Grammar Matters

Today I received a mailer from Americans For Prosperity Minnesota. The mailer is all about why MNsure and ObamaCare are hurting Minnesotans and is basically calling for Yvonne Selcer’s head. Now, I don’t want to get into my feelings on The Affordable Care Act, as that is a slippery slope. However, if you’re going to send out mailers trying to convince people your POV is the correct one, perhaps you do a quick edit before sending it out to countless people. Now maybe I’m of the few who would notice a typo/straight up grammatical error like this and let it bother them, but man oh man.

an mnsure

It’s also of note that the source for said grammatically incorrect statement was provided by Fox News.

A quick grammar lesson for those who think I’m crazy: (Everyone else can skip ahead.)

“A” precedes words that begin with a consonant. Examples:

A cat

A bird

A dog

“An” precedes words that begin with a vowel. Examples:

An egg

An oyster

An avalanche


The letter H

The letter H has two primary sounds, the hard H and the unsounded H.

Examples of hard H’s: House, Hockey, Hand

Examples of unsounded H’s: Hour, Herb, Heir

Hard H’s use “a” and unsounded H’s use “an” because they are pronounced as if vowels.


A house

An hour

A hockey player

An herb

A hand

An heir

O’s and U’s that sounds like W’s and Y’s 

Some O’s have a hard W sound like “One” and some U’s have a hard Y sound like “Union” or “Unicorn.” In these cases you would use “a” instead of “an” because the word makes a sound like a consonant.


A one-eyed man

A union

A unicorn


It’s pretty clear that there is no way that “an” should have gone before MNsure because “an” wouldn’t go before Minnesotan. A Minnesotan may like to ski, a Minnesotan is probably used to snow, a Minnesotan is from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

So Americans For Prosperity Minnesota made a mistake that they overlooked and makes me uninterested in anything they have to say. Perhaps they should have hired someone like me to proof read their stuff.


Eddie Izzard appreciates grammar.

And then to the meat of the issue:

I know you’re reading this asking, “How can she possible have more to say on this issue?” And you’re not wrong, I don’t have anything more to say about this particular mistake. What concerns me, the bigger problem in my book, is how many people shrug off grammatical and spelling errors as if they’re no big deal.

Where I see this more frequently is in internet comments. A place populated by the intelligent, the trolls, and the dregs of grammatical society alike. Here’s what will happen: Someone posts an opinion and does it with spelling and grammatical errors throughout. And then people call them out, “You can’t even spell, how can your opinion be valid?”

And here’s where the argument arises. When a person is arguing online should their words be considered over how they present them? Or is how they present them just as important as what is said?

Here’s how I see it, you wouldn’t go to a really important business interview wearing jeans and a tshirt, hair unbrushed and breakfast stuck in your teeth, and expect to be taken seriously. How we present ourselves in the world has huge bearing on how we’re treated, whether right or wrong, it’s fact. A person who wears a suit and tie to a nice restaurant is going to be treated better than the person who shows up wearing sweatpants.

And I think presenting yourself on the internet should be no different. Just because you are provided with anonymity doesn’t mean you can present yourself however you want AND get taken seriously, especially if you have something serious to say. Now, no one is perfect and everyone has typos. We type too fast, we’re distracted or tired, we don’t reread what we post before we press send. But there’s a difference between, “I make a chickn sandwich,” and “i mde a chiken sandwitch.” One is clearly a typo while the other is a lack of knowledge or care about how to speak and type properly and appropriately.

Now think about those kind of errors on a broader scale, in a discussion about race or feminism or any other hot button issue. I, for one, take grammar very seriously and cringe any time I see a typo, I notice them in books, in mailers, and on the internet. I see them when I reread my own blog posts and go back to fix them as soon as I notice them.

And so I am in the camp that how you present yourself on the internet does matter. I don’t want to have a conversation about feminism of GLBTQ rights with someone who doesn’t know how to spell lesbian or homophobia. I find massive amounts of typos and grammatical errors distracting but the bigger problem of course is that if you talk like that on the internet you seem uneducated. And I don’t mean you sound like you didn’t go to college, I mean you sound like you didn’t get through the third grade.

And that is not meant to insult third graders! Young people are very capable of having smart and prudent opinions and ideas. But if you’re an adult who sounds less intelligent than your grade schooler? Now that’s a problem. No one wants to talk to someone who is under educated about issues that take a lot of knowledge to effectively discuss.

Of course, typos on the internet written by one person are much more understandable than typos in print produced by an organization. A political organization trying to apparently change that which is law, nonetheless.


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