Wednesday, November 7, 2007

These Apples 2 - The Reckoning

"Sometimes I stammer / or mix up my grammar / you get what my meanings are"

Oh, my darlings. I wish I didn't have to do this, but you've left me no choice. You are still abusing the written English language. I mean, just punishing it. I'm calling out your newest sins right now. This will hurt me more than it will hurt you, mostly because you choose to ignore me. It's okay, though. I plan to be a mother someday and I should get used to obstinate disobedience.

So! *ehem* If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times!:
  • When you give someone peace of mind, it's a good thing. When you give someone a piece of your mind, it's not such a good thing. In fact, when you give someone a piece of your mind, you are quite literally disturbing the peace of that person's mind. So be careful with that.

  • One must not try and do something; one must try to do something. Unless, of course, you mean that you will do two things: (1) try some unnamed activity and (2) get that PDF proof to me on the frickin' deadline like you promised, you jerk! *cough* Moving on...

  • If you must use they as a gender-neutral pronoun, use the plural antecedent. Awkward: "Before the player engages the Space Pig Boss in combat, they should equip their assault rifle with face-melting ammo rounds." Better: "Players should equip their assault rifles with face-melting ammo rounds before fighting the Space Pig Boss." We struggle with this a lot when we write our game manuals and tutorials; we can't assume that only boys play videogames. And we definitely don't need angry gamer grrls calling our shit out. We have enough issues.

  • To quote my boys Strunk and White: "A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses. Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate." The trickiest species of dash is the em dash, which--trust me on this one--should only be used by professionals. Do not use a dash where a comma will do. You'll put someone's eye out.

  • There are many commonly-used words and phrases that simply create unnecessary padding. If these were food items, they would be empty calories that just give you gas. You don't want that, do you? Then at least stop using:

    • "In terms of" - Bloated: "That skirt was hideous in terms of the lacy, irregular hem." Better: "The lacy, irregular hem made that skirt hideous."

    • "Due to the fact that" - Bloated: "Due to the fact that she was an hour late, Jane missed out on the crantinis." Better: "Because she was an hour late, Jane missed out on the crantinis." Best: "Jane was an hour late, so she missed out on the crantinis."

    • "S/he is a wo/man who" - Bloated: "She is a woman who takes pride in her impeccable taste in clothing." Better: "She prides herself on her impeccable taste in clothing."

    • "The reason why is that" - Bloated: "Lori should get a flu shot this year. The reason why is that she is in a high-risk group for getting sick." Better: "Lori should get a flu shot this year because she has a higher risk of getting sick."

I imagine that in 20 years, one of you will write me a heartfelt, grammatically perfect letter saying, "I understand now. I'm so sorry." There will be hugs and tears and "I love you"s, then we will retire to the veranda for almond tea and all will be well.

"These Apples" by Barenaked Ladies
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