In my family and circle of friends, I’m known as the “grammar Nazi.” It takes me 10 minutes to compose a short text, free of abbreviations, spelling errors, punctuation and grammar flaws, and no lol or Idk. Those who respond to my perfect texts with a “K” make me furious.
With such a personality disorder, it follows that I’d be a fan of National Punctuation Day, celebrated on Sept. 24. Founded in 2004 by former newspaperman Jeff Rubin, the 10th annual celebration continues to remind Americans that “a comma is not a state of being” and ventures to ask in 2013, “Has National Punctuation Day made a difference?”
Is there hope for proper punctuation, good grammar, and intelligent, incisive writing among young people and older people who should know better? NPD was founded on hope — if only for one day yearly — that the importance of correct punctuation would be brought to the forefront of people’s minds.
Now, on the 10th NPD, has anything changed? That’s the subject of this year’s NPD contest. In an essay of no more than 250 words, relate how National Punctuation Day has affected the way you think about punctuation and good grammar. Send essays to Jeff Rubin at the NPD website by Oct. 31. Contest winners will be announced in December.
Well, anyway, back to JEFF Rubin. I put his first name in all capitals because in an article a few years ago, I called him Peter for some strange reason. He let me know of my error in a flawless and gracious email message which also thanked me for caring about grammar and punctuation.
Rubin says that deteriorating communication skills are evident in magazines, books, retail store signs, and even in newspapers. With our local newspapers going all Facebook on us, vicious posters online have had a field day criticizing the grammar, punctuation, and subject matter in the columns of certain reporters.
Rubin’s complaints are the same ones I battled for years as an English teacher. It makes me crazy to see a simple plural formed with an apostrophe. It’s “several apples,” NOT “several apple’s.” I’m also annoyed by people using more than one exclamation point, as if everything they say is truly exciting. It doesn’t take a genius to remember that “it’s” is a contraction, and “its” means “belonging to it.” Also, it’s “one week’s pay” and “two weeks’ pay.” And a “perfect circle” is redundant.
I tell my dog to “lie down” and never “lay down” because “lie” is an intransitive verb while “lay” is a transitive verb requiring a direct object. “LAY that pistol down, Babe; LAY that pistol down. Pistol-packing Mama, LAY that pistol down.”
And for those folks who just won’t use the possessive case in front of a gerund or use the objective case for indirect and direct objects, please write “I appreciate YOUR remembering Ted and ME with such a lovely wedding gift.” It’s not “I appreciate you remembering Ted and I … ”
Telephone grammar demands, “This is she,” or “Speaking.” Do not say, “This is her” or “This is him.” Remember, too, that it’s correct to say, “It is I” and not “It’s me.” Unfortunately, using the nominative case (I) will make you sound pompous, so you may prefer to answer, “Guess who.”
There’s = There is. They’re = They are. Their = belonging to them.
Please discriminate among (not between) too, two, and to.
I could go on, but you may have already checked me off as a ranting nut who should worry more about the economy and wars overseas, and less about improper language usage.
However, in case you need a few suggestions on how to celebrate National Punctuation Day, I offer:
· Go to www.NationalPunctuationDay.com and brush up on your language skills.
· Share punctuation peeves and photos of incorrectly punctuated signage with founder Jeff Rubin at Jeff@NationalPunctuationDay.com.
· Circle the errors in your local newspaper with a red marker. If you find any in this column, please let me know in a vicious, online comment.
· Write an error-free letter to a friend on actual stationery with a blue or black pen.
· For English teachers, assign your students to write a paragraph, using all 13 punctuation marks featured on the National Punctuation Day website.
· For the brave and bold, correct punctuation errors on public signage. Move quickly and covertly to avoid an arrest for vandalism.
· Sit quietly and ponder the succinct wisdom in the statement, “A semi-colon is not a surgical procedure.”
· Go to a bookstore and buy a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. (You can’t borrow mine.)
· Punctuate and capitalize the following string of words to form three grammatically correct sentences.
That that is is that that is not is not that that is is that not so.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.