It’s Not Wrong, Just Different

Grammar and style

Grammar and style
I have not visited a different country this year (so far), and this has naturally led me to spend some time reminiscing about the my previous trips. One thing that struck me about visiting different Asian countries is a line I heard practically everywhere: “Same, same, but different.”

The phrase was uttered in the context of people being the same (physical attributes for Asian tourists and the local shopkeepers) albeit with marked differences as well. That made me think about perspective, how things may seem so different that some people misconstrue them as “wrong” when in fact, they’re not.

Where does grammar come in?

I spent a little time reading this entry at The Wichita Eagle titled Style and grammar, or why lots of things aren’t ‘wrong’. I think that this should be mandatory reading for writers – no matter what kind of writing you do.

The entry tackles two definitions of grammar. Strictly speaking, grammar is all about “morphology (how to form words), syntax (how to form sentences) and semantics (what words and sentences mean)”. That’s what the “hardcore” grammarians love to talk about.

On the other hand, there’s the broader definition, which includes “punctuation, phonology (the sound system), orthoepy (correct pronunciation), orthography (correct spelling) and lexicon (vocabulary and usage)” on top of the first definition.

I think I am not wrong in saying that many of us use the second definition more often, am I?

That being said, I cannot agree more with the author of the entry about grammar and style. Sure, there are certain things that are wrong, no matter how you spin it. These usually fall under morphology and syntax, although there may be debatable points as well.

There are, however, many points that fall under style, and we, as writers, have to be more aware of the differences in style. I say this not only to make sure that our work fits the required style of the client, but also to ensure that we follow a consistent style (if there is no such requirement from the client).

Additionally, there is the fact that we have our (grammar) pet peeves. Some of us may not hesitate to point out the mistakes of other people, and while it may seem like a matter of death and life for us, my suggestion is this: make sure that you really are pointing out a mistake and NOT a difference in style.

Remember, folks, sometimes it’s not wrong. It’s just different.

*Here’s additional reading on prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

Image via puuikibeach





3 responses
  1. Erika K Avatar

    As a blog writer, I often use a more casual style. No, my punctuation and word choice may not be the same as if I were writing a term paper. But I really enjoy writing like I speak and using current language trends to keep people engaged.

    While I know I can get pretty picky about usage and grammar that just plain sounds bad (hot water heater?) I love that language can be refreshed and morphed at the turn of the latest news event. Has anyone used the word “winning” as much as last year with Charlie Sheen? LOL… My family has several “words” we use on a regular basis that would have meaning to nobody else but us.

    I’m glad to hear you make the distinction between true mistakes and style differences. 🙂

  2. DynaLou Avatar

    Well for me, this is really very important especially in writing and if our career depends on writing then we should be aware with this one..

  3. Pershy Avatar

    I guess we should be aware with this kind of information and I hope you can post more of this too.. Great job!

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