Grammar, Get in Here And Wash Your Hands!

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do for them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

Dorothy Parker

I was once a self-professed grammar nerd. Now, my grammar is not so clean and tidy. What happened? How did I get so lazy?

I suppose I could blame it on social media. Twitter decided we could say all that needed saying in 140 short characters. They tossed punctuation and grammar out the window.

All the fault does not lie there, though. The smartphone helped with the introduction of texting, spellcheck, and emojis. (Did you know there is an emojipedia website and a timeline for the introduction of new emojis?) Why use words when you can say everything with an emoji?

Enter the ‘serial comma’, also known as the ‘Oxford comma’. Since when did grammar become fluid? I am still reeling from the declassification of Pluto as a planet.

I have a copy of The Elements of Style. I rarely refer to it when writing informally. Blogging is informal, so my grammar has followed suit. When I did a search of best books for grammar, The Elements of Style did not always come up in the search results. I was I intrigued by the titles I did see.  Look at this article from Penguin Random House for example:

14 Books for Grammar Nerds

Are any of them in your library?

In school, I loved diagramming sentences. I wonder if I could still diagram a complex sentence. Do English teachers even teach that these days? (Old lady speak.)

I am here to confess my grammar sins.

  1. I often start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’.
  2. My most overused word is ‘that’.
  3. I often end a sentence with a preposition.
  4. I believe in the Oxford comma.
  5. I struggle with punctuation inside or outside a parenthetical phrase.
  6. Sometimes I use one dash instead of two for an Em dash.
  7. I am sure I was taught to capitalize after a semicolon, but I cannot find proof of that.
  8. That old habit of typing two spaces after a period —(remember typing class?) (should that question mark be there?) — was hard to break. How many blatant errors can I stuff in one sentence? Technology advances eliminated the need for those two spaces.

Maybe I will peruse The Elements of Style again as a refresher. In the meantime, feel free to confess your grammar sins in the comments below. Your secret is safe with me. 🤫🤭🤐


Birds, Rip, and the Audacity of 2020

We have an invasion of Pine Siskins. They are a rather gregarious and loud group who travel and feed in flocks. They have been very aggressive at the feeders and are not easily put off. They are not at all friendly and will take over all four bird feeders, chasing off one another as well as the other breeds we normally have. I shot a couple of quick videos to give you a small example.

The second video I shot through the screen so as not to scare off the birds feeding on the ground.

Today’s InkTober prompt is RIP. Now what am I going to do with that? Ripped jeans? Rip Torn? Rip Van Winkle? This might be the toughest prompt for me yet.

And folks, 2020 brings us Webster’s adding the word “irregardless” to the dictionary. Just when we thought grammar was safe. Even Jamie Lee Curtis complained on Twitter. If you love grammar, you might enjoy this article.

Enjoy your Friday before civilization as we know crumbles into oblivion.

SoCS, Writing

SoCS – Start and End with an Adverb

Day 128

Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) offered by Linda G. Hill. If you are interested, the rules and a link will be listed below the post.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “ends with -ly.” Start your post with any adverb that ends in “-ly.” Bonus points if you end with an adverb too. Have fun!

Reluctantly, I am writing using adverbs this morning. You may wonder why I feel reluctant, so the best thing for me to do is to write about adverbs as well. The blame for reluctance falls on the shoulders of Stephen King.

Let’s start with his quote from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

I am not a huge Stephen King fan — his genre is not my thing. I did love his book on writing, however, and a few things stood out to me. The overuse of adverbs was one of them. I remember going through the exercise of rewriting sentences in search of better ways to be descriptive without the use of adverbs. I even went so far as to refresh my knowledge about when it is grammatically correct to begin and end a sentence with an adverb. Our language loves its rules.

As I was looking for the quote above, I noticed a number websites with articles on the pros and cons of Stephen King’s assault on adverbs. It made me chuckle. When I write, I am a bit colloquial in my dialogue, so following stringent ideas about such usage would weigh me down. Of course, I have not yet come face-to-face with an editor righting my wrongs, so I may very well get my attitude handed to me on a platter.

I am not sure how other writers feel about following grammatical rules. Is it the worry of the writer or the editor? My guess is both. As writers, we should have a certain command of the language. I know I still have bad habits. I overuse the word ‘that’, I like to start a sentence with the word ‘and’, and I still struggle with the good old Oxford comma — Grammarly likes it!

I think this stream of consciousness is drying up. It might be a good thing I only do this weekly.

Follow Linda G. Hill’s blog to write along every Saturday.

Here are the rules for SoCS:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!

Blog, Writing

Frightening First Steps

Day 41

I always imagined that by the time I reached my sixties I would no longer be afraid of trying new things. I take jewelry classes and workshops without fear. Art has always been a little easier for me than other things. Yesterday I started to ponder joining a local writers workshop and it has me wondering if I am good enough.

Published Authors

Let’s be honest here. When I see names such as Kurt Vonnegut, Alex Haley and Eudora Welty as prior members, I think I must be crazy for even considering such a thing.

elements of styleOn the other hand, with the caliber of prior members, maybe there would be a huge benefit for me. But I am scared. My command of grammar and punctuation is not what it once was. When I first started as a blog writer for professionals, so much went out the window. It was so hard for me to stop putting two spaces at the end of a sentence. It was a must for alignment of blogs — but has that rule changed?

Is The Elements of Style still the goto handbook? Ugh. A few months ago I signed up for a Sunday night online writers group. I was afraid then, too. I was much relieved when I realized punctuation and grammar were not at all a focus of the group. But writing for publication is a different animal altogether.

What Do I Have to Lose?

The first workshop of interest is this weekend. The subject is writing your memoir. That feels like a comfortable place to start. I do have commitments this weekend, so it might not be possible, but I am excited — and nervous — simply thinking about the possibility.

I think about how much I could learn and spending time with people who write for a living might be a powerful influence. Back in the recesses of my mind, I hear that inner critic laughing and saying, “Who are you trying to kid?”


I am also trying to be cognizant of the impediments to my success with NaNoWriMo this year. November is a crazy month to take on anything new.

Now I sit thinking about the pros and cons of taking this step right now. Maybe the right thing is to pay the annual membership, enter a few of their writing contests (which include critiques) and think about workshops after the first of the year. Then I could finish my NaNoWriMo goal.

Am I a Writer?

I struggle with identifying as a writer. Are there successful authors who started this late in life? Are my arguments logical or fear based? Am I listening to myself or is it that nagging internal critic’s voice I keep hearing?

I feel very much at home when I write. But that does not mean I have the skills to write something for publication. This fear is uncomfortable and maybe conquering the fear should be incentive enough.

(As I write this I remember there is a Grammarly extension for Chrome. Maybe I should install it. Doubts, doubts and more doubts!)

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”
Alan Dean Foster