Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cut It Out

Yesterday, I ran into my neighbor, and before I could stop myself, I felt like Michael Richardson following his routine at the Laugh Factory: I said something I wished I could take back. I asked my neighbor, “How are you?”

All I can say is that I’m glad I had eaten a snack and peed not too long before I asked; her stories are like a Dickens novel recited by a parrot: detailed and repetitive. And the worst part is that she had just returned from a trip to Europe. This story was going to take as long as it took her to get through security at LAX. I might as well take off my shoes and stay a while.

You know what would come in handy during times like these? An ellipsis.
An ellipsis is these three little dots:

Its purpose?

We use it when we delete material from an otherwise word-for-word quotation.

Sometimes when we are writing, we use direct quotations from other sources to make our point or add to the discussion, but we don’t want to use the whole thing. It’s either too long or part of it is irrelevant. But, it’s not cool to just remove other people’s words without leaving a trace. So, out of respect to the original quote, we put the ellipsis where those words were.

So, for example, here’s my neighbor’s quote:

“I’m great. You know, we got back from Europe on Sunday. It was amazing, but I am still jet lagged. I just feel so groggy, but I have so much to do today. We’re having Bill’s family over for dinner tonight. I am going to make quail. I’ve never made it before. They say it tastes like chicken. So, why don’t I just make chicken? Well, it’s always nice to try something different. But, I have to go to a special market. The markets in Europe are so small. Have you ever been to Europe? It’s beautiful, but, you know, I am so jet lagged. It was nice talking to you, but I have to go.”

And, if I had my way, it would have looked like this:

“I’m great…I have to go.”

It still answers my question, but it doesn’t include any of the weird quail information.

Now, I know that what I just said about the ellipsis bummed a lot of you out. I know that a lot of you love to use the ellipsis as your primary form of punctuation. In fact, may I be so bold as to suggest that it’s your punctuation of choice when you’re not sure what punctuation to use?

Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you ellipsis over-users:

The good news is there are other uses for the ellipsis besides using it in direct quotes. The bad news is that you still won’t get to use it as much as you want to.

We can also use the ellipsis to indicate a long, thoughtful pause.

My favorite part of Italy was the museums…actually, it was the Italian men.

Don’t cheapen it by using it when you’re not being thoughtful.

It also indicates trailing off. So, for example, if my neighbor had taken an Ambien because of jet lag and then decided to write something, it might look like this:

I’d love to finish telling you all about Europe, but I am getting sleepy. There is more to come, much more…

Let’s just hope the Ambien doesn’t have the same effect on my neighbor as it had on my friend who got up in the middle of the night and painted her dog green.


Monday, March 29, 2010

I Have Seen Oprah and You, My Friend, Are No Oprah

Actually, that’s not entirely true: I’ve never seen a full episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. That’s not to say I have anything against Oprah; I’m just usually working when it’s on and I don’t have TiVo. But, that’s also not to say that I have not been affected firsthand by the Oprah Effect.

One day at the gym, I got on the elliptical to do my hour (which I always rationalize into a half hour) just as Oprah was ending. She dedicated the last five minutes of her show to raving about this novel that blew her mind. She said, "It's so engaging, so gripping, so epic, that I wanted absolutely everybody to share the joy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." And after that, apparently I wanted to share in her joy because, based solely on Oprah’s endorsement, I am the proud owner of a copy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle- and I also bought one for a friend.

Oprah doesn’t have opinions. As soon as words leave her mouth, they become fact. If something makes Oprah’s favorites list, then it is unquestionably awesome. If she thinks that a strange, bald man should dictate the state of the nation’s mental health, then he will.

We, however, are not Oprah. Our opinions are simply opinions. Because our opinions are opinions, there are certain words we can eliminate from our writing.

For example, imagine you wrote to me

In my opinion, this book is wonderful.

