National Grammar Day

March 4 was World Book Day [See:]. It was also National Grammar Day.

National Grammar Day  was established by Martha Brockenbrough, author of “Things That Make Us [Sic]” (2008) and founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. The celebration of National Grammar Day was, somewhat surprisingly, given an official endorsement by President George W. Bush:

Bush Letter on National Grammar Day

I cannot help but wonder if it wasn’t more Laura Bush’s idea than George’s.


The following paragraph looks like gibberish, but it is surprisingly to read:

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

This sort of exercise has been used by some to support the notion that correctness in mechanics and grammar are not as essential as many—most notably, those who teach English—would like us to believe.

The paragraph would, however, be much more difficult to read to the degree to which the letters of each word were not simply jumbled but wrong. Likewise, however easy it is to read the paragraph that looks like gibberish, it is much easier to read the corrected version of that paragraph:

I couldn’t believe that I could actually understand what I was reading. Using the incredible power of the human brain, according to research at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be in the right place. The rest can be a total, mess and you can read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole. Amazing, huh? Yeah and I always thought spelling was important! See if your friends can read this too!

Moreover, focusing on the issue of how easy it is to read each version of the paragraph to the exclusion of other aspects of using correct mechanics and grammar means that one is ignoring much of what a written communication explicitly and implicitly communicates, not only in terms of the content but also about the writer. If it is difficult to grasp the tonal nuances of a piece when one is very focused on simply deciphering the words from their jumbled letters, it is almost impossible to have a positive impression of a writer who commits even a fraction of the errors in the paragraph in this exercise.

Moving beyond errors in basic mechanics, Gawker (yes, the folks who have brought us Hulk Hogan’s sex tape) have identified the following paragraph as the “most ungrammatical paragraph ever”:

Their probably just unaware of the affect they’re words wood have on us. Its no big deal and we should just except it. I wouldn’t altar a single word. They’ve been served there just deserts, and I would of maid the same mistake. Let sleeping dogs lay. They probably never past English class anyway, and your far two picky about these things.

P.S. If there are any errors in basic mechanics or grammar in this post, I have inserted them deliberately–or at least that’s the story to which I am sticking.


2 thoughts on “National Grammar Day

  1. The last specimen quoted as “the most ungrammatical paragraph ever” is odd largely due to the spelling, not the grammar. The grammar is pretty much “standard” English.

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