Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life After Grammar

I think it was fate that brought Shawshank Redemption to me last weekend as I was flipping through channels. The plight of Morgan Freeman’s character really helped me cope with something that happened in a meeting today. 
Today was our quarterly Student Success Meeting, a meeting dedicated to discussing strategies that will help our students be more successful. (See! We care!)

The conversation eventually turned to the students’ writing skills—or, more specifically, lack thereof. Somebody in the meeting ventured that this generation’s tenuous grasp of grammar will lead to grammar eventually becoming as relevant as the celebrities who appear on Dancing with the Stars.

All of a sudden, everyone looked at me with pity in their eyes. What’s Jenny going to do? She’s going to FREAK OUT! Without grammar, her life is going to be meaningless.

Bu then I thought about Morgan Freeman’s character. He thought he wouldn’t be able to make it outside of Shawshank. And, sure, he struggled for a bit there, but in the end (SPOILER ALERT!!!), he got it together and lived happily ever after with Tim in Zihuatanejo. 

So I guess if one day our writing is no longer bound by the shackles of grammar rules, I’ll be fine. I’ll figure out something else to do with my life. Maybe I’ll learn those “Gangnam Style” dance moves. I’ve never made lasagna. I’ve always wanted to visit the world’s tallest thermometer. Maybe I’ll become an actress just in time to get cast in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. 

But do you think I’ll have to get my SAG card soon? Is grammar on its way to becoming obsolete?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot in Translation

The Oscars are coming up, so there is a lot of talk about movies at my work. Here is a snippet from a conversation I had with someone yesterday:

Colleague: Did you see Silver Linings Playbook?

Me: Yes. I think it might actually be my favorite.

Colleague: Wasn’t Bradley Cooper great?

Me: He was, but have you seen him in that interview speaking French?

Yes, I am still obsessed with this interview from back in April 2012 when Mr. Cooper was promoting Hangover 2. It might be the sexiest thing I have ever seen. In my opinion, it’s his best performance to date.

In general, I think it’s so impressive when someone is bilingual. And since I am not bilingual but still like to be impressed with myself, I’ll slip in some foreign words every now and then.

For example, if someone asks me how I’m feeling, I might answer, “I am currently experiencing a bit of ennui.” And, voilĂ , I feel better about myself.

That’s why I am so happy that we use i.e. and e.g. in the English language. I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin term id est and e.g. is the abbreviation for the Latin term exemplia gratia. Latin is super impressive!

I’ve already covered the difference in meaning between the two in this blog post, but what about how to punctuate them? Do they belong in parentheses? Do they require commas before? Commas after? Semicolons? Oh my!

The general consensus is that in the U.S. i.e. and e.g. are either encased in commas OR in parentheses followed by a comma:

Bradley Cooper’s best performance, i.e., his interview in French, should have won an award for best foreign film.


Bradley Cooper’s best performance (i.e., his interview in French) should have won an award for best foreign film.
This website says it’s okay to use a semicolon preceding i.e. and e.g. rather than a comma:

There are other hot actors who are bilingual; e.g., Viggo Mortensen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Colin Firth.

C'est magnifique!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Book Is Bi

During the time in my life most rife with rejection and tears—in other words, the time period during which I was querying agents to get representation for Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares—there was one agent who expressed interest but said she wasn’t comfortable with the target market I had specified in my proposal. I had indicated that the target market was both men and women; she felt that men would never buy a book with the words “Missed Periods” in the title.

I understood her point. When I started writing the book, I thought my target market was going to be female, but then I started the blog, and I was getting lots of male readers too, so I thought I might as well have the book embrace both sexes- you know, make the book bisexual.

And, today, I am extra glad I did because I just received an email from a MALE student that included this sentence: 

That works fine see you then where do you have your office hours?

At first glance—and if you don’t read it—the sentence seems totally inoffensive, right? It looks like your average-sized interrogative sentence. 

That sentence is an example of when size doesn’t matter. (It may, now that I think about it, be the only time when size doesn’t matter.) This sentence is not particularly long, but it is still a run-on sentence. In fact, it’s a particularly offensive run-on because it fuses three sentences into one.

A run-on is when there are two or more sentences fused together without any dividing punctuation. And, look, we’ve got three sentences: 

1. That works fine.
2. See you then.
3. Where do you have your office hours?

Therefore, this is the correct version: 

That works fine. See you then. Where do you have your office hours?

Talk about missed periods: this guy isn’t missing just one period—he’s missing two! 

And the even scarier part is that when I posted his sentence into a Word document, it wasn't underlined in a green, squiggly line. I guess that means we can't rely on grammar check for protection. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Having My Grammar Cake

As I mentioned in previous blog posts (in an unsuccessful attempt at guilting you into abandoning your holiday plans to jet on over to the East Coast to see me speak about my book), I went to Washington D.C. and New York to do some book readings. And, no, I didn’t tell the Mel Gibson joke.
The D.C. readings were held at the bookstores Books-A- Million and Busboys and Poets. The New York reading was at my aunt and uncle’s house. They invited a bunch of friends, and they really went above and beyond in making it a special event. 

Check out the spread! It's hard to tell here, but those are grammar mugs!

 This is the piece de resistance. Let them eat grammar cake!


This is a picture of the audience. I love how, like in the classroom, no one sits in the front row.  

Here's an aerial view. Yes, they hired a helicopter. 

This is my very supportive family. From left to right, we've got my dad, my sister, my cousin, me, my aunt and my uncle.
And third from the left is my other cousin. I didn't want to leave her out! 

Thank you!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The D Is Silent

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed (please say you’ve noticed!), but I have taken quite a long blog hiatus—the longest since I began blogging. I have been traveling, celebrating the holidays, celebrating MY BIRTHDAY, drinking too much alcohol and watching movies. In fact, I think I watched more movies this past week than I did all year: I saw Lincoln, Parental Guidance, Les MisĂ©rables and Django

They were all great, but if I had to choose my favorite, it would be Django. I really appreciate the way Quentin Tarantino promoted accurate spelling. I hope I am not spoiling the movie too much for you by revealing that when Django introduced himself he made it a point to let the other person know how to spell his name by emphasizing that the D is silent.  

It’s really great to see spelling awareness demonstrated on the big screen. I hope other screenwriters follow suit. In fact, maybe they can even slip in some spelling lessons.

For example, the next time someone remakes the movie The Addams Family, the daughter Wednesday should introduce herself by saying, “My name is Wednesday. The D sounds like it is placed after the N, but it actually comes before.”  Then, finally, the word Wednesday can enjoy some time off of the most commonly misspelled words list. 

According to one list, one of the most commonly misspelled words is indispensable.

Therefore, if I were to write a script, I would include the following dialogue to provide the public with a subtle spelling lesson: 

“I don’t think you realize how indispensable Laura is to our mission. She’s as indispensable to our mission as the letter A is to the word indispensable.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Most people spell indispensable i-n-d-i-s-p-e-n-s-i-b-l-e. However, if they’d just remember that it contains the word able at the end, their mission to spell the word correctly would never fail.”

“I understand. I’ll locate Laura immediately!”