Sunday, June 26, 2011

[Whimsy] Before the Grammar Gets Me

[Welcome to a bona fide rant. I don't really do it often, but this one's been on my mind for a while.]

Punctuate properly, please! (Among other things.)

For most of my adult life, I've worked with words in some fashion or another. I've held positions that used communication in some form or another throughout my entire career. I've done it all in person conversations, over-the-phone work, written materials, sales, marketing, journalism, proofreading, information management and much more. 

My name might be a clue that I LIKE words. 

I work with them because they are important to me, and so is the functional expression of ideas and concepts. I strongly believe in using language properly when possible.

I've recently begun working on some really fascinating projects with some very smart people. These folks are well-educated and make a killing in their fields. I do understand at some level that their fields aren't language, and perhaps language isn't as precious to them as I hold it; but there's a certain level of disregard that is driving me insane. 

Learning to use a comma and a period are things one does in early elementary school, and are not difficult concepts to master. Others' failure to use these important tools in written correspondence is one of my largest frustrations. They are "serious business" . They tell others to take a small break, or to STOP. They give you power! They let you tell other people what to do. 

I cannot grasp the concept of being a fully functional professional person without the ability to punctuate or properly match tenses. For you math geeks, it's probably a lot like the idea of not being able to add more triple digits without a calculator. I find it infuriating and more than a little insane-making when I read a post or article with awful spelling, no quotation marks, terrible run-ons and no real structure. 

SPELL CHECK. How much work is it to add a period in between thoughts? Why is "start a new paragraph for every new idea" so hard to handle? 

Understandably run-on sentences occur a mite more than ideal; it can be challenging for you to separate ideas when thoughts are coming a mile a minute. I try to forgive those as I've been guilty, too. I'm also very fond of the em dash and I'll give a guy a pass on that one. I cannot for even a moment "get" the total disregard for quotation marks I see nearly everywhere. 

I know.  There are a few tricky situations for those funny "commas in the sky", but for the most part; it is simple. Person A says something. It is then repeated for others to hear. Person A's comments go in quotations. 

Don't even get me started on "you're" and "your". I will go positively mental over this one. I'm honestly willing to forgive most other homonyms, because they really are not always intuitive. But FFS, "you're" makes it OBVIOUS it is a combination of two words! It's a contraction. It means YOU ARE. Saying "your" (a single word, meaning "it belongs to you") when you mean "you're" (two words, "you are") just makes me want to kill babies, or kittens.  

I could get a lot more specific, but I'll leave it at this: If you're not sure or get strange replies regularly; get help.

If you need some help, check out the following: (They are free!)

And use a period! 


  1. You sound like my girlfriend, though I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think I generally grasp the use of proper punctuation most of the time but I'm not perfect either.

  2. Preach on!

    I remember in college, as a history major, I was required to write and write and write. The fact I could write well automatically put me towards the top of my class. One of my professors made an analogy similar to yours, actually: imagine math professors having to teach basic arithmetic to their math majors before they could move on to calculus and that's basically the level of functional illiteracy they were having to deal with in terms of writing and composition.

    We could all use a good editor at times, no doubt. Not just for punctuation issues but for style and word usage as well. But some blogs--clearly written by intelligent people with lots of original and useful ideas--are darn near unreadable for me because they're riddled with such elementary punctuation or grammatical errors. The two that baffle me the most are excessive comma usage and the "your-you're" switch. That last one...

    Don't even get me started on seeing other peoples' comments on Facebook.

    Wait, I can't resist. Here's one, taken more or less at random, from a comment left on a friend's post: "damn i miss the day of a long drag from a delicious camel cig mmm but no thanks i dont want to sufficate and die. I want to live an breath!"

    Gooooood night!

  3. A'it! I agree.

    For my part, English is my second language, so that may make me more concious about what I write or say. It still baffles the hell out of me when I see things like the your/you're mix-up, or when people can't put in a gorram comma every once in a while. Then/than is also something I tend to get twitchy around.

    That said, I am well aware that my language is far from perfect either, but I often edit my my posts when I find a blatant error in my syntax, spelling or punctuation. Sometimes I just can't be arsed, though -- I blog, I don't write for cash.

  4. Jumping Jehoshaphat, Facebook kills me. DAILY. I just pretend that I don't see the mistakes. It's easier that way.

    Harald: You're always eloquent and intuitive, my dear sir. I love reading anything you write!

  5. Like Harald, I speak English as my second language and it makes me obsess about what I write and how I write it. But then, I'm equally obsessive when writing in German and let me tell you, that is a language you can make a lot of stupid mistakes in. My pet peeve in that language is sie and Sie (sie is she/they, Sie is you, when addressing someone) and how many people don't seem to know the difference. It completely changes the meaning of a sentence. Textspeak in both languages is my mortal enemy (okay, I've been known to LOL).

  6. A fair post, and the links are a good bonus. Clear communication may not always be a matter of life and death, but it can certainly improve quality of life.

    Now seems as good as any to compliment Harald and Jedediah on their skill. If they can communicate to that standard in a second language, improving ours can't be so hard. If it still sounds tough, how about becoming proficient in Norwegian or German instead?

  7. One that always frustrates me is the placement of a period at the end of a sentence where there are quotation marks.

    For example, using your text above...

    They are "serious business".

    Outside the quotation marks? Fine if you are in the UK. In the US, they go inside as in

    They are "serious business."

    Even though that doesn't look right either. Grrr!

  8. This post just tickles me to no end.

    You see, I'm that guy who's texts are completely devoid of shortened words/single letters for words, punctuated correctly, and capitalized appropriately. I'm so anal that I will reread my text two or three times before sending, just to make sure there are no misspellings.

    Needless to say, auto-correct is the bane of my existence. :)

  9. ze, I've always been taught that the punctuation goes with the overall phrase. Meaning- if I am ending the entire sentence, I put the punctuation at the end of that sentence. If there was punctuation within the quote, obviously it goes in the quotation.

    I will look it up, for sure.

  10. @Loq: If you click on the "Grrr!" in my above comment you need look no further, except for the fact that the link is malformed. So here's what I meant to put there: ... I'm sure there are more authoritative sources I could have linked; I think I've looked it up in the Chicago style guide before too.

    And don't get me started on the misuse of semicolons! ;)

    @Itchy: You misused "who's" on purpose, right? :P

  11. This sounds like its aimed @ someone like me. Sorry, but odds are I won't get any better. ;-p But check out my buddy's blog:
    as he is a college professor with a doctorate in English.