Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cousin Its

(Pic from
You know what we haven’t talked about in a while? My hair.

My hair is like the sun. Like the sun creates a beautiful sunset right before it disappears into oblivion, my hair experiences a day or two of glory right before it becomes completely unmanageable. I go to bed with Pantene hair; I wake up looking like Cousin Itt. It’s truly a wonder.

My state of mind goes through something similar as a result of my first cup of coffee. Right before I crash, I have an amazing moment or two of caffeine-induced clarity and overall sense of well-being.

Yesterday, during that blissful 120 seconds, I texted this to my husband: I love coffee.

He texted me back: Tell me something I don’t know.

So, what did I do? I Googled 'strange facts' to find something I was sure he didn’t know. And because he’s Aussie, I chose this one: A kangaroo can’t jump unless its tail is touching the ground.

As I was texting him the strange fact, I got into a little fight with my iPhone. When I got to its tail, my iPhone changed its to it’s.

So I tried again, and again it changed it.

Now I’m pissed, right? My iPhone is challenging me- ME- about grammar at the same time as my caffeine high is dwindling.

Plus, I already have an issue with the iPhone for adding our apostrophes. I blame it for making my students too lazy to add their own apostrophes. But, now, on top of that, it’s adding apostrophes incorrectly.

So I would just like to take this time to remind everyone that, despite what Apple would have you think, its is a word. It’s the possessive form of it. For example:

A kangaroo can’t jump unless its tail is touching the ground.

The tail belongs to it.

It’s is short for it is:

It’s fun to watch Kangaroos jump.

Or it has:

It’s been quite a while since I’ve heard such a strange fact.

So, now that that’s out of the way, can we talk about my hair again? Where were we…

Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Need for Speed

As writers, we need to be prepared. At any time, we could receive a phone call from a celebrity to ghost write his or her autobiography. That’s how it works, right? A-list celebrities spend hours upon hours searching the blogosphere for a blogger they feel will really be able to adequately capture their voice. Then they take it upon themselves to contact said blogger to set up a meeting. Good, that’s what I thought.

I think I read somewhere that over one hundred celebrity autobiographies came out last year, so it would be impossible to study up on all the celebrities who may want to tell their story in the near future. Therefore, after a lot of thinking, IMDB-ing, and Wikipedia-ing, I have narrowed my list down to one. Based on the fact that we have so much in common, the celebrity I am expecting to hear from is Tom Cruise.

The similarities between us are seriously uncanny.

For example, he once said, “I love kids. I was a kid myself, once.”

Me too! I was also a kid once.

He also said, “I've never done work for money ever. If your choices are based on grosses and the film doesn't do well, what does that mean? It leaves you with nothing.”

I don’t work for money either; I am a teacher.

And this is his quote that really made up my mind: “…I can't do something halfway, three-quarters, nine-tenths. If I'm going to do something, I go all the way.”

I love going all the way too!

At first I wanted to call the autobiography The Need for Speed, but then I realized that people might mistakenly interpret it as a drug reference. And that’s really the last thing Tom needs after his little stunt on Oprah.

Speaking of that incident, I’ve been debating how I am going to portray Oprah’s response to Tom’s antics.

Here’s one way:

“We’ve never seen you like this,” she said as she tried to mask the terror in her eyes with a smile.

This is the other way:

“We’ve never seen you like this.” She tried to mask the terror in her eyes with a smile.

The difference is very subtle. But did you notice that in the first example there is a comma after the word this, and in the second, there is a period?

That is because when we write dialogue we use a comma to separate the quote from the tag only if the tag has a speech verb in it. If there is no speech verb in the tag, we use a period.

The tag in the first example uses the speech verb said, so we use a comma and don't capitalize the first word of the tag line. The tag in the second example simply shows Oprah’s actions, so we use a period, and the tag is considered a new sentence so we do capitalize the first word of the tag line.

I'll let Tom decide which version he prefers during our first meeting. I'm thinking about suggesting we meet somewhere like IKEA or Pottery Barn. I'd have no problem meeting at my place except my couch is a bit old. I'm not sure it would survive the Katie Holmes chapter.


“English 3850: Punctuating Dialogue.” 27 March 2011.

“Tom Cruise.” Brainy Quote. 27 March 2011. Web.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Empire State of Mind

What do Jay-Z and I have in common? Well, my goodness, where do I start? We were both born in December. We both dig BeyoncĂ©. He has a net worth of over $450 million, and I would like to have a net worth of over $450 million. He has built his hip hop empire, and I am about to build an empire of my own. That’s right- I am about to become the Jay-Z of grammar.

