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16 October 2015

Commas Confuse Me | Confessions Of A Grammatically Challenged Blogger

Thank you Graphic Fairy for the image.

I have a confession to make. Commas confuse me, prepositions terrify me and don’t even get me started on this whole “to whom” nonsense.* I’m one of those people that hates being told what to do. Bossy people really annoy me with their recriminations**. They’re even more obnoxious when they’re pointing out all of your grammatical faux-pas*** and shortcomings. “Naughty girl! You forgot a comma in that last sentence!”  “Tsk, tsk, someone forgot their apostrophe! You should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t look at me with those pouty eyes. You should know better.”  “Grammar will bring order into your life. Goodness knows, you could use a little order in your life. Just have a look at the state of your room, young lady.”

Normally, when someone tries to boss me around, I do one of two things: (1) ignore them or (2) do something passive-aggressive like agree to do what they want, but then hack into their computer and delete all the commas, periods, quotation marks and semi-colons from every single one of their Word documents. If they really bug me, then I might even remove all of the comma, period, quotation mark and semi-colon keys from their keyboard. That will teach them. I can only imagine the agony they’ll face when they realize that they can’t add punctuation to their letter to the New York Times deploring the state of written English in modern times. 

When I was in school, I got with the program and dutifully proofread all of my term papers, adding in useless commas as needed. Sometimes, resistance is futile and when the difference between a failing grade and a passing grade is the correct use of punctuation, well then, I play ball. Of course, there's all those secret passive-aggressive things I might quietly do to prove my point to my teachers. “Oops, the erasers disappeared again? How in the world did that ever happen?"

But, here’s the thing. Now, I’m a blog writer and, as far as I know, no one**** is handing out any grades as to the quality of my blog content and adherence to grammatical rules. So, why should I be bothered with all that grammatical mumbo-jumbo? It’s pretty simple – paranoia coupled with a healthy dose of insecurity. Half the time, I just write a blog post, do the most cursory of proof-reading and hit the publish button, grammar be damned. But, then there are the days when I agonize over commas, prepositions and other beastly grammar gremlins because I’m paranoid that someone is going to point out my grammatical errors. I imagine all of my blog readers are of the polite persuasion, so they’re more likely to point out my grammatical errors to their family, friends and cats, rather than sending me an email about it, but they’re pointing them out in any event. That’s when the insecurity sets in. “I’M A TERRIBLE WRITER! WHAT AM I DOING WRITING THIS BLOG?! I REALLY SHOULD CHUCK IN THIS WRITING NONSENSE AND FIX THE JOKER VALVE IN THE TOILET INSTEAD!!”*****

My mom thinks I should write a book. Moms are sweet that way - they think you're the most talented person on the planet. Even more talented than your sister. {This is a test to see if my sister reads this blog post.} Can you imagine me trying to write a book? I would get stuck at the very first sentence. Of course, I could just stick with writing very short sentences that require little in the way of punctuation. “Jane ate cake. Jane ate cookies. Jane ate pie. Jane ate chocolate bars. Jane got sick.”  Reads like a bestseller to me. 

Oh well, I guess I’ll stick with this blogging stuff after all. I really can't think of a better way to procrastinate my to do list. But, can I ask one favor? When you see grammatical errors and you want to point them out to your cat, can you at least say something like, “Poor thing. Yes, she used 'to whom' incorrectly in that last sentence, but she means well. Not everybody can be as smart as you, Mr Cuddlepants.”
 
For those of you who blog, write books or do other creative pursuits, what are you paranoid and insecure about?

