Remedial Grammar School is Driving Me Insane
My ailing grammar and editing
It has come to my attention that I have become rather sloppy with grammar, spelling, punctuation, and taking the necessary time to edit thoroughly. You know, it is so easy to let your guard down on Hubpages. They do not seem to have as strict of guidelines as many other online media venues do. Having said that, there is no excuse for my being sloppy or careless. Besides, Hubpages has been good to me. But you know, even the great writer and poet Carl Sandburg was not impervious to an occasional grammar faux pas. Listen to what he had to say:
I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life, and as soon as I done it, I seen it."— Carl Sandburg - Poet
Assault of the grammar Nazis
The other day I applied for a writing job at another online media outlet. When I applied they had me take a 20 question quiz on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Following that I had to submit a 100 word paragraph on a product to promote. They gave me the product key words, and a few rules to use while writing. So the product they gave me was...are your ready? BLACK CUPBOARD KNOBS. No kidding. They even provided a picture of a boring little black knob. But I actually tip my hat to them for giving applicants this kind of challenge. I tell you, if you can make black cupboard knobs sound like the best thing since Santa came at Christmas, you can convince anyone of anything. More importantly, you will know you have writing skills to work with.
And get this, on the quiz I got 16 out of 20 right. However, combined with my sample paragraph, I didn't pass. It seems the problem was grammar and possibly sentence structure. I will say this, the sample writing exercise was a ten-pointer on the challenge richter scale. I spent 35 minutes perusing black cupboard knob websites (they really do have them) to get information on various kinds. Then I sat at my computer for an hour, head on my hands, elbows on my desk, eyes squinched tight, and tongue lolling to the side, racking my brain to find a creative and fun way to promote black cupboard knobs.
After I received the bad news that I did not pass, I realized that this media outlet has an extensive staff of grammar Nazi's. I could just imagine them in their little cubicles, giant red pencils in hand, tearing into my hard work, breaking their pencils with a heavy handedness unprecedented in online media history.
In my distress I turned to the only one who could offer me advice in such a matter. Yup, that's right, Charlie Brown. His advice was good, really good.
So I was then willing to concede that I was in great need of some remedial education in all things English. I hit pay dirt when I found a website offering a free online grammar course. Before I got started, though, I thought perhaps I ought to search google for a glossary of grammar terms. This is what I found:
Adjective - a word that describes.
Nouns - a person, place, or thing.
Verb - an action word.
Got it. I blew into my hands and rubbed them together with zeal . Bring it on, baby, I am on a roll. I went on to look at pronouns. Gulp! My roll came to an abrupt halt. You would not believe the avalanche of grammar lingo I came up against.
Dog food grammar
Rocky Smeels Manely on his rendevoos
Pronouns from hell
I said to myself, "Well, maybe this course will explain pronouns more simply." But I have to say, I just did not get it and I still don't. Why did whoever created English grammar make so many different types of pronouns and rules of usage. Get a load of this already:
- Demonstrative pronouns. These demonstrate what a pronoun ignoramus you are.
- Indefinite pronouns: Learning pronouns is an indefinite process.
- Interrogative pronouns. This is where the grammar instructor interrogates you on your pronoun knowledge.
- Negative pronouns: Pronouns can have a very negative effect on your self-esteem.
- Personal pronouns: It gets personal when pronouns start making your life miserable.
- Possessive pronouns. I feel no sense of possessiveness at all toward pronouns.
- Pronouns: "Pro" means "for", so pronouns are nouns you are for.
- Reciprocal pronouns. These little buggers reciprocate your efforts at learning them by causing you to flunk their quizzes.
- Reflexive pronouns. Pronouns make your brain reflex over and over and over...
So I poured over this stuff for an hour or more and took the first grammar quiz. I got one right. In the immortal words of the great Apostle Paul, "Brethren, this should not be." But alas, it be. So I asked myself, "Is it really going to transform my writing if I know the difference between a reflexive pronoun and an interrogative pronoun?" I certainly hoped not!
When a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence."— Thomas W. Higgins
Styles of writing
I have liked the challenge of writing for other online media outlets because they are more stringent on these matters. But man, it can get quite confusing if each one uses a different writing style. You have the Chicago style, the MLA, the APA, the OWL, and would you believe they now have a Yahoo! writing style? I am dead serious. Since when did the yahoo's at Yahoo become experts on writing style? The media company I applied to uses it, so I checked it out. It really is a great writing style.
Some online media publications want you to formally provide citations of sources, and others do not want you to at all, or at least do not require it. As long as you do not plagiarize, that is all they care about. Some want subheadings, some do not care. Some want all words in the title, except articles, to be capitalized, and the subheadings only the first word capitalized. I am telling you, it can drive you batty writing for more than one venue. And with all of my online media writing experience, I have made enough money to keep me going for, say a week. The place I applied to actually pays a flat price for each 100 or 250 word article. Fortunately, I can try again anytime, but I wanted to go into grammar education armed for battle before I applied again.
My Grammer instructor
Kelsey Grammer Grammar School, or is that Kelsey Grammar Grammer School?
Because of all this stress, my online instructor referred me to the Kelsey Grammer Residental Remedial Grammer Institute for the Grammatically Challenged, located at Gramercy Park in New York city.
So I have applied and obtained a grant which funds books and other class materials, free room and board, and all food expenses. What a deal, right? I have never been happier in my life. I am going to learn to write properly so I can make the big bucks in the future. The grant people say I must also participate in a 12-step grammar program for added security. That is okay by me. Now I need to conclude this article so I can get started on my first class, Institutional Remedial Grammar 101. My instructor is Mr. Kelsey Grammer (or is it Grammar) himself. I never thought I would see the day when I would meet a Hollywood star, let alone have one teach me anything useful.
Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs."— Jack Lynch
Remember to take it...
The 12 Steps of Grammatical Recovery
If you are struggling to overcome bad grammar, and are not getting it, you may need outside help. Try this 12-steps to grammatical recovery program. It really works, I promise.
- Admitted we were powerless over grammatical errors, and our editors had become unmanageable.
- Came to see that a grammar tutor greater than ourselves could restore us to perfect English.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our grammar over to the care of a Grammar Nazi, even though we didn't understand him.
- Made a careless and abnormal inventory of our sentence structure.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another grammar flunky, the exact nature of our word usage.
- Were entirely ready to have the grammar fairy remove all our grammatical defects.
- Humbly asked her to remove our ineptitude.
- Made a list of all the editors we had harmed, and became willing to make corrections to them all.
- Made direct corrections to such editors wherever possible, except when to do so would get us or them fired.
- Continued to take remedial grammar quizzes, and when wrong, promptly corrected them.
- Sought through prayer and recitation to improve our conscious contact with grammar instructors, as we try to understand them, praying only for the knowledge of proper use of pronouns, and the ability to use them correctly.
- Having had a grammatical awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other grammar flunky's, and to practice our pronouns in all our affairs.
Serenity Grammar Prayer
Grant me the serenity
to accept the grammar I cannot understand,
to change the grammar I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
© 2012 Lori Colbo. All rights reserved.
© 2012 Lori Colbo