing you’re making a mistake.
The problem: People hate grammar
You say “grammar” to someone and they want to run for the hills, because grammar is generally taught so poorly. It’s full of complicated rules that often don’t make much sense. (In the United States, it’s not even “grammar” anymore – it’s often part of a hodgepodge subject called “Language Arts.” I still don’t understand what that term means.)
But what is grammar? The word itself comes from the Greek graphein, meaning “to draw or write.” It’s the rules of writing and speaking.
Grammar should not be intended to make you feel stupid, or to allow someone else to feel smarter than you.
You must write well to do well in this world, whether you’re selling, waiting tables or mowing lawns. If you’re selling, you’d better have a good grasp of the language; if you’re waiting tables, you need to write so that the cook understands the food order; if you’re mowing lawns, you need to be able to send an understandable invoice to your customers so you get paid.
Imagine this: You’re playing a sport and you keep breaking the rules. People will get upset with you. The same goes for the rules of grammar. People who know the rules will get upset, even just a little bit.
But do you need to know grammar?
You need to know a bit of grammar, but there’s a lot of information you don’t need to get started writing well. If you have the basics, you’ll be okay. A lot of good writing is common sense.
I’m not going to pound you to pieces with grammar. I’m going to lead you gently through correcting the biggest mistakes I see regularly and explain why these are very bad mistakes. I’m also going to help you with a bit of “re-education,” to help clean up a lot of junk you may have learned along the way.
Then, as you go along in your life and career, you can look up questions you have online or in books to clarify a point. There’s a lot that I haven’t covered in this book. But that’s not the point of my effort here. My point is to get you working in the right direction, and then leave the rest up to your own ability.
If you have forgotten your basic grammar (and many have), there’s a section in this book that will refresh you.
You acquired this book because you want to be better in some way, and I respect that. So I’m not going to beat you up. I’m going to help you.