Tag Archives: Grammar Day

Me, Myself, and Sigh: A Grammarian’s Plea

4 Mar

Happy Grammar Day, everyone! That’s right, once again it’s the Word Nerds’ favorite observance, March 4th, the only date on the calendar that’s also an imperative. This is the one day of the year, aside from National Punctuation Day, when I can risk letting loose the annoying grammar critic I keep bound and gagged in the recesses of my brain.

You see, on most days, it takes all I’ve got to NOT correct people’s grammar. I like my friends, and I hate it when they look at me in that mathy way that says, “Keep away from me with that preposition stuff or I’ll cite an algebraic equation!”

So, for the sake of friendship and social protocol, throughout the rest of the year I seethe in silence when I see ads for “grass-fed steak,” and cringe quietly at news reporters when they rant about the “scarce” shelves at the grocery store. And, although, when I read on the side of the restaurant hot sauce bottle, “All sauces made on premise,” I might show it to those at my table, I don’t bring it to the manager or post a picture of it online accompanied by a snarky sneering comment.

Okay, those examples are not about grammar, but word choice. I’m not sure I should pick on poor word choice, even if there were such an event as National Word Choice Day (I checked. There isn’t. Yet.), because my own vocabulary is diminishing at a fear-inducing rate. Every day, words that have been trusted friends in my brain for decades leap overboard into the River of Old Age and float away like dead leaves along its fast-moving current. One day soon I’ll forget the word for, er… what’s that thing that makes the thingy noise?

Word choice aside, true grammar errors would be more like the Buffalo Bills’ announcement in January that they’d hired their “first full-time female coach.” To me, that’s personal information irrelevant to the story. The aspect of this press release that hurt my heart most deeply was that so many media venues repeated it verbatim; NOT ONE thought to change it to “first female full-time coach,” or better (word choice issue again), the team’s “first woman full-time coach.”

However, I’m not going to waste this year’s soap-box time on the usual rant about misplaced modifiers; the “they’re, their, and there” battle; “it’s” vs. “its”; or even “that” vs. “which,” an oft-made error that grates on my nerves like knuckle skin across asphalt.

Instead, this year’s fulmination (snatched that word out of the river because it got hung up on a mid-stream boulder, heh-heh) is about three simple pronouns we learned before Kindergarten that for some reason we have no idea when to employ: Me, myself, and I.

We seem to have developed a phobia around using the words “me” and “I,” and we’ve started boldly inserting “myself” into statements the way one might push forward a socially awkward niece in hopes of hooking her up with a blind date:

“See Martha or myself after the meeting and we’ll take your information.”

“Give your surveys to myself before you leave.”

“You’ll get an e-mail from Bob or I about that.”

Well, to all of you who have fallen into these habits, I say…

Stop it.

Stop Myself-ing

Give myself a rest, wouldja?

I blame your mom and grandma, bless their hearts. They screwed you up back when you were a wee one running into the kitchen yelling, “Can Danny and me go out to play?”

“Danny and I,” they chastised, sliding the chicken in the pot.

Did they stop to explain that it had nothing to do with referring to yourself as me, but that, as the subject of the sentence you use the pronoun “I”?

They did not. Nor did they explain that you use “me” as the object of the preposition. They were too worried about that stupid chicken to consider the long-term effects of their incomplete correction.

Over the years, their failure to explain left you not only fearful of the word “me,” and unsure when to use it, but oblivious and untrusting of “mysterious” grammar terms (fess up, seeing the words “object,” “subject,” and “preposition” there made your brain shudder).

Frankly, your friend, Danny, didn’t help either. If he hadn’t been there, you would have had no problem asking, “Can I go out to play?” And Grandma wouldn’t have corrected you.

So, here’s the secret: You don’t need to know the grammar terms. When you want to know whether to use “me” or “I,” get your friend out of the picture. Hence, the e-mail example above would be “You’ll get an e-mail from me,” which is correct. Once you’ve determined the correct pronoun, bring the friend back into the sentence and relax; it’s still correct.

But what about “myself”? For the most part, you can toss it. In fact, the only time one would use that word would be in a sentence that also has the word “I” in it, such as, “I gave myself a raise.” Simple, right?

There ends today’s grammar lesson. I hope I’ve made a positive difference in your grammar, and not worsened your brain-shudder effects. I’ll get off my soap box now until Punctuation Day, and then, boy, is your serial going to get it!

Now, I’m going to celebrate by erasing all the erroneous apostrophes in the grocery store. Could take all day.

Piece!

——

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. –Proverbs 9:9

Saluting the Grammar Police…Heroes from a Whole Nother Era

4 Mar
Egg's and Chicken's

Last year’s sign (thanks Albert). Still funny, in a sad sort of way…

I just can’t let National Grammar Day go by without sending a shout out to all my red-pen-hearted peeps out there who are struggling mightily…to find the page-sized “X” option in the track changes menu so they can truly express their preferred course of action.

Sorry guys, but that type of editor satisfaction has become a thing of the past. Sadly, it appears the well-written sentence is fading as well.

We just don’t seem to pay attention to our words as much as we used to. I recently came across a briefing slide that claims, “The average American consumes more than 400 Africans,” and a parking lot sign warning that, “Violators will be towed and find $50.”

