Grammer; Is Importante?

9.24.2010

Today, September 24, is National Punctuation Day.  A day to celebrate all that is proper and right and good about the English language. A day to be saddened by the advancement of text messaging and AOL chats, which has subsequently led to the decay of correctly punctuated sentences. (Note: I realize spelling is not punctuation, and thus misspelling the title of this post isn't fully logical, but for my purposes [and yours] I will be lumping all grammatical mistakes into one smelly pot.)

As an editor (and, let's face it, an educated American), I daily see horrible mistakes being made on the punctuation front. Incorrect use of commas, semicolons, hyphens, apostrophes. The list really does go on and on and on...

I find it, therefore, necessary (in honor of the aforementioned holiday) to make a list of five grammatical pet peeves that plague my life on a daily basis:

1. Word confusion. For example: Their/they're/there. You're/Your. It's/Its.
It's called an apostrophe, and it's used to show that what could be (and once was) previously one word has now become to. Errr... two. See what I mean? Their just isn't anything worse than incorrect usage of a word.

2. Commas. Specifically, using a comma instead of a semicolon or a period, this is really annoying because it makes for a very long sentence, sentences should not be connected by a comma. It's wrong. So very, very wrong. 

Note: When you're writing a sentence, make sure you don't connect two sentences together with only a comma. Use either a period or a semicolon; basically, if you want to separate two complete sentences you have two options. A comma is just not one of them.

3. Commas. Specifically, putting commas wherever you feel you would normally take a breath. Elementary teachers have forever ruined the comma because of this ridiculous "rule" that's not actually a real rule. There are too many comma examples to list, however, so I won't bore you. 

Just know that a comma should be used correctly, which is, in general, less sparingly than your second-grade teacher would like to admit. Moving on.

4. That vs. Which. Basically, use a comma before which, and no comma before that. (There are a few exceptions, but I'm just trying to be as general as possible here.) 

A real-life example: I don't like black olives, which is unfortunate because Jordan loves them. Jordan doesn't like fruit, which makes me sad. But when we eat together, we can always find a compromise that suits both our tastes. 

5. Capitalization. For the love of Jane Austen, please pay attention: There is No need to Capitalize every word You feel is Important unless there's an Actual rule that Says you can Do so. (Note: that, not which). 

Example: My mom is good at cooking. My grandma is old. The president is coming to my birthday party next week. Lowercase, lowercase, lowercase. Unless your mom's name actually is Mom, in which case I'm sorry, but that's weird. There are so many others to list, but thinking about it just makes me crazy, so I won't go there.

In short, punctuation (and spelling) is important. Misspelling a word or misusing a comma can completely change the meaning of your sentence.
Like, totally.

1 comment:

  1. I second your thoughts! If only people could retain at least this one element from school.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for the comment! I will respond via email and also occasionally in the post thread if you are asking a question that other readers might be interested in.

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