I know that the book’s wonderfulness is your opinion. You’re not Oprah; just because you say something is wonderful doesn’t make it so. Therefore, you can eliminate the words in my opinion from your sentence and just write

This book is wonderful.

We can, therefore, also eliminate the words I think from our sentences.

I think these Rachel Pally sailor pants are awesome.

I know it’s what you think. You’re the one writing this, aren’t you? Just write

These Rachel Pally sailor pants are awesome.

I'll make up my mind about what I think of them.

What’s that? The sailor pants were on a list of Oprah’s favorite things? Oh, sorry, it’s official; they are awesome.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How Can Something So Right Feel So Wrong?

I know he's not heralded as the most gifted actor, and I know that I should watch award winning movies like Precious and The Blind Side instead of wathing Point Break again, but I just cannot quit Keanu Reeves. Look at that punim!

The universe must have a sick sense of humor because it seems like all the things we crave the most are really the worst for us. Yet, on the other hand, sometimes the things that are the best for us just feel so wrong. I mean, doesn't it seem like a crazy idea to pay someone to stick needles into your body, yet people swear by acupuncture. I've read repeatedly that drinking your own urine is good for the immune system. Bottoms up! And, although it feels wrong every time I say it, sometimes it's correct to use the word whom instead of who.

Doesn't whom just feel wrong? Every time I say it, I feel like an asshole, like I'm being pretentious. But, if all things that sounded pretentious were irrelevant, I guess Kanye West would be out of a job.

So, how do we know when to use who and when to use whom?

In order to figure this out, we have to engage in some crazy behavior: we have to talk to ourselves.

Here’s an example of a conversation I have with myself in order to tell whether to use who or whom:

Me: Do you know _____ Rachel Evan Wood is engaged to?
Me: She is engaged to him.
Me: Cool, now I know that I should use whom.

Wait. I’m not as crazy as I sound. The trick to knowing when to use who and whom is that if the person in question is a he or she we use who; if the person in question is a him or her, we use whom.

Here’s another conversation:

Me: Did you ever find out _____ was kissing Ryan Phillipe ?
Me: She was kissing Ryan.
Me: Thanks Me, now I know that I should use who.

Let’s do a couple more:

Me: Speaking of kissing, _____ did George Michael kiss?
Me: George kissed him.
Me: Okay, I’ll use whom.

And, lastly,

Me: ____ is maybe pregnant?
Me: She is.
Me: Okay, I’ll use who.

Now that I’ve made my point, I guess instead of sitting on my butt, drinking coffee and reading all this fun celebrity gossip, I should go for a jog, pick up the Wall Street Journal and a shot of wheat grass.

Actually, I think I’d rather drink my own urine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You're Not the Boss of Me

Being the cool teacher I like to think I am, I asked my students to suggest topics that they might like to write about for their final in-class essay. The first student raised her hand and said that she would like to write about where she sees herself in five years . The next student raised her hand and said that she’d like to write about a memorable experience. And, so it went for a while: your basic essay topics (which is fine with me because the essays don’t have to be ground-breaking; they just need to have the correct structure and be grammatically sound). And, then another student raised her hand and said, “Why don’t we write about all the things we would do differently than our parents did when they raised us?”

It’s so fascinating to me how open my students are about their personal issues. You should really see some of the stuff I’ve read in essays: first sexual experiences, details about their drug use, and one of my colleagues even had a student confess to a stabbing. I mean, in suggesting the essay topic, my student basically announced to the class, “My parents are assholes!” Is it that young adults are extremely open these days, or am I just really reserved?

Or is it that I am just really passive agressive? Although it would probably be therapeutic to write about my issues with my parents, when I'm mad at them, I prefer to just rub my differences in their faces. So, for example, my mom raised us to eat very healthy, so if I were mad at her, I might just go over to her house eating a Big Mac (she also raised us vegetarian.) To assert my independence from my father, I could rock up to lunch wearing a USC shirt.