This blog is just one piece of my grammar empire-to-be. To further promote grammar awareness, here’s what I have planned for Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares this year:

• Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares- the book:

I did it. I wrote a book. It’s kind of like the blog in that it provides funny grammar lessons (well, I think I’m funny), but I hand-picked the top ten errors that either confuse our readers or make them laugh at us. I am going to start querying agents soon. Wish me luck.

• Grammar fashion:

I don’t want to sound stuck-up, but the grammar t-shirts I designed are pretty damn adorable. I am hoping to have the t-shirts available on this blog by summer (but definitely by the end of the year).

• Super secret grammar awareness spreading project:

Okay, I may have lost my mind, but I am so excited about this project. I should have it completed by the end of April. I can’t wait to share it with you.

• Proofreading/editing services:

I need your help with this one. I am going to start offering a proofreading/editing service on this blog. But before I actually launch it, I would like to get some practice and some testimonials, so I am offering a free edit of up to five pages for the first ten people who express interest. If you are interested in having me edit something of yours (e.g., a query letter, an excerpt from your manuscript or proposal, a cover letter, an essay, a Dear John letter, a tweet), leave your email address in the comments section or email me at, and I will contact you with details. In return, I ask that you write a short testimonial for me (only if I do a good job, of course).

I am aware that it’s going to be challenging for my grammar empire to survive in a time when many of grammar’s mortal enemies are thriving:

But as Jay-Z said, "I'd rather die enormous than live dormant."

(To clarify, I don't aspire to become enormous literally.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Rep to Protect

I haven’t really been following the Charlie Sheen saga, but it’s impossible to avoid completely. It’s on every news outlet, Bill Maher joked about it in his opening monologue two weeks in a row, and a surf shop on my way home from work has “Winning!” posted on its billboard.

From what I’ve gathered, Charlie said some crazy shit about having tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA. He said something about winning. I heard his publicist quit, and I am pretty sure he got fired from Two and a Half Men.

It looks bad for him, but it might actually be a blessing in disguise. Let’s face it- he has never been so popular. Something about his unique cocktail of cockiness and insanity has intoxicated the hearts and minds of the people.

And with that power comes responsibility. Now he’s got a reputation to uphold. Nary a sane word should leave his mouth lest he lose our confidence.

In fact, it’s a good thing his publicist quit. He doesn’t need someone trying to clean up his act; what he needs is one of those little devils on his shoulder that dissuades him whenever something normal is about to leave his mouth.

For example, imagine he was about to say something as blasĂ© as “Good morning” to his neighbor. Before such insidious words left his mouth, his guardian devil could whisper into his ear, “Apollo Helius has risen once again to welcome me to his Olympian harem of goddesses.”

I’d lend my reputation-upholder-shoulder-buddy to Charlie, but mine would be of no use to him. Mine would just make sure his grammar was correct, like it did for me this morning. Earlier, I was responding to an email from a colleague, and I wrote “Your welcome.” I thought nothing of it. It felt natural, and I didn’t even question it. I am, therefore, convinced that what ensued was the work of my grammar guardian angel:

I miraculously caught the error right before I clicked send, and I changed it to “You’re welcome.” This is important because, thanks to this blog and my own big mouth, I am known around campus as the grammar go-to girl. A grammar error might simply shatter my reputation.

And once my reputation is shattered, I might absolutely lose it and spiral downward into a pit of debauchery and grammatical incorrectness. That’s right- I might turn into Snooki.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dress to Impress

This post is dedicated to Ms. Vance's English class.

(Pic from
The night my husband and I met, it was a warm summer’s evening. We were at the same party at a beautiful hotel on the coast. I arrived before my husband, and I was standing out on the balcony, champagne in hand, admiring the sunset. As my husband recalls it, when he walked into the party, he looked out on the balcony and couldn’t believe his eyes: there stood this girl whose skirt was totally see through.

First impressions really are key. There were hundreds of other eligible women there to attract the attention of a hot, Aussie man, but not all of their polka-dotted panties were on display. (In my defense, I didn’t know my skirt was see through. I swear!)

See how important it is to stand out? I am not telling you this so that you all go out and buy transparent clothing; I am telling you this because first impressions are also key when you write essays. You want to capture your audience’s attention right away so that they want more.

That is why introductory paragraphs are so important. If you have written a good introduction, then you’ve already got the reader on your side, and more importantly, it makes them want to read on.

So why is writing introductory paragraphs so hard? Why do we sit in front of the computer for hours staring at a blank screen cursing Ms. Vance for making us write these stupid research essays?

I have a theory: because we try to write out introductory paragraphs before we have actually figured out what we are writing about.

