Things Your Grammar Shoulda Told Ya

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Prologue

Are you communicating? Is anybody very well?

When speaking, do you make declarative statements, but end them with a question mark? What feeling does that leave in the mind of the listener? If I were the listener, I would get the impression you were not very sure about your assertion.

Would I pay much attention after the fourth or fifth time you used “like” as a pause word in place of a comma during your speech? Definitely, I would not.

You would not even think of putting question marks after a written declarative sentence, nor would you insert “like” in the place of punctuation marks in writing. But, you along with millions of others who metaphorically put pen to paper likely do make equally jarring mistakes.

Hardly anyone writes a letter to a friend today, but just about everything we write is still covered by what used to be called “formal writing.” Just about all writing is done digitally, but it is still formal writing, the rule-governed writing style likely to say a lot about you, your education, your intelligence level, your sophistication and even whether you have much consideration for your reader. Bad writing also has the effect of casting doubt on the information you are trying to convey.

If you write, as you might have spoken, that someone “literally can change the world,” you will have left a negative impression in the minds of discerning readers, many of whom likely would be discouraged from reading further, fearing other nonsense in your words ahead.

In a nutshell, you are as you write.

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We are talking about “the King’s English,” whatever that is, or “proper grammar,” whoever decides what is proper and what is not.

Whatever the nomenclature, “good English” is an anachronism these days. This is not just a pedantic issue to separate the elite from the riffraff. Proper grammar is key to communicating even the simplest of information.

Think about it. Just how well are we communicating today? We have all kinds of I-things that reduce communication to abbreviations because space is limited on such a small screen. And, with keys or screen icons so small that it is difficult to click one without clicking the other, no wonder we want to limit the words in our messages.

Most likely, you and your friends, relatives and other acquaintances have not yet experienced the disconnect between what you or they intended to say and what the listener or reader perceived that you said.

Between you and the other person, it is not a big deal; you can always smooth it over and have a good laugh over a “double ristretto venti half-soy nonfat decaf organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread frappuccino extra hot with foam whipped cream upside down double-blended, one Sweet’n Low and one Nutrasweet and ice” at Starbucks. (Sorry about that, but someone actually figured out the longest order at the ubiquitous place that charges $3 for a cup of coffee you got pre-Starbucks for a dollar, if not free. And it was fresh, not boiled.)

But, I digress.

You will find some sites that offer pedantic explanations designed for the simple-minded (a combination that never works and probably is why people did not learn English properly in the first place), or you can follow the simple, straightforward explanations in this book, much of it tongue-in-cheek, often skewering the easily skewered famous.

This miniature tome is not just an exercise in “gotcha,” as humorous as we try to be in presenting a potentially serious subject. And, serious it could be.

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