GRAMMAR: NOT YOUR GRANDMA

TAPPED returns from a weekend blogging hiatus with snarky comments about candidate press releases:

Bad grammar on the campaign trail has been one of Tapped’s pet peeves for months now. It’s one thing when Kate O’Connor, an aide to Howard Dean, gets her homophones confused (hear vs. here, two vs. too) while writing late-night Blog for America entries from airports — we’re willing to chalk that up to fatigue. Besides, combined with her use of about a million exclamation points, it’s sometimes charming in a real-people-can’t-spell kind of way. But we’ve noticed a disturbing jump recently in the number of press releases in which full-time media aides can’t seem to keep their thats, whos and whiches straight. This is annoying to those of us who receive the releases and who write for a living. For example, today the Dean campaign released a statement in which Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Az.) endorsed the former Vermont guv, saying: “I believe that Governor Dean is the only one that can unseat President Bush and take this country into a new era.” And the Kerry camp released an advisory about the Senator’s upcoming formal campaign announcement on Sept. 2, instructing that: “Members of the media that are interested in accompanying John Kerry on the campaign charter, should notify the campaign immediately.”

Here’s the deal, according to Tapped’s handy AP Stylebook: “Use who and whom for references to human beings and animals with a name. Use that and which for inanimate objects and animals without a name.”

Presidential candidates and members of the press are not inanimate objects or animals without name. (Well, not usually.) Therefore, who, not that. Capiche?

Fairly amusing stuff and somewhat apropos given the constant obsession about GWB’s syntax. One wonders at the poor grammatical skills of people who are almost certainly graduates of elite universities. My guess is this is another one we can blame on e-mail and instant messaging. We rather expect misspellings and grammatical errors in those instantaneous media. [Blogging, too! -ed.] It does, however, make for a bad impression when it carries over into more formal modes.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John says:

    I blame the lax standards of our liberal academia and educational institutions.