Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Express Yourself

When we communicate orally (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!), our throats and tongues can work together (I’m serious…OUT!) to do things that we can’t do when communicating via the written word. We can, for example, speak louder for emphasis. We can change the tone of our voice to show mood. We can change the pitch of our voice to show emotion.

When we’re speaking, we also have facial expressions to help us communicate tone:
And hand gestures:

And if we’re having a conversation, people can interrupt us and ask for clarification:

When we’re communicating via the written word, basically all we've got to work with are words. Words are great; we can communicate quite effectively with words, but, as a passionately sarcastic person, I am glad that we can use italics to show emphasis and quotation marks to show irony.


I have to have those shoes.


Is this another one of your "great" ideas?

Quotation marks and italics are not interchangeable.

I just graded an essay in which the student wrote:

Shelly and I always have "meaningful" conversations.

From the context of the essay, I could tell that my student was being sincere: she and Shelly did, in fact, have meaningful conversations. I think she used the quotation marks in an attempt to emphasize just how meaningful their conversations are.

However, by using the quotation marks, she communicated just the opposite: that instead of exchanging theories about the meaning of life, she and Shelly sit around and talk about superficial, petty, vacuous things like hair, make-up, fashion and celebrity gossip.

By the way, does anyone know who designed Kate Middleton's wedding dress? I wonder if she's going to wear her hair up or down. I hope she doesn't overdo it with the make-up.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kiss This

Pretend you’re a contestant on the Dating Game (also, pretend the Dating Game is still on the air), and you ask Bachelor #1, “What is your idea of a romantic evening?”

He replies, “We would go to my house where I would have strawberries dipped in a rare Belgian chocolate waiting for you. Then, you would slip them into my mouth seductively as I play Xbox all night long.”

You laugh nervously and then say, “Bachelor #2, the same question.”

He responds, “We would go to the beach where we would sip fine champagne, nibble on Brie, and watch the sunset. Then, we would dine at a quaint Italian restaurant overlooking the ocean. After dinner, I would take you to my favorite place, a place that is sacred to me—Haus of Live Nude Girls."

You decide that maybe you should switch to another question. You flip through your note cards and find this one : “Bachelor #3, If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be and what would you talk about?”

He replies, “I would invite my ex-girlfriend Rose. We would talk about why the #$%! she wasted five #*$!ing years of my life and then left me for that jackass, Ronaldo."

None of these bachelors seem like satisfying options, right?

That’s kind of how I feel about the options we have for completing the following sentence:

Each person has _____ own idea of what constitutes the perfect date.

Back in the day, we would use the word his because we defaulted to the masculine:

Each person has his own idea of what constitutes the perfect date.

But today, most people consider that sexist, which, in my opinion, it kind of is.

Technically, we should fill in the blank with his or her:

Each person has his or her own idea of what constitutes the perfect date.

But some people (myself included) feel that sometimes that sounds too awkward.

Consequently, more and more of us (myself included) tend to do this:

Each person has their own idea of what constitutes the perfect date.

However, technically, this is grammatically incorrect because each person is singular and their is plural.

Sometimes, I make the subject of my sentence plural so that I can use their:

People have their own ideas of what constitutes the perfect date.

There’s actually an interesting debate about this dilemma in the comments section of this Grammar Girl post.

And here's a hilarious post about a horrible first date. (It involves nose sex.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Are You an Apostrofreak?

Where do the apostrophes go in the following sentences?

  1. What do you think of Biebers new hairdo?
  2. After the s in Biebers.
    Before the s in Biebers.
    Silly Wabbit, there's no apostrophe.
    Are we STILL talking about his hair?

  3. Taylor Swift bought her parents a $1.4 million dollar home.
  4. Before the s in parents.
    After the s in parents.
    Who are you trying to fool? There's no apostrophe.
    I hope my mom doesn't read this; she's just getting flowers for Mother's Day.

  5. I just read that David Arquettes high sex drive was a problem in his and Courtney Coxs marriage.
  6. After the s in Arquettes.
    Before the s in Arquettes and before the s in Coxs.
    No apostrophe here, my friend. (Get it? Friend? As in Friends? Never mind.)
    Is it wrong that I want to make Cox jokes?

  7. Have you heard Britney Spears new album?
  8. Oops, I meant Britney Spears' new album.
    Oops...I did it again; I meant Britney Spears's new album.
    Baby, I'll hit you with this one more time: either Spears' or Spears's is correct.

  9. I heard the Olsen twins empire is worth over one billion dollars.
  10. Apostrophe before the s in twins.
    Apostrophe before the s in dollars.
    Apostrophe after the s in twins.
    Since there are two of them, it's really only $500,000,000 each.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Kit, be quiet for a sec.

Batmobile, go back to your cave.

The General Lee, open your doors for…

The Missed Periods Grammarmobile!

This weekend I transformed my Corolla into a grammar awareness spreading machine. Together, we will fight comma crimes, save dangling participles, restore punctuation peace to the land (and, you know, promote my blog). It’s not finished yet, but I here’s what I’ve done so far:

The next one is a little blurry. It says, "Friends don't let friends write drunk."

This one is kind of blurry too. (Cut me some slack. I'm not a photographer.) It says, "Practice intentional acts of punctuation."

I just want to make the world a safer place to write.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Picture Perfect

I saw this album cover at my mom and step dad’s vacation home this weekend, and I was shocked. Not just because now I know their secret (that once they get to Palm Springs it’s time to bust out the gold lamé and sexy 70s tunes), but because we would never see an album cover like this today. That tan line and the creases of skin on the model’s waist and stomach would have been Photoshopped away into this:

Which album cover do you like better?

I like the first one. Britney doesn’t even look real here. She looks like a Barbie doll. A sad Barbie doll. She’s probably sad because she was caked in baby oil and then tarred and feathered. The woman on the 70s cover looks real. She has texture. I can relate to her. I never get my sunscreen exactly right either, and- okay, fine- my waist and tummy might crease like that when I lie on my side.

All this contemplation about women’s bodies got me thinking about- you guessed it- grammar. I was wondering how forgiving we are when we read others’ writing. Not that skin and tan lines are “errors,” but, for the sake of argument, do you get completely turned off if you see one or two minor grammar errors in someone’s writing? Or, on the other hand, does it make the writing more human and relatable? If so, how many and which errors do you consider acceptable?