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TMFEditorsDesk (< 20)

The Fool Celebrates National Grammar Day

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March 04, 2010 – Comments (5)

Which irks you most?

*  A company that uses humongous bonuses to incent (or even incentivize!) its bankers to lend as much money as possible, regardless of the borrowers' financial situations. … Maybe big-bank shareholders are ready to vote in this informal poll.

*  A business leader who thinks he's so cool he can use words like "funnest." … Even those who love Apple CEO Steve Jobs might cringe at this.

*  A "Warrant Buffet" where, apparently, people go for a snack before turning themselves over to police. … Oh, who's going to bring the hammer down on a couple of typos?

* The odd use of words in the examples above. … Ding, ding, ding!

Jargon, hype, obfuscatory language, nouns turned into verbs, misplaced commas, sentences ended with a preposition -- these are all things up with which investors should not put. We need straight talk to make good decisions about where to put our money.

I got to thinking about this because today is National Grammar Day! (Quick poll: Does Grammar Girl (a) need a life, or (b) deserve a gold medal?) Perhaps Fools will let Strunk and White edge out Buffett and Munger for a bit.

And the words of former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt can delight us.In 1997, Levitt told a consumer affairs committee: "It is possible that no document on Earth has committed as many sins against clear language as the prospectus.  The prose trips off the tongue like peanut butter. Poetry seems to be reserved for claims about performance, and conciseness for discussions about fees."

[Now let us brag: In 2000, Levitt declared that The Motley Fool is "as close to being an effective investor advocate as any organization in America."]

OK. Go ahead and light up the comments section below with the mistakes I've made in this post as well as your pet peeves about the way people in finance and investing communicate. Don't forget your best examples of corporate word-soup.

TMFMiloBreathed (Kris, Motley Fool copyeditor)

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On March 04, 2010 at 1:55 PM, BeckyDMBR (< 20) wrote:

And I bet you proofed and edited the hell outta this post. :) Happy Grammar Day!

@BeckyDMBR

Deep Muck Big Rake

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#2) On March 04, 2010 at 3:29 PM, TMFEditorsDesk (< 20) wrote:

Not sure if this counts, but I like how the word Google has totally obscured the word googol.

-Anand (TMFBomb)

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#3) On March 04, 2010 at 3:49 PM, lemoneater (80.33) wrote:

Top of the afternoon to you! Happy Grammar Day! I admire those who expertly steer through the many pitfalls set for the unwary. I always find it ironic how even the word "grammar" is itself a challenge and is commonly misspelled. Correct grammar is a happy accident for me.

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#4) On March 05, 2010 at 3:26 PM, WileyCyote (< 20) wrote:

Arthur Levitt was right

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#5) On March 19, 2010 at 9:58 PM, DC2ROMA (< 20) wrote:

ending sentences with a preposition is perfectly acceptable.  The prohibition was applied arbitrarily by English prescriptivists centuries ago in the mistaken notion that English, a Germanic language, should reflect certain rules applying to Latin, a Romance language that was the language of literate and learned men and women of that time... there is a similar origin to the split-infinitive prohibition...

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