It’s hopelessly old-fashioned to care about it’s versus its. Who versus whom. Affect versus effect. But I do. I really do.

As I wasted time on Twitter today, I ran across a tweet about National Grammar Day. March 4th. Every year. “Oh happy day,” I tweeted. Instantly, some fellow grammarians tweeted back: “avoid verbing nouns” said Eric Andersen; and watch out for “over versus more than! :)” said Alex Williams. I’ll have to look that one up; I know there’s a difference. (Here’s the answer, thanks to Alex.)

There are so many things I love about National Grammar Day. It was founded by the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar in 2008. The SPOGG? Need I say more?? And the celebration is hosted this year by none other than Grammar Girl, author of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Be sure to visit the NGD site for teaching materials, 10 grammar myths, free e-cards, T-shirts, suggested blogs and more.

I’m the kind of person who was REALLY good at diagramming sentences in 4th grade. I can remember my 4th grade teacher drawing out the elegant diagrams. It was pure as math (not that I’m good at math). And I can’t help but proofread anything (and I mean anything) I’m reading, whether it’s the back of a soup can or a book. Grammatical errors, for me, are like fingernails on a chalkboard. (Thanks to my lawyer son for the correction. I previously wrote chalk on a blackboard.) Although I have been known to, er, split an infinitive now and again.

Grammatical homage to the Rev. Peter Gomes

National Grammar Day also puts me in mind of Harvard’s Reverend Peter Gomes, who died this week. Rev. Gomes was an author, a theologian, a minister and a distinguished professor for close to four decades. He was also a wordsmith and very funny.

As minister of Harvard’s nondemoninational Memorial Church, he traditionally delivered a welcome to freshmen and then a sendoff to graduating seniors and their parents. When our older daughter graduated from Harvard, he made the following pronouncement in his typically thundering cadence:

It is not who you know that matters. It is whom you know.
– Rev. Peter Gomes

(Most of) the audience roared. We’ve told that story at family weddings.