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Grammar deteriorating in the workplace

While our computer savvy goes up every year, our grammar in the workplace seems to be deteriorating.

Jeff Horwich: Finally: I got a kick out of the most popular item this week on the Wall Street Journal's web site: a column on our deteriorating grammar at the office. Employees are coming in with the ability to write a Tweet, but they can't form a grammatically correct sentence.

So, hey, it's Friday, let's have some fun: I put the situation into a limerick -- a condensed version of the conversation bosses are having around the country this week:

There's a problem for you and I, Bob --
And I ain't -- like -- some grammar snob...
Frankly, I could care less,
But there's clients to impress
So let's try to talk good on the job.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.
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Someone is just now realizing this? My personal pet peeve is the confusion between and misuse of the words, "fewer" and "less." When one is talking about things, whether animal, mineral, or plant, that can be counted discretely, then the correct choice is "fewer." When the things are considered as a group or cannot be counted discretely, then the correct choice is "less." For example, one would say "fewer grains of salt" or "less salt." People can always be counted discretely, so one would always say "fewer people," never "less people." People might have "fewer strands of hair," or they might have "less hair." "Discrete," I should add, is a different word with a different meaning than "discreet." Our language is capable of very fine nuances of meaning that are being obliterated by schools that no longer teach grammar in any real sense. It is the lingual equivalent of the "New Math," where - as pointed out by Tom Lehrer - understanding the idea is the important thing, rather than to get the right answer. In this case, we are producing a population that can't express the idea.

Grammar is not only breaking down in the workplace but throughout broadcast media as well. I notice the phrase "comprised of" is used quite frequently. Comprise actually means embrace or contain. Eg; "our solar system comprises 8 planets as well as the Sun", is correct, whereas "our solar system is comprised of eight planets as well as the Sun", is not.

Also, the phrase "begs the question" is misused extremely frequently. This is a phrase used in philosophical criticism to describe a piece of faulty reasoning in which the proposition someone is seeking to prove is contained in one or more of their assumptions.

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