I hardly consider myself a member of the “Grammar Police”, but there are certain emerging “trends” I see in published stories that are starting to annoy my classically educated sensibilities. Specifically, I refer to the recent development over the past 10 years of people confusing the words “than” and “then”.
I mostly see this in casual writing, much of it in the illiterate ramblings of Facebook posters, which, while an annoying testament to the decaying education system, I can grudgingly overlook. (Truthfully, I overlook it for anyone but my adult kids…they catch hell if it occurs with ANYTHING they write).
But what annoys me most is seeing this particular misuse of the English language in published and, supposedly, professionally edited prose. Today I was reading an online short story with the following sentence fragment “…providing them with more amazing toys and distractions then any generation (to) come before.”
In this one professionally published work of fiction, I encountered TWO grammatical errors that ruined the entire story for me; the misuse of the word then and the omission of the preposition to. The missing preposition did not bother me as much as the misuse of the word then. It happens to be one of my trigger issues. Maybe my grade three English teacher did something to me to make this an emotional trigger for me (thanks Mrs. Rimmer). Whatever the reason, it BUGS me.
For the record the following examples are taken from the website grammarist.com “Then is mainly an adverb, often used to situate actions in time. For example, you wake up in the morning and then have breakfast.” and ” Than is a conjunction used mainly in making comparisons—e.g., “My breakfast is better than yours” “.
In the offending sentence fragment, one generation is being compared to previous generations, clearly calling for the use of the word than.
The problem is that spell checkers don’t catch this kind of shit, and people skim instead of read. I am one of those people who actually read what is in front of me. That doesn’t mean that I am immune from making grammatical or spelling errors. I am sure if the Grammar Police took a look at my blog I would be ticketed for a few infractions (there are even some in this post, I am betting). But that is what proof reading and self-editing is all about. I certainly don’t expect most people to self-edit themselves on Facebook (heaven forbid), but I do hold supposedly professional markets to a higher standard.
Yes, I am a curmudgeon and somewhat grumpy today. I will try to do better than this tomorrow. Then I will write something less curmudgeonly.