Friday, December 31, 2010

And Mark It with a ...

I really wanted to wrap 2010 up in a nice little package and start 2011 fresh and new. By 11:59pm tonight, I wanted the house to be spotless, the laundry washed and folded, the fridge stocked, my car washed, my split ends cut off, my nails done, my legs shaved, Lindsay Lohan rehabbed, and the world at peace.

I made extensive lists of the cleaning and organizing that would take place during my winter break, but then I won a Blu-ray DVD player at my work Christmas party raffle, and my husband and I figured out how to stream Netflix through it. (Do see She’s out of My League; don’t see Couples Retreat.)

So instead of ending 2010 with a period and starting a fresh, lovely sentence in 2011, it looks like my year will be ending mid-sentence. I guess that would mean my year will end with a hyphen, the kind of hyphen used to divide words at the end of a line when the whole word can’t fit. January 1, I will finish the word and go from there.

Actually, make that January 2; I’ll nick myself if I try to shave my legs while hungover.

How would you punctuate your 2010?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spell Checking It Twice


Ewe better watch out

Ewe better knot cry

Better knot pout

I'm telling ewe why

Santa Claws is coming two town

He's making a list

And checking it twice

Gonna fined out whose knotty and nice

Santa Claws is coming too town

He seize ewe when your sleeping

He nose when your awake

He nose if you've bin bad oar good

Sew bee good four goodness sake!

Based on the fact that spell check didn't highlight one word in this song, let's hope Santa doesn't solely rely on spell check when he checks his list twice. Katy might end up with Katie's doll house and Jeffrey might end up with Geoffrey's scooter.

As for you, I hope you get all the presence you asked for.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Can't Win 'Em All

Rocky, Karate Kid, Jerry Maguire, The Comebacks, The Blind Side: I’m a sucker for a sports movie with an inspirational montage showing the athlete, after a long struggle, finally getting their groove. Stallone making it up the gigantic flight of stairs, Macchio finally nailing those kicks, Cuba scoring touchdown after touchdown- you just know that when it comes to the big match or game they are going to win.

Well, what if they didn’t? What if after all that dedication and hard work they lost?

That’s kind of how I feel at the end of every quarter. After months of shedding blood, sweat, and tears to provide my students with winning writing skills, I find these sentences in my students’ FINAL essays- the essays that should showcase all the wonderful skills they acquired:

The 1980’s is what made the 1980’s so different from other decades.

I would love to be able to experience this eventful event.

There are still many stuff we can’t explain.

T-shits can be very expensive.

You don’t realize it until you actually realize it.

Is it too early to have a drink?

Dedicated to Hula Buns who wrote, “I want to know how many made up words you see in your students' papers? I would love to hear some of the things they come up with.” There aren’t many made up words, but they do come up with some pretty crazy sh.. things.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lost in Translation

Rachel: Guess what, guess what, guess what!
Chandler: Um, OK. The fifth dentist caved and now they're all recommending Trident?

Ross: It would be so cool to live across from you guys.
Joey: Hey, yeah. Then we could do that telephone thing. Y'know, you have a can, we have a can and it's connected by a string.
Chandler: Or we can do the *actual* telephone thing.

Ross: I don't know what I'm gonna do. What am I gonna do? I mean, this, this is like a complete nightmare.
Chandler: Oh, I know, this must be so hard. "Oh no, two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my fifties AND MY DIAMOND SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT."

Audiences around the world could not get enough of Chandler Bing’s humorous sarcasm. I mean, could it have been anymore funny?

But, even Chandler Bing ran into trouble with his sarcasm. Remember the episode when people at his work were so used to his sarcasm that when he was being serious they assumed he was joking?

Sarcastic folk do run the risk of being misunderstood- especially when trying to convey sarcasm via the written word. At least, when you’re sarcastic in person, your facial expression can help convey that you’re kidding, or you are there to explain that you were just joking. When it’s written, the words are out there on their own, vulnerable to any interpretation.

So, for example, imagine I received an email from a colleague that said, “Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome?”

I wouldn’t know if he really enjoyed the party or if he was being sarcastic.

Well, today, we have something that Chandler didn’t have at his disposable back in 1995: the emoticon.

So, if my colleague really had a good time, perhaps he would have included a , and if he were being sarcastic, he may have ended with a .

Personally, I feel the same way about emoticons as I feel about fanny packs. I get it; they’re convenient and helpful, but I am not a fan.