When I think about it, this whole country is passive aggressive. America was pretty much Britain’s offspring. When America was a baby, Britain told us what to do and we didn’t have a say in it. Finally, we grew up and we rebelled and asserted our independence. And now, although we get along again, we still make sure to do things differently than the English to rub it in their faces. For example,

We say tomato and they say tomato. (It’s hard to tell this difference in writing.)
We drink coffee instead of tea.
We play baseball instead of cricket.
We put the period inside the quotation mark and they put it outside.

For example,

Gordon Brown said, "Old Chap, I'm on the edge of my seat. Tell me again how many times you snubbed me".

Barack Obama said, "I think I snubbed you five times."

It’s the same with the comma:

"I knew we should never have left these silly Americans to their own devices", said the Queen of England.

"I hope that she appreciates that I dressed up as bloody hell for her," said Lady Gaga.

But, as the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, America followed England's lead in placing the semi-colons outside the quotation marks.

Madonna said, "Come here love and give us a Frenchy"; then she leaned in for the kiss.

Britney Spears said, "Madonna, I didn't know you were British"; then she gave Madonna a Frenchy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Limbo Every Boy and Girl

As you read this blog posting from the comfort of your home, school or office, I will most likely be mired in a terrifying state of limbo. For how long I am to remain in this state, I know not. It could be a mere matter of hours or it could be years before I am released from behind the bleak walls of the U.S. halls of justice.

Jury duty is such a drag. It is not that I am not thrilled to fulfill my civic duty, and I’m sure that firsthand experience of our judicial system will be riveting. The problem is that I am a big planner. Especially on Sunday night, I like to fill out my daily planner, designating every minute of every day to something productive. Now, that does not mean that I will accomplish everything on the list (going to the tailor has been there since the beginning of the year), but making these lists provides me with a sense of order, a sense of purpose, and, best of all, they allow me to write about running errands instead of actually running them. But, alas, it’s Sunday night, and I can’t write my list because my jury duty adventure could end tomorrow morning- or it could go on for weeks.

My attachment to a designated future must explain my growing distaste for the use of the word etc. in writing. We use etc. to indicate that the list goes on, but for how long does it go on? Till infinity?

And, it’s not just the uncertainty surrounding the word etc. that makes using it less than ideal. One problem is that some of us use it when we can’t think of enough examples to make our point.

For example,

Lawyer: So, Mrs. Peacock, you said you were in the parlor with the rope for two hours. What were you doing there for so long?

Mrs. Peacock: I was practicing many useful tasks: knot tying, etc.

See? It kind of weakens the argument. It would be more believable that she was busy for two hours if she mentioned a couple of other activities.

But, let’s give Mrs. Peacock the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s innocent. But, as a reader, aren’t you curious what else she was doing? She might think it’s obvious, but I have no idea how she could possibly have occupied herself with a rope for so long. It would be nice if instead of using etc. she added a couple more items.

So, instead of using etc. when listing, here’s my recommendation. Make a list of three items that are wonderful representations of your point and put them after either like, such as, or including.
For example,

Mrs. Peacock: I was practicing many useful tasks such as knot tying, lassoing, and jump roping.

Ah yes. Now I see. It must have been Miss Scarlet with the wrench.

So, to conclude, Your Honor, I argue that etc. should be banned from our writing. A writer should merely list three substantial examples to support their point. These examples should be preceded by words such as including, such as or like- words that, like etc., let the reader know that the list is not complete. This renders etc. irrelevant.

And the prosecution rests!

Friday, March 19, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time

So, since November, I have taken the moral high ground. When the story broke about Tiger Woods' affairs, I told myself that I wasn't going to read about it or discuss it. I felt so bad for his wife that I didn't want to participate in any behavior that would further humiliate her.

But, last night I broke. I read the article "Tiger's Sexts To Porn Start: A Textual Analysis" and read all of his explicit texts to Joslyn James (I was an English major; I can't resist textual analysis.) And, wow! Those were some pretty full-on texts. I mean, some threads he could have maybe covered up if he got really creative, like this one:

Tiger: Sent: 05:46 PM 07/30/2009:
Heading back from the course [1] now.