Words are losing their identity faster than department store credit card customers. Nouns are verbing (as in, “I don’t want to brain today” and “trending this week”), and verbs are nouning (“The accomplishment resulted in a pay increase.”) Worse still, we’re getting lazy with real words. Why do newscasters insist on using the terms, “terror plot” and “War on Terror,” when we’re actually fighting terrorists and terrorism?

Our dictionary writers are caving. Find a dictionary less than 5 years old and look up “nother,” as in, “that’s a whole nother story.” It’s in there.

The AP Style book is caving. Thanks to the wonderful world of advertising, the word “over” is now an acceptable substitute for “more than” and it’s okay to start a sentence “Hopefully” without a supporting pronoun. (It’s also okay to write “ok” but I can’t make my fingers do that.) The Chicago Manual of Style may be caving, but it’s too big so I don’t use it. (I was going to tell you about Super-editor Christina here because she is the only person I know who has cracked that tome open, but I can’t exactly say she uses it—she has it memorized.)

Fat free milk

It may be fat, but it’s also free!

Why are we taking our cues from the advertising world anyway? These are the same people who gave Victoria Secret the, “You’ve never seen body’s like this!” campaign, and had Michael Jordan touting the Lay Flat Collar! Not the sharpest tools in the shed, if you know what I mean.

Just look at the printed world around us. We live in a country where the milk we drink is not only fat, but also free. And, if that doesn’t satisfy, we can swap our milk for some orange juice toted as “the most tastiest.”

Now, before you jump on my blogwagon, yes, I understand that language evolves. One day we’ll need a dictionary to remember how to use “hash tag” as a noun and to learn the purpose of a selfie stick. However, it’s not the new words that add to my life’s uhtceare (There, find your own dictionary!); it’s the wrongly used words, and the wrongly punctuated words.

So, if you’re in the writing business, hug an editor today.  You’ve probably been saved at least once by that red pen tracked change luminary. If you’re an editor, dry you’re “tears” and take a heart. Sadly, the very existance of such a day ensures you’ll halve employment for as long as your want it.

Gerunds, Appositives, and Participles, Oh My!

4 Mar

I knew it would happen today. I’m experiencing my first day of epic post-resignation homesickness. Or is that worksickness?

Sure, I’ve looked back wistfully on occasion over the past month, like the day I overdosed on Oreo cookies and realized that this would never have happened at my old job because they would have helped me eat them, or the night my reading lamp became possessed and provided me with an awesome story to tell to…nobody. Snif. (Possible blog topic for Supernatural Day, whenever that is).

Today, however, I miss my editing friends in the basement of Hochmuth Hall more than ever, because I know what I’d be doing right now if I were there: poking fun at people who correct me and say, “no, no, you mean if I was there.”

Well, to be honest, we poked fun every day. In fact, for an editor, the only thing that can evoke a more hearty guffaw than coming across a sentence like “Venezuela is a major consumer of Cuban, health, intelligence, and security professionals” is reading it aloud to other editors.

We’re wired like that.

Egg's and Chicken's

Thanks Albert, for risking life and limb to capture this exquisite specimen.

We risk causing vehicle accidents to take pictures of awful road signs.

We are puppets to our pesky little internal budinskis who cannot let a conversation continue unchecked after someone says, “This is for Sue and I” or, “If you have any questions, bring them to Pete or myself.”

We’ve lost friends over this compulsion—both Pete and Himself. Still, we auto-correct.

Today, however, we have license to parade our predicate prowess, and to shout boldly from the hill tops:

That and which are not the same!

Or,

Pardon me, but your modifiers are squinting.

Or my favorite:

Semi-colons are more than just winky-face emoticons!

So, what’s the big occasion? Only the most important day in the evolution of syntax…it’s Grammar Day of course! The only national observance identified by an imperative: March Fourth!

National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us [Sic].

Over the years the observation has grown in popularity, particularly among the editing crowd.

This is a day for editors to sit back, nosh on grammar crackers and cereal commas, and reminisce about the ones that didn’t get away…like, “the damn formed when the mountain collapsed during the earthquake,” or, “the ship-to-shore landing vessels were being acquired to compliment the rest of the fleet.” (Grammar, word choice, whatever you call it, it’s funny).

This is a day to go out to the hallway and stare appreciatively at the colorful and seductive Comma Chameleon, which was posted to lure passersby into accidently learning about comma use and abuse.  (I guess you could consider it the cheesy-broccoli of grammardom; some folks get through six or seven rules before they catch on that they’re reading about proper punctuation.)

It is also a day of recognition. Writers, I’m guessing you all have someone to thank for ensuring your last missive didn’t go out proclaiming, “Ships are used when floods and tsunamis produce disaster situations that require their ability to arrive by sea instead of by destroyed or water-submerged roads.” (Actual submission, you’re welcome very much).

If you haven’t been saved yet, it’s only because you still aren’t published.

So spread the word. Kiss an editor. Rescue a dangling modifier. Try it, it’s fun.

And correct your children. They’ll thank you for it one day. My reward came Saturday night, when I caught my son trying to rub the apostrophe off a white board announcing “CD’s for sale.”

I was so proud.

I miss you, editors. March fourth!

  😉

For more information about Grammar Day, visit the following website: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/national-grammar-day?utm_source=GG20140304&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=grammargirl#sthash.g5Q70k7y.dpuf