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Opinion: Proper English — who cares?

Tomorrow is International English Language Day.

I grew up and attended school when teachers were allowed to correct mistakes without having to worry about being sued by some outraged parent who believed that the teacher was damaging a child’s self-esteem. So, by the time that I started high school, I was competent in the use of the nation’s official language. But I still made the occasional error. In fact, I remember being in my last undergraduate semester of college when a professor who had read one of my essays crossed out “existant” and wrote “existent” in the column. I was so sure that my original spelling was correct that I searched my dictionary for the word. I haven’t misspelled the “existent” since.

So, like some other formerly-corrected people of my age, I’m a stickler for correct spelling and use of English. Although I don’t always succeed, I try to write and speak the language as it was intended. I’m fussy about subject-verb agreement, and I try to never split an infinitive. (In case you missed it, I just “split” the infinitive “to split.”) I felt that it was necessary to make that little joke because proper language usage has truly become a joke in our society. So let me begin my “language harangue” with the most personal of personal pronouns: Me.



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