Tiger:Sent: 05:52 PM 07/30/2009:
How close are you

Tiger:Sent: 06:01 PM 07/30/2009:
I will leave an envelope at the front desk under ms daniels [2]. Your room will be 305. Get settled and let me know when you are ready to see me. I will be i

Tiger:Sent: 06:01 PM 07/30/2009:
n room 201. You can come down the stair well next to your room. Make sure absolutely no one sees you

If this were the only one, maybe he could have gotten away with an, "Elin, it's not what it sounds like. It was my physical therapist. My knees have been acting up again, and I needed him close by, but I didn't want my opponents to know that I was injured. You know how it is, Babe."

But, then it just gets out of control:

Tiger:Sent: 03:37 PM 08/29/2009:
Do you ever hook up with other guys or girls

Tiger:Sent: 03:41 PM 08/29/2009:
You didnt answer the question

Tiger:Sent: 03:43 PM 08/29/2009:
Ok. I would like to have a threesome with you and another girl you trust [7]

Tiger:Sent: 03:48 PM 08/29/2009:
Does that excite you at all or no [8]

At this point, I don't think there's any way to justify an "It's not what it sounds like, Babe," even if it were his physical therapist.

And, as we have probably learned along the way from our own relationship mishaps, usually it is exactly what it sounds like.

Well, there is an exception. Actually, there are three of them:

Could have, Would have, Should have

When spoken aloud, they sound like this:

Could of, Would of, Should of

But, they aren't what they sound like. It's have, not of.

Or, if we want to use the contraction form, it's this:

Could've, Would've, Should've

And, speaking of could've, would've, should've, which three words do you think have been plaguing Tiger for the past few months?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner

My husband and I were flipping through channels the other night trying to find a movie to watch, which seems like it should be an easy feat when you have most of the movie channels. But, as it turns out, I don't really care to see all the movies I was dying to see but didn’t make it to when they were in the theater- so it felt like there was nothing to watch.

So, we’re flipping and flipping and flipping, and then finally my husband exclaims, “Let’s watch this one with Stiffler!”

Now, the movie was not American Pie in which Seann William Scott does play Stiffler; it was Mr. Woodcock. But, I’m with my husband on that one: Seann William Scott could become president of the United States and he would still be Stiffler to me.

So, what I’m thinking is that a similar thing happened with the colon. Maybe one time it gave this memorable performance of introducing a list of items, and then from that time forward, whenever anyone sees the colon they say, “Oh, that’s the punctuation mark that comes before a list.”
And they are not completely wrong because a colon can come before a list, but that’s really pigeon-holing the colon. That's like telling MacGyver that the only use for a paper clip is to attach papers, and it's like telling the papers that they always need to be attached with a paper clip.

What I mean is there are two problems with the concept that a colon introduces lists:

1. It doesn’t only introduce lists
2. It doesn’t introduce all lists

So, what does the colon do? It is used after an independent clause (which is basically a complete sentence) to call attention to words that follow it. So, a colon essentially says, "Here it comes!”

So, for example,

I saw the coolest thing on TV yesterday: this guy with a mullet saved his friend's life with a shoelace and a paper clip.

Do you see how that works? I saw the coolest thing on TV yesterday is a complete sentence that insinuates that I will be telling you what the cool thing is. The colon then screams, "It's coming!" And, then following the colon, I tell you what it is.

Here's an example of when a colon preceded a list:

When we go to the store, I need to buy a few things: some duct tape, a Swiss Army knife, and a pack of gum.

I can use the colon before that list only because When we go to the store, I need to buy a few things is a complete sentence that announces something. So, if there's not a complete sentence before the list, we don't get to use a colon.

Incorrect: I need to buy some: duct tape, a Swiss Army knife, and a pack of gum.

