Where are you . . . at?

I’m taking a stand. I’m stating my position.

I want you to know where I am.

I don’t want you to know where I am . . . at.

“At” is a funny little word. It’s a preposition. Prepositions are words that are combined with nouns or pronouns to form a phrase.

Life was much simpler when I was learning to write and to speak. The rule was, “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” Straightforward, to the point, precise. Of course another rule was “Don’t write incomplete sentences.” That, of course, means that I shouldn’t have written a sentence like “Straightforward, to the point, precise.”

In this new age of communication, we are taught that some rules can be broken. Over time, some rules just go away. Thus it is that we can now end sentences with a preposition.

But, I have to tell you, I’ll never accept the sentence that ends with “at.” When you write it down and send it to me, I will mark it in red and send it back. When you email it to me, I’ll roll my eyes and hope that I can delete your message or mark it as spam. When you say it to me, I’ll mentally picture you in a . . . well, very demeaning way.

“Where are you?” Not “Where are you at?”

“Let’s check and see where we are.” Not “Let’s check and see where we are at.”

“At” is a preposition that sets time and place. It can be a very important word that brings precision to your message. But that precision is dependent on other words. “At,” like all prepositions, points. Without nouns and pronouns, “at” points to nothing.

In my admittedly warped view of the world, attaching “at” to the end of a sentence or question totally obliterates the time-space continuum. It’s like making a dramatic gesture — five seconds after you stop talking. To me, it’s nonsensical.

So, why am I so agitated about the use of “at?”

Because it’s a little word, governed by a simple rule. It has the potential to be powerful. Its abuse conveys no meaning and blemishes the reputation of its abuser.

“At” is like every other word. It matters. Words matter. In this time of cascading communication, make your words count. Make your words matter.

When you speak, I really want to know where you are.

There is a larger lesson. Those among us who are the most effective leaders are governed by simple rules. The principles defined by those rules are powerful. When leaders violate those rules, credibility is lost and reputations are destroyed.

Little things you do matter. At this moment, when others desperately seek women and men of character, let your principles guide you.

I really want to know where you are.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “Where are you . . . at?

  1. You seem to be taking a prescriptionist view of language. I prefer to be a language descriptionist; then I don’t have to worry about whether other people’s grammar is right or wrong. Can you see where I am at?

    • Brad, even that article says that “at” doesn’t add meaning if the verb “are” is present. But is necessary where the question is stated “Where you at?” Of course, that violates the complete sentence thing. Bottom line, I still win. Not that winning is everything . . .

    • Brad, the article does go both ways. It says “at” is wrong when you have a verb present, but that it’s needed when the verb is implied. Old school says that the verb is always explicit. The examples: “Where are you at?” This is wrong. “Where you at?” This is acceptable because it helps clarify the meaning. Acceptable is, as it always has been, a moving target.

  2. Joey, I wonder if this is something that especially bothers Texans. I’m afraid the California school system forgot to teach this grammatical rule. I cringe whenever I hear the “at” word hanging at the end of a sentence. I have quite the reputation for correcting people. Just as my father said to me, when someone asks “where’s it at?”, I respond “between the a and the t”. My adult children still roll their eyes at this statement.

    • Terry, keep on correcting. You can be on the board of directors of my new “Institute for Citizens Against Redundant Enunciation” (ICARE).