Video: Americans' bad grammar costly

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/11/2005 4:52:56 PM ET 2005-11-11T21:52:56

It seems us Americans ain't talkin' too good, don't write worth a lick and are worser with e-mails. Our grammar, punctuation and spelling are/is abysmal. And corporate America is saying, STOP.

When Texas communications company Valor discovered its workers, including managers, weren't communicating, it enrolled them in remedial business writing class.

Jeff Herrington thinks computers are partly to blame for dumbing down English.

"People who are used to using BlackBerries [and] instant messaging are transferring that way of writing into all forms of writing," he says.

A recent survey found Fortune 500 companies spending more than $3 billion a year retraining employees in basic English.

Even writers have trouble writing.

Sacramento Bee columnist Don Morrison sees the enemy every time he looks in the mirror. Morrison is a client of Roger Peterson, who was among the first to notice Americans butchering their language.

"How about this expression, 'for all intents and purposes.' What does that mean?" asks Peterson. "[Or] 'at this point in time.' What does that mean? How is it better than saying 'now?' 'That was an awfully nice dinner you just served me.' Well, was it a nice dinner or was it an awful dinner? Make up your mind. We simply, now, must salvage American English."

"Unbelievable" is one of today's "in" words. But is it overused or used incorrectly? Unbelievable means I didn't believe a word I just said. Anxious — "the president is anxious to meet the prime minister" — means he doesn't want to meet him at all. And irregardless — look it up in the dictionary. You won't find it because it's not a word.  Unbelievable.

Post script: Webster's New World Dictionary does include the word "irregardless," defining it as follows: adj., adv. REGARDLESS: a nonstandard or humorous usage.

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