Correct: I need to buy some duct tape, a Swiss Army knife, and a pack of gum.

Well, I can't help but get emotional when I think of how wonderful it is that we have expanded our limited view of the colon. It reminds me of how in Dirty Dancing Johnny Castle could see the beyond the limited view everyone else had of Baby.

Maybe now the colon can have the time of its life too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Missed Periods

I am so grateful I’m not famous. How mortifying to have your romantic life on display for the world to see. Although, admittedly, having been married for six years, it would not be nearly as juicy:

The nightmare of agreeing on a

show in the big world of Cable

And, by the way, what does US Weekly mean that these women can’t find love? Jennifer Aniston had Brad Pitt’s hottest years. Cameron was in a four-year relationship with my favorite ‘N Sync member and then dabbled in male models. Jessica was married, and didn’t she and Tony Romo just break up?

Geez! Do women have to be in love at all times? Relationships are tough. I think it’s important to take a break in between. If you rush into something, you might make poor choices:

Similarly, we can’t just rush from one sentence into another without a break in between. It can be tempting, but it’s not fair to your reader, and ultimately, it’s not fair to yourself because your reader will have a hard time understanding what you are trying to say. Here's an example of what happens when we do:

After a year of considering it, Cara finally broke up with her boyfriend Ben had no idea Cara wasn’t happy in the relationship.

So, what you just experienced, my friends, is an example of a run-on sentence. A run-on sentence is simply when two or more sentences are fused together without any punctuation:

Sentence 1- After a year of considering it, Cara finally broke up with her boyfriend.
Sentence 2- Ben had no idea Cara wasn’t happy in the relationship.

Run-ons can be long like the one we just experienced, or they can be short like this one:

Her timing was terrible he had just bought her an engagement ring.

Sentence 1- Her timing was terrible.

Sentence 2- He had just bought her an engagement ring.

So, why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to rush from one sentence right into the next without a break? Well, experts claim that we do this for several reasons: we may be in a hurry, we may be afraid to slow down lest we lose our momentum, or we may just be kind of lazy, but they warn that when we write under any or all of these circumstances, we may miss our periods. Yikes!

So, what do we do?

“Slow down,” experts recommend. They claim that when people actually proofread their sentences slowly and carefully, 90% of them realize that there needs to be a break in their run-on sentences.

However, experts warn, we must be careful. We tend to incorrectly insert a comma in such situations. So, before you just stick in a comma, you must ask yourself an important question: am I separating two complete sentences? If you are, then you can’t put a comma because a comma simply isn’t strong enough to deal with a sentence on each side. Two sentences need something stronger: they either need a period or a semi-colon.

So, when do we use a period and when do we use a semi-colon? Well, that, my friends, is really a question of whether our sentences are independent or codependent. Can our sentences stand on their own comfortably?

Or do they need each other to feel complete?

Here is an example of two codependent sentences that are best held together by a semi-colon rather than separated by a period:

I almost cried when Samantha broke up with Jared; he was so hot.

I didn't want to separate those two sentences with a period because the second sentence (he was so hot) really completes the meaning of the first; it tells why I almost cried.

Here's another one:

I also cried when Big and Carrie finally got married; they belong together.

What was that? Did someone just tell me to get a life?

That's totally something that Miranda would say.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Are You Yelling at Me?

If you haven’t seen it, Super Size Me is a documentary in which the documentarian, Morgan Spurlock, commits to eating only Mc Donald’s for a month to find out if fast food is to blame for America’s obesity epidemic.

Some of us- I mean you- who really only eat Taco Bell drunk at 2:30 in the morning may critique the premise as over-the-top, claiming that no one eats that much fast food. But, I think he has a point: even though we may not all eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this nation does consume $134 billion worth of fast food a year. And do Barstow residents even have any other options?