Why? Probably the same reason I would rather lug around a handbag than strap on a fanny pack. It looks sleeker. I’d rather the writer provide a follow up sentence to clarify his or her intention than a cartoony face. For example,

“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? Can’t wait till next year.”


“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? I can already tell that next year I am going to have the stomach flu on that date.”

But, that’s just me. If you want your writing to look like a first grader’s, that’s cool.

What are your feelings about emoticons?

, , , , or

Dedicated to Walks like an Egyptian and Talli Roland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Isn’t it great when two people come together and create something wonderfully unique?

Sometimes the creation is another human being:

Sometimes it’s music:

Sometimes it’s the perfect woman:

Words can also come together to create something unique.

They often merge together to form one word:

fore + play = foreplay

You’d think that when fore and play came together to form one word it would mean before play, like we would say, “Foreplay, I think we should stretch.” But, no; it has an altogether different meaning. (It may still be a good idea to stretch, though.)

Sometimes words come together to form a hyphenated word:

half + mast = half-mast

And sometimes, two words, although they don’t merge into one or use a hyphen, stand side-by-side to create new meaning:

For example, although Bill Clinton was a president with a vice, we wouldn’t call him a vice president.

So, when we’re writing, when do we know if two words make one word, a hyphenated word, or stand side-by-side?

If you’re a linguistics major, you’re in luck. Apparently, compound words of Germanic origin tend to be written as one word. History majors may also have an advantage; the longer the words have been used together, the more likely they are to have merged into one over time.

But, notice I used the words tend to and more likely. There are no set rules.

I mean, why is schoolwork one word, but school day two? Why does mind-boggling have a hyphen, but mind games doesn’t?

I guess that’s the beauty of creation, though, isn’t it? It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. It’s awe inspiring. Or is that awe-inspiring?

Google, here I come.

Dedicated to Theresa Milstein

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taking Requests

Robin Williams’ stand-up routine circa 1985 if his coke dealer was out of town.

TMZ if all celebrities decided to lay low and make it a Netflix weekend.

Rush Limbaugh if Democrats decided that government spending and regulations should be cut.

Me during winter break with all my students gone- and with them, their grammar errors that largely inspire my posts.

Please inspire me while my muses are out; bombard me with your burning grammar questions and/or pet peeves.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forever Young

My friend and I are each other’s stylists. Every so often we scrutinize each other’s closets and force each other to get rid of the crap and help each other put together new outfits with what we have.

The other night it was my turn to do her closet, and she stepped out of the closet wearing a dress and asked, “What do you think of this?”

“You look great,” I said, “but it’s too…oh… I don’t know.”

“What!” she insisted.

“It’s kind of too young.”

It was the first time I consciously realized that I am too old to wear certain things. It felt so final; never would I be able to don another really short dress, knee socks, or belly shirt (because, you know, up until that moment, that was my standard outfit).

I don’t want to be one of those women who desperately clings to her youth:

And while we’re on the subject, there are a few common faux pas that make our writing look too immature. To make our writing look more age appropriate, we must do the following:

• Capitalize the word I.
• Add apostrophes in contractions (e.g., I’m, don’t, he’ll).
• Write out numbers one through ten.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to aging gracefully- if gracefully means I can dye my grays, spend my 401K on anti-aging products, and drink the blood of virgins to maintain a youthful glow.

Friday, December 3, 2010


The last thing I want to do is make an ass out of you and me, so I try to be pretty careful.

I learned never to ask a woman, no matter how tiny the rest of her body is compared to her belly, when she is expecting.

I learned never to express joy, no matter how in love she claimed to be two days prior, over a friend’s new relationship. (Oh, he broke up with you last night. Ooops. Um, drinks are on me.)

And I certainly never assume anything when it has to do with the English language.

We can’t even assume our most popular rules are correct.

Remember i before e except after c or when sounded like a as in neighbor or weigh?

What about heir and seize and weird, huh?

And most of the time we simply slap an ly on the end of an adjective to make it into an adverb:

Bad + ly = badly
Clear +ly = clearly
Genuine+ ly = genuinely

Unfortunately, we can’t assume that this is the case for all adjectives. It’s certainly not the case for true. True loses its e before it gains its ly:

True - e + ly = truly

Isn’t that outrageous? It’s truly, truly, truly outrageous!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grammar, Make Way for Talli

This is my first grammar-free blog post. Well, I am going to encourage you to read, which will help your grammar, so it’s not completely unrelated.

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.

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Good luck, Talli!