Thursday, September 2, 2010

If everybody does it wrong, does that eventually make it right?

Does widespread incorrect usage over time create a sense that wrong is the new right? I suspect the misuse of pronouns with gerunds is more prevalent among English speakers than almost any other grammatical error. Or maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine right now, so I notice it everywhere.

I want to use gerunds correctly. Really I do. But they're used incorrectly so commonly now, my using them correctly (which I just did) may sound affected ("speaking or behaving in an artificial way to make an impression").

You probably hear the correct usage one in 100 times. Develop an ear for the difference (see the blog post below), and let me know what you've heard. Or what you've seen in print—writers get the usage wrong nearly as often as speakers. Here's one I just noticed in a professional writer's blog: "My wrestling match with God ended with me accepting the reality that God had called me to write..." ("me accepting" should be "my accepting").

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