Similarly, the email I am about to show may seem over-the-top to some; you may think that most of us don’t write these kinds of emails. On the other hand, some of you may see it and think, “So, what’s the problem?” Well, for those of you who don’t see a problem, pay special attention. And for those of you who think I am just being a drama queen, trust me: this is becoming more the rule than the exception.

So, I am going to take you through it. The only thing changed was the name.

Warning: Reading of email may result in similar symptoms experienced by Spurlock after his thirty day Mc Donald's diet: dizziness, fatigue, heart problems, depression, and loss of sex drive.


Bob Last Name Smith



1. Why is he yelling at me?

2. Look at the subject header. It says Writing Skills Mon. 1:30 Bob Last Name Smith. It looks harmless enough, right? The problem is that the class actually starts at 1:15, and he gave me the correct first name but that’s not his last name. Yeah, I don’t know either.

3. Like a grandmother that insists on being called MiMi, I’m not ready to accept that I am old enough to teach college students, so I let my students call me by my first name. On the other hand, greeting me with a “Hey” is not part of the deal.

4. This is an email, not a tweet; he is not limited to 140 characters. All words should be spelled out.

5. On the other hand, all the details of his life needn't be spelled out. In fact, all of the details he included hurt him more than helped him. The emergency room, family issues and hectic- I’m not buying it.

6. This email was sent well after we covered run-ons, commas and apostrophes in class. Don’t write your English teacher asking for something and ignore everything she has taught you. This doesn’t exactly put you on her good side, especially after she suspects you of lying. You might as well be applying for a job at PETA wearing a fur coat.

7. As Yoda said, “Do or do not... there is no try.” Don't tell someone you are going to try to make it so see them- make it happen or don't say anything. Big surprise- he never showed.

8. At least he thanked me.

Now, if I were him, this is what I would have written:

Hi Jenny,

This is Bob Jones from your Monday 1:15 Writing Skills class. Can you please email me this week’s homework assignment?

Thank you,


P.S. You are the most inspirational and prettiest instructor I have ever had.

Okay- nix the P.S.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

American Excess

"We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other." Best in Show

Americans are known for many things; moderation is not one of them. We've got a Starbucks on every corner serving coffees the size of a large child. We drink 44 oz. sodas, and the club sandwich is an American staple: two layers of fillings between three slices of bread.

It is so hard for us to eat a moderate, healthy serving size of pasta or limit ourselves to a few fries that we have resorted to extreme measures: banning carbs. Well, it's not an official ban yet, like Prohibition, but we have attached such a stigma to carbs that people are shamed into ordering hamburgers without buns, drinking Michelob Ultra, and when I was a waitress, a customer actually asked me to substitute the potatoes for a salad because he was "allergic to carbs."

Due to lack of moderation, a stigma has similarly become attached to the exclamation point. We Americans have such a hard time limiting our exclamation point usage to one, even two, per sentence that now you can't read a grammar book's lesson on exclamation points without being warned to avoid overusing them.

So, if you don't trust yourself to moderate your exclamation point use, how do you provide emphasis in your writing?

Well, you can use a dash. It's not an exact substitution. It's more like swapping Hillary's decolletage for Meryl's.

By that, I mean that the dash doesn't provide quite the same level of emphasis, but it does provide some.

For example,

Hillary's neckline is low- really low.

The dash emphasizes the words really low.

And, we can also do something with the dash that we can’t do with an exclamation point: we can emphasize something mid-sentence:

Hillary's dress- the one that plunges all the way down to her belly button- seems so unlike her.

In this example, we are emphasizing the one that plunges all the way down to her belly button.

Or, instead of using the dash, you can just be brazen like these young ladies and screw any notion of moderation. Holly Madison went with three exclamation points and all caps:

Kelly went with five o's and nine exclamation points (although, it would have been nice if she sacrificed one of those exclamation points for an apostrophe for Im.)

And check out Audrina: three n's, four h's, three exclamation points- and even a sad face.

Try pronouncing annnd. It's a little hard on the throat.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's in the Computer

Jay: What the fuck is the Internet?

