About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Notes From A Grammar Nerd

So maybe you don't really care about writing and grammer thats are problem not your's. Maybe the wrong use of a word don't really bother you. Maybe random Capitols or missing comas don't cause you concern. Your not one of those people who pay much attention to how a sentence is written. If theres errors to bad. You could care less. Its not something you really think about.

On the other hand, maybe errors like those in the previous paragraph drive you up a wall. Maybe you even had trouble making sense of it. Now, I'm not one to go around correcting other people's grammar unless I'm asked. Grammar nazis can be annoying. But your writing and grammar, like it or not, create an impression. In my last post I talked about the importance of reading. Now I'd like to spend a little time on its cousin, writing.

Whether you want to admit it or not, writing is important. Why else would my husband frequently ask his English-major wife to proofread his important correspondence. It isn't so much that we want to make a good impression as it is that we don't want to make a bad one. The above announcement from the University of Michigan provides a great example. I'm sure a number of people wouldn't even notice that error, but the ones who do notice are shaking their heads and laughing. A major university? Is that the impression you want to leave?

Once while on a family trip, we passed a sign with an error so spectacular that my husband actually stopped the car to take a picture of it. Taking up the better part of the outside wall of a butcher shop, brightly colored to better attract our attention, was a sign that read: 
Ho Made Sausage.
It might have been tasty sausage, but we'll never know. All we did was laugh and make bad jokes for the next 20 miles.

Our social media-driven, 140-character world is definitely making a contribution to poor writing and grammar, but we shouldn't use that as an excuse. It's one thing to read a text message with run-on sentences that are devoid of punctuation. It's quite another thing to see such errors in emails, reports, and letters. Something as simple as omitted punctuation can sometimes alter the meaning of a sentence and send the wrong message. Consider the following examples:

I have two hours to kill someone come over
I have two hours to kill. Someone come over.
The first sentence may be the death of someone.

Or how about this example of the ever-popular dangling participle:
Stinking like something rotten, Sandy took out the trash.
Hasn't anyone told poor Sandy about the wonders of modern deodorants?

Simply adding a comma can sometimes even prevent cannibalism:
Since it was nearly two in the afternoon and the pair had not yet had lunch, she turned to her friend and said, "Let's go eat Sally."
For her own safety, Sally might want to find a new friend.

In fairness, many errors are the fault of sloppy proofreading rather than poor writing. I've said this more times than I can count, but I'll say it again, "Spellcheck does NOT eliminate the need for careful proofreading. This is especially true for mass mailings such as the township newsletter that we received with our tax statement. (See Dog Licenses example.) The clerk is going to hear about that one, I'm sure. I don't think the township is prepared to handle requests for deity status.

I imagine that grammatically astute readers may find mistakes in this post beyond the purposeful errors in the first paragraph; more power to you. For those I claim blogger's literary license. It seems clear, regardless, that writing is important. As we librarians like to point out, the value of books and reading goes well beyond a storyline. Good readers have stronger vocabulary skills, and yes, stronger writing skills too. So don't let your writing get rusty. Practice by writing an occasional letter. Carefully proofread your emails. I even try to proofread my text messages. Autocorrect can sometimes be your worst enemy. Writing, like reading, is a skill that is developed with practice, so find reasons to write.

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