First you need your thesis; then you can introduce it. I’m going to say that again: THESIS FIRST. Don’t even try writing an introductory paragraph if you don’t know your thesis yet. How can you introduce your essay if you don’t even know what it’s about yet?

However, once we’ve got our thesis statement, introductions are lots of fun. That’s right- fun. We just have to challenge ourselves to think of a creative way to introduce it.

Let’s say our topic is Facebook and our thesis is:

Facebook has become the most effective way to promote a business.

How can we introduce this in a way that will grab the reader’s attention?

What a lot of students tend to do is start with stating the obvious, such as:

In today’s society, many businesses use Facebook.

First of all, BORING. And second of all, never start an essay with “In today’s society…” Trust me. It’s way too overdone and makes us teachers want to bang our head on our desk.

Maybe we can start with something not everyone knows. Something a little sexy. How about this startling fact I found on Google:

In 2008, a 23-year-old woman created a Facebook group titled “I Need Sex.” Ten minutes later, she had 35 followers. She soon attracted 100—50 of whom she eventually slept with.

If we start with this fact, we can explain how, by using Facebook instead of writing an ad in the personals, this woman achieved much more immediate and far-reaching results. We can then tie it into businesses by explaining that businesses should do the same to reach more people faster, eventually making our way to our thesis.

Or we can start with a question. But we don’t want to start with a lame question, such as:

Have you ever been on Facebook?

That’s like asking, “Have you ever blinked your eyes?”

Everyone has been on Facebook. My mom is on Facebook. Your mom is on Facebook. So, let’s ask a more exciting question like:

Have you ever stayed up all night stalking your ex on Facebook?

Then we can tie it into our thesis by explaining how we used to stay up all night and watch TV, but today more and more of us have traded watching Friends reruns for finding out what’s going on with our Facebook friends. So instead of putting money toward expensive TV ads, perhaps businesses should explore free online options, such as Facebook. And we can work our way to our thesis from there.

Any other tips out there for Ms. Vance’s English class to help them write attention-grabbing introductory paragraphs?


“50 Interesting . . .Facebook Facts.” Random Facts. 11 March 2011. .

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mary Ann or Ginger

The girl next door or the voluptuous vamp? Cutesy or sexy? Short shorts or low-cut top? Exclamation point or question mark?

Through my punctuation-colored glasses, that’s how I see the Gilligan Island ladies. Mary Ann reminds me of the perky, straight-forward exclamation point and Ginger of the curvy, mysterious question mark.

How do you like your ladies and punctuation marks? Enthusiastic or elusive? Frisky or seductive?

It’s a tough one. I used to sway more Mary Ann when I was a kid, but as an adult, I can’t help but be seduced by Ginger’s beauty.

I am equally as torn over the punctuation marks.

I appreciate a good exclamation:

I’ve got tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA!

But I do also love myself a good question:

What the hell will Charlie Sheen say next?

So, instead of focusing on the differences, let’s focus on similarities.

Can we agree that both Mary Ann and Ginger are lovely women who displayed phenomenal foresight when they overpacked for a three hour excursion?

And did you know that both the question mark and exclamation point go inside the quotation marks when they apply to the quote, but outside the quotation marks when they apply to the actual sentence?

Here, I’ll show you.

In the following sentence, the quotation is a question, so the question mark goes inside:

I asked my friend, “Who do you like better, Gilligan or The Professor?”

And it’s the same with the exclamation point:

She said, "The Professor is so hot!"

In this sentence, the whole sentence is a question, so the question mark goes on the outside:

Didn't you love it when The Professor said brainy things like, "It was a geological phenomenon caused by volcanic activity beneath the Earth's surface resulting into concentration of heat at a specific location"?

And look- it’s the same with the exclamation point when the whole sentence is an exclamation:

I do like the part about "concentration of heat at a specific location"!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Let's Party

I’m so confused. Why are the banks open today? Why are people still putting coins in the parking meters? It’s a national holiday, people!

That’s right- it’s National Grammar Day!!!

How am I going to celebrate?

Well, I’m going to start by doing some Commakaze shots.

Then I am going to do the Locolonmotion.

Then I am going to conjugate all night long!

How about you?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Her Dad Is Better Than Your Dad

I just read a student’s essay, and I am in awe of her amazing father.

Apparently, he makes amazing desserts:

My dad’s characteristics and tarts are the key to his success.

He performs free plastic surgery:

If you hang out with him, he puts a smile in your face.

He’s very smart:

My dad is very educated and well educated.

And best of all, he communicates with his kids via telepathy:

My dad thought me my times tables.