Holden: The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another.

Having been born in the 1970s as opposed to the 1990s has its pros and cons. Pros include seeing the movie Grease in a drive-in theater, experiencing MTV when it actually played music videos, and nothing beats a Saturday night line-up of Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes, Webster, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. Cons include that I can no longer say with confidence, “I would never get plastic surgery,” and college kids today have something that would have made my college experience so much easier: the Internet.

When I was in college, I had to schlep across campus to the library, search the library catalog, hope no one had checked out the books I needed, scour the stacks for my books, lug the heavy books through campus, and then actually read through the books to find relevant research. All my students need is their 4.8 oz. iPhone.

The Internet started becoming widespread just as I was graduating college. And, like with Lady Gaga, I'll admit that at first I was hesitant to embrace it, but now, like everyone else, I can’t imagine my life without it.

Such widespread use of the Internet, however, has raised some pretty important questions: How do we monitor the sites our children visit? Will porn stars still be able to make a living in the midst of all the free Internet porn? Do we capitalize the word Internet?

As you can see from the fact that I have been capitalizing it, we do capitalize the word Internet. But why? Well, according to Grammar Girl, “most language experts believe the Internet is one big specific place that people visit, so Internet is capitalized.”

And, I guess that makes sense. Instead of going to the New York Public Library to research, we visit the Internet. Instead of going to Bloomingdale's to shop, we go to the Internet. Instead of going to the Regal Beagle to meet men (reference for those born in the 70s or before), we go to the Internet. It’s like a one-stop shop.

And, in other Internet-related word news, we also capitalize the Net and World Wide Web (or the Web for short).

We do not capitalize the words website, email, and online.

I would love to explain why, but that would require me to have a basic understanding of how it all works. So, please just take my word for it because I am about as technologically savvy as these guys:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Oscares

I might as well convert one of my fingers into a red pen. While grading essays, I am constantly adding commas, crossing out commas, changing their to there, adding apostrophes, crossing out apostrophes, and circling misspellings.

But, of course, that’s to be expected. I mean, if high schools were adequately funded and, consequently, students received a proper education, there would be no need for a remedial college English teacher, and I would be out of a job. So, I'm not complaining; I'm just sayin'.

So, in the spirit of being grateful for my job, being grateful that my quarter is wrapping up in a couple of weeks, and in the spirit of the impending Oscars, I'm thinking about hosting a little awards ceremony of my own. You see, in addition to the normal errors that most of us make, there are some breathtaking errors I've encountered in my time: some that make you laugh, some that make you cry, some that make you gasp in horror. They deserve recognition.

So, without further ado, I'd like to present the nominees for the Winter 2010 quarter Oscares:

Nominee #1:
The first nominee is an error that I had never in my thirty-four years of existence encountered until two days ago. It, therefore, exhibits innovation as well as a stunning disregard for spell check:

Hentz, it is important.

The creator of this error seems to have been inspired by either a ketchup brand, a rental car company- or perhaps both.

Nominee #2:
Nominee #2 is another error that I had never encountered until this week. Like hentz, it screams, "Who needs spell check?" Although, this error may even be too intense for spell check to handle. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present Nominee #2:

I had the erg to tell someone about it.

Nominee #3:
Nominee #3 is a sequel. The student made this same error earlier in the quarter, which I pointed out and corrected before returning her essay. Apparently, she didn’t take heed as it resurfaced again this week, causing her instructor to question why she even bothers writing comments if her students don't bother reading them. Here it is for the second time:

We take many things for granite.

Or, maybe she was simply indicating that we mistake many things around us for intrusive, felsic, igneous rock.

Nominee #4:
Now, Nominee #4 is a very dangerous error to make, especially in this post 9/11 world where instructors are required to report any essay content that suggests a student may be a threat. It sounds like the author of Nominee #4 may be attending some kind of summer terrorist camp. Here's a clip:

When summer comes, I usually like going to the beach for bomb fires.

