Today Is National Grammar Day: How Is Your Grammar?

By Mark Perry, American Enterprise Institute

Today, March 4 (“March Forth”) is National Grammar Day. In past years, the National Grammar Day organization promoted the annual date as follows: “Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!”

To celebrate National Grammar Day, here are my top 10 grammar-related items:

1. It’s vs. Its I. I frequently post on CD about my personal choice for the most common grammar/spelling/punctuation mistake in the English language: the frequent misuse of “it’s” (contraction for “it is”) when it should be “its” (possessive). Here’s some evidence for my claim that this is the most common mistake:

Exhibit A: A Google search shows more than 100,000 results for the incorrect phrase “meet it’s obligations.”

Exhibit B: A Google search finds more than 15 million! results for the incorrect phrase “at it’s best.”

Exhibit C: A Google search for the incorrect phrase “it’s fullest” finds more than 400,000 results.

Exhibit D: Do a Google search for “in it’s own right,” and you’ll get more than 400,000 results.

What’s so difficult about such a simple grammar/spelling/punctuation rule that is supposed to be taught in grade school? It’s really pretty basic: “It’s” is always a contraction for “it is,” and if you can’t substitute “it is” for “it’s” in a sentence, you know it’s wrong, e.g. “the company couldn’t meet it’s obligation,” and “boxing at it’s best” are both wrong because you can’t substitute “it is” in those sentences for “it’s.”

Note: You can review the rule for the correct usage of its here, here and here.
(Damien Ayers, CC BY)

2. It’s vs. Its II. From the comment section of CD and from the web, here are some recent examples of the misuse of it’s for its:

a. The nominal minimum wage might be rising but it’s actual value is not.

b. …. almost every county in US has it’s own….

c. …..income disparity is at it’s worst in 100 years.

d. To hedge it’s currency risk…..

e. Niman Ranch may be most well known for it’s award winning pork.

f. ….decentralization does not work the way it’s proponents claim.

3. Zero Tolerance CEO. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, and founder of Dozuki, a software company dedicated to helping manufacturers publish amazing documentation, explains on the Harvard Business Review blog why “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why,” here’s a slice:

On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right? Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.

That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.

4. The Skills Gap Employers are Most Concerned About Today? Writing.

5. What Corporate American Can’t Build? A sentence.

6. The Bad Grammar Epidemic, from the WSJ in 2012: Managers are fighting an epidemic of bad grammar in the workplace.

7. How’s Your Grammar? Take a 22-question quiz that accompanied the WSJ article above.

8. Apostrophe Abuse. a) America’s apostrophe catastrophe: What’s with the growing misuse of that puny piece of punctuation? by Arianna Huffington in Salon, b), and c) the UK-based Apostrophe Protection Society.

9. Grammar Video. In his viral video below “Word Crimes” with almost 23 million views, “Weird Al” Yankovich reviews some basic grammar rules, including when to use the contraction “it’s” versus when to use the possessive pronoun “its.”


Source:  Mark Perry. Originally posted on

*Image of restaurant sing via Shutterstock.