Random Notes
  
*Some of the funniest grammar advice ever can be found on The Oatmeal, including this explanation of who vs. whom.  
**I used the word "recrimination" here because it's a fancy-pants kind of word. I figure that when you use fancy-pants words, it helps detract from the grammar involved.
***What is the plural of “faux-pas” by the way? It seems weird to write “faux-pass”, because that sounds like some sort of fake pass as opposed to heaps of mistakes. There should be a law banning the use of foreign words in the English language. Oh, wait, we already tried that with that “freedom fries” thing. Did we all agree that it was now “freedom toast” too, as opposed to French toast?
****By the way, I spent five minutes Googling the use of “no one” in that sentence up there. Should I have used “noone” instead? Or, should I have used “no-one”? It was a tense five minutes on the internet. Seriously, surfing the internet should be fun, not make you want to break out the dark chocolate and red wine. The Grammarist was of no help. But, I did learn that if you live in a different country, there are different rules. Just what we need. More rules. After five minutes of Googling, I didn’t find a clear answer, so I’m going with my gut – no one. As in, “No one likes a Grammar Nazi.”
*****I hate the marine toilet on our boat. Stupid toilet. If I ever win the lottery, the first thing I’m going to do is get a composting toilet. If cats can use a litter box, no reason we can’t either. The second thing I’m going to do is hire a professional proofreader. 

Random Grammar Jokes

  • What do you say when you're comforting a Grammar Nazi? They're, their, there.
  • What's another name for Santa's elves? Subordinate clauses. 
  • The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

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25 comments:

  1. I figured commas were to take a breath. Good post..

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    1. That's what other folks have told me, but then I never know if I'm breathing too quickly and am putting in way too many commas or if I'm breathing too slowly and not putting in enough. Commas are tricky that way :-)

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  2. I think you write very well. I also know that there are different styles of writing and what one writer finds correct another one won't. Just do what you want and please don't come over here and remove all my commas and other things I need to punctuate my pitiful writing.

    Have a grammertastic day my friend. ☺

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    1. Aww...thanks Sandee! Not to worry - I would never remove any keys from your keyboard. Otherwise, that might interfere with your weekly Awww posts and what would I do without my weekly does of cute critters :-)

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  3. Oh, you are hitting home once more! Here it is: I am a homophone nazi. That's right. It is my secret judgement-filled character flaw. I inherited it from my mother, who was an English teacher in my youth. I get really knicker-twisted when I think people have not paid proper attention in third grade (do they still teach homophones in third grade?) and they, at an advanced age, do not understand the difference between "their, they're, and there". Confusing "two, too, and to" also ticks me off. Then "it's and its" comes along and I just about can't stand up anymore due to hyperventilation. When people resort to "birth" rather than "berth" when describing a bed on a boat, I cringe. When they refer to the 'wenches' on their sailboat, I have to wonder what kind of party they are having. I have to literally walk away from the computer lest I post a sarcastic comment 'educating' them on the proper use of language. And while I'm at it, can I please put in writing how irritating it is when people write 'defiantly' instead of 'definitely'? I mean, these two words are not even homophones! Do they not understand that these are two completely different words that have totally different meanings? If they type "I defiantly do not want to buy a big boat.", should they not be putting an exclamation point at the end of that sentence since the implication is that they are saying this with hands on hips and an aggressive posture? Whew! Thanks for the opportunity to get this off my chest. You can see why I have not written a post about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. People would seriously hate me. I hope I didn't miss any commas.

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    1. I know some people you would get along famously with! I might even be related to them :-) They always talk about carrying around sharpie markers and "correcting" signs which have grammatical mistakes or misspellings.

      One of their favorite books is Anne Fadiman's "Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader" in which she talks about the joy she gets from proofreading. You might like it. Another interesting grammar book is "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss. Not to be confused with "Eats Shoots and Leaves." The former invokes the image of a guy going into a diner, having pancakes and bacon, then shooting the waitress and leaving. The latter invokes the image of cute panda bears eating the shoots and leaves from bamboo plants. I guess commas are important after all. It's a fun book, even for people like me who deplore grammar.

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    2. Yes, I could probably get along famously with your relatives and I'll bring my mother, too. After all, I learned this at her knee. On the other hand, I have two adult kids who can write a complete sentence. One of them currently makes her living as a writer. I call that a win. I own Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Enough said.

