Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pubic Policy 101

As much as I treasure clear, concise, correct writing, I have to admit that I also cherish a good error. One of my favorites was a typo made by a student who was quite stubborn about her writing. She must have received all A’s in high school, and she made it clear that she felt that my class had nothing to offer her. I was so happy when she wrote” t-shits” instead of “t-shirts” throughout her essay. Maybe she could have used a little lesson on proofreading. 

Another favorite error was made by a student who sent me an email requesting a letter of recommendation. I could tell how much time and effort she put into making the email grammatically correct, but the last sentence said, “Thank you for overlooking this.” I didn’t overlook it; I wrote her a lovely recommendation.

My absolute favorite was when one of my students wrote an entire essay about “pubic" policy instead of “public" policy. It was awesome because he did it EVERY time, and I like the idea of coming up with a pubic policy. Mine would be very liberal.

And I think I found another typo today while reading the news. I read that General Patraeus, after having an affair with his biographer, is going to try to rehab his image by teaching “a course on public policy at City University of New York.”

That's supposed to be "pubic" policy, right?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Voice

I am pretty snobby, so sometimes I refuse to admit that I watch anything on TV that hasn’t earned critical acclaim. In other words, I am one of those people who says, “I was at my friend’s house the other night and SHE was watching The Bachelor …” Then, I will proceed to talk about how crazy I think Vienna is.

But I am just going to come out and unabashedly say that I love The Voice. The auditions are full of suspense, I have a crush on all the judges, and the contestants have these amazing voices. I, on the other hand, have a terrible voice. 

But I do have a voice. And many of you have never heard it. I am not talking about my singing voice, just my regular talking voice. If you do, perchance, want to hear it, click here and listen to my interview on Brad Reed’s Inside Creative Writing podcast.

Brad is a great interviewer, and we talked about all sorts of fun stuff like why grammar can be intimidating to writers and how grammar can enhance creativity--oh, and we even talked about the em-dash.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dropping the Ball

When I was in high school, I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world: my dad told me that I could paint my room whatever color I wanted. I think I chose a powder blue and black combination. As soon I started painting, I had a realization: This is a lot of work. I don’t want to do this anymore. Daaaaaaaad! 

I kind of had the same experience with Grammar Madness. I got two posts in and realized that to keep it up I was going to have to post more than I normally do, and, as it turns out, I can be quite blog lazy. 

When I quit after two posts, the question mark had beaten the exclamation point and the colon, but if I had had my way, the colon would have won the whole thing. There’s so much promise held in those two little vertical dots. 

I know that most people think a colon simply goes before a list. And, of course, a colon can go before a list, but it can’t go before just any old list. There has to be a complete sentence before the list. 

There are many things I have started and not finished: painting my room, Grammar Madness, and James Joyce’s Ulysses. 


I never finished painting my room, Grammar Madness, and James Joyce’s Ulysses.

But the colon does more than introduce lists. It’s like a drum roll. When I see it, I know that something is coming.

I have great news: 

(Oooh! What is it? What is it? I know I am about to find out because there’s a colon.)

I have great news: the sixth season of Mad Men started on Sunday.

Or how about this one:

I heard something funny about Jon Hamm, the star of Mad Men:

(What is it? What is it? I love him!)

I heard something funny about Jon Hamm, the star of Mad Men: his bulge was so distracting to his co-stars, he was asked to start wearing underwear.

(Unfortunately, he's covering it in the picture above.)

So that’s why I love the colon (and Jon Hamm) so much. 

What’s your favorite punctuation mark?