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Make ready for National Grammar Day

National Grammar Day, March 4, is a month away. To commemorate it appropriately, you may want to prepare yourself:

Item: Interest and expertise in, and commitment to, grammar and usage are not best displayed by behaving like a common scold.

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Item: Before you announce to the world which words you particularly dislike, take a moment to consider that the world is unlikely to be waiting breathlessly to hear.

Item: Among the many species of error, typographical errors are minor fauna. Going online to trumpet that you have spotted someone's typo is rather like the contestants in Monty Python's Upper-Class Twit of the Year competition firing shotguns at rabbits that have been staked out.

Item: Do not bestir yourself to correct grocer's apostrophes and other errors of signage. If you have pluralized your family name on the mailbox without using an apostrophe (e.g., "the Smiths," not "the Smith's"), you have done your bit for the language and can rest on your laurels.

Item: Before you opine publicly on some rule of grammar, take a moment to check "The Peeververein Canon" to make sure that you are not, in fact, endorsing a superstition, shibboleth, zombie rule, or empty crotchet.

Item: If you take grammar and usage seriously, National Grammar Day is a good time to inform yourself more fully by having a look-see at Stan Carey's posts at Macmillan Dictionary Blog, Jonathon Owen's Arrant Pedantry blog, and Tom Freeman's Stroppy Editor posts, among others. (Each has links to other sites.)

Item: Always, always, always keep in mind Muphry's Law: "If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written."

Item: Take to heart what H.L. Mencken wrote in The American Language: "The error of ... viewers with alarm is in assuming that there is enough magic in pedagogy to teach 'correct' English to the plain people. There is, in fact, too little; even the fearsome abracadabra of Teachers College, Columbia, will never suffice for the purpose. The plain people will always make their own language, and the best that grammarians can do is to follow after it, haltingly, and often without much insight. Their lives would be more comfortable if they ceased to repine over it, and instead gave it some hard study. It is very amusing, and not a little instructive."

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