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  4. I have a Facebook friend who doesn't understand apostrophe usage, so he put's them everywhere there's a word that end's in '"s". Drive's me crazy! But I would never try to correct him. It would not end well.

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    1. Apostrophes are commas' evil cousins! Hopefully I used the apostrophe correctly in that sentence. They can be tricky little devils to know when to use and not to use.

      You're a very good man not to correct your FB friend. However, you could sneak in the middle of the night and remove the apostrophe key from his computer keyboard. That would solve the problem :-)

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  5. MARSHA, MARSHA, MARSHA!!! Of course I read your blog, just not the boring boat stuff.

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    1. It s.b. MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA...realize now that spelling, grammar & punctuation SO important!

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    2. Peter - "If mom and dad sell the house, we'll have to move."
      Bobby - "Go to a new school."
      Jan - "Make new friends."
      Marcia - "But Jan, you don't have any friends."

      Poor Jan. You can see why no one like Marcia.

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    3. That should say "why no one likes Marcia" - that was totally a typo and not the fact that I don't understand noun-verb agreement. At least that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

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  6. Ellen, I almost quit blogging a year ago when a neighbor complimented me on my grammar. You've read my blog, my grammar is NOT exactly compliment worthy! It made me feel so self conscious that I didn't want to write anymore. I didn't like the feeling of being judged. Then I remembered that I had promised myself, when I first started the blog, that I would not get caught up in the grammar policing and proof-reading. My blog is a place to capture my memories and moods. It was something I created for me first. If I overthink it too much, it won't do that. I mean, I try to make it comprehendable but it's more important that I catch the memory than the good grade. On the flip side, I read blogs for how they make me feel, or to know how others feel. Missing or extraneous commas make little difference to me as long as I can follow along. So, commas be damned; please keep up the writing (which, by the way, I've always thought was excellent).

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    1. Great advice and food for thought - thank you! By the way, I've never noticed anything wrong with your writing! But, who would notice any anyways with all those adorable pictures of Kai :-)

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  7. When everyone is out to get you, paranoia is just smart thinking, you know? And my paranoia stems from the fact that I sail / live in French and write in English, and I often don't have a clue about technical sailing terms in English, which makes me feel like a moron. And it's "des faux-pas". See? No problem with those French ones !

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    1. I would be proud that you know sailing terms in French - that's so cool! When you talk about grinding, it must sound so much sexier in French :-)

      Do you know how faux-pas is pluralized in English? I think it probably is spelled the same, but for some reason I pronounce it differently in English - faux-pas singular as in the French pronunciation, but with more of a "s" sound for when it is plural in English. I think in French, you still don't pronounce the "s" even when plural?

      Anyway, a toute a l'heure :-)

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    2. According to Faux pas - Grammarist: The plural form is spelled the same, but while the singular faux pas is pronounced foh-PAH, the plural faux pas is pronounced foh-PAHZ.

      grammarist.com/usage/faux-pas/

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  8. Confession: on Facebook if someone corrects my grammar or spelling, I usually de-friend them. I don't need people like that in my life LOL

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    1. That's hysterical! Those are the friends you don't need ;-)

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  9. This post is hilarious! I share your same feelings and self-doubts. I also write posts in the same way...write, scan for typos hit publish. Then I worry that the only comments will be those pointing out errors. Thankfully that hasn't happened (yet) but I did have a follower send me a link to someone else's (< not sure if that's a word, spell check hates when I use it)blog post as an example of how I should write mine from now on. O_o

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    1. Thanks Lynn! It's always good to have comrades when it comes to self-doubt.

      I can't believe someone suggested how you should write your blog posts. I think for that one, simply removing keys from their keyboard wouldn't be enough. I would suggest removing their computer all together. And, while you're at it, grab their cappuccino maker too. Then leave a jar of instant coffee with a note suggesting that this is how they should make coffee from now on ;-)

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  10. Wow this hit a cord. I would like to see you write an update with. U/you, R/are,W/why, how many more can you think of...lol this will drive some people crazy.

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