Nominee #5:
Nominee #5 is a light-hearted error. In fact, it's a musical and a 17th century period piece. Everyone clap in 3/4 time to:

It takes me twenty minuets to get to school.

And, the award goes to....

Oh, I can't decide. They are all so wonderful. I need your help. Which error should win the Oscare?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Commitment Phobe?

Who isn’t? Commitment is confusing, complicated, and it stirs up all of those old insecurities: insecurities, for example, that arise when we don’t know if a word has two m’s and only one t, two t’s and only one m, or two t’s and two m’s?

Commitment didn’t make it on this list of most commonly misspelled words in business writing for nothing.

To get over our commitment phobia, all we need to do is figure out a way to remember that commitment has two m’s and only one t. And, since we tend to remember things that resonate with us, here are two different ways to memorize how to spell commitment: one for commitment phobes and one for commitment friends.

• Commitment friends can remember that commitment has two m’s and one t in the following ways:

More movie dates/ fewer TV dinners by ourselves on a Saturday night
More marriage potential/less ticking of the biological clock
More monogamy/less transmission of herpes

• Commitment phobes can remember that commitment has two m’s and one t in the following ways:

More moaning and bitching/ less time to oneself
More meeting the family/ fewer Taco Tuesdays
More missionary position/ fewer threesomes

And then once we memorize how to spell it, maybe we will embrace commitment as much as this guy:

P.S. I am soooo bummed that there is one episode left of Big Love this season. How are they going to tie up all the loose ends in one hour? Is Barb going to have an affair with the cute guy from the casino, is Margene going to have an affair with her new husband, what is J.J. up to, does Bill win the election, will he expose them as polygamists? Aaaaah!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

! Brad and Angelina are back in love. Aaaaaaah! The Kardashians are trading happiness for fame. Eeeeeeeeeh! Kelly looks amazing! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Tabloids are my porn. I read my People tucked inside a New Yorker, and if someone finds an In Touch in my room, I get all defensive: “Oh, um, that’s not mine. My friend must have left it here.”

You see, I was an English major and now I'm an English teacher, so I've got a rep to protect- that I read about Elizabeth Bennet, not Elizabeth Hurley.

But, celebrity gossip is this weird addiction that I wish I could stop. It’s not because I feel like I should be keeping up with things more important than the Kardashians; it’s because now when I watch a movie or I listen to a song, I can’t separate it from the artist. I can’t just rock out in my car to "Toxic;" I find myself worrying about Britney’s mental stability. While watching He’s Just Not That Into You, I can’t separate Jennifer Aniston’s character’s plight to find a husband from Jennifer’s own plight. And, ever since Oprah, Tom Cruise is 100% ruined for me.

Oh, why Tom Cruise did you have to turn out so creepy? Why can’t it just be the way it was back in the 80’s when you were quietly hot and rugged:

But, I guess celebrities are people; we just make them out to be more than they really are.

We also do that with the word nowadays; we make more out of it than it actually is.

People are writing nowadays as three words, like this: now a days, but it’s really just one word.

But, before you simply correct yourself and write nowadays as one word, hear me out. I feel the same way about the word nowadays as I feel about John Mayer.

First of all, I am totally sick of reading about him in the tabloids. And not only has his recent Playboy interview confirmed him as a narcissistic dumbass, but was "Waiting for the World to Change" really even that great of a song? Honestly, I'd be fine without him or his music.
Similarly, I could do without nowadays.

First of all, it makes our writing sound a little folksy.

And second of all, it’s unnecessary. For example, let’s take away the nowadays away from this sentence:

Nowadays, John Mayer seems to love the sound of his own voice.

It leaves us with this:

John Mayer seems to love the sound of his own voice.

And since the sentence is in the present tense, we know that we are talking about nowadays, so we can just eliminate it, right?

And, speaking of eliminating things we don’t need: would you like to add anything to the list?