Thursday, September 24, 2009


Dear friends,
Today is a very special day for grammar snobs everywhere.
I was doing some research on my beloved Oxford comma when I stumbled across what could possibly be the best holiday ever created.
National Punctuation Day!
I know, I know, hold onto your hat though – things only get better.
National Punctuation Day (NPD) is September 24th…which is today (as I’m writing this) and yesterday (as you’re probably reading this).
So, instead of our normal grammar lesson (don’t worry – you’ll get to learn all about the Oxford comma next week), I would like to share with you some information about National Punctuation Day.
Its official Web site ( calls the holiday a “celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”
Founder Jeff Rubin, also known as Punctuation Man, worked as a reporter before creating a program to teach or review punctuation for elementary school students.
September 24, 2009 was the sixth annual NPD, and, this year, Punctuation Man is hosting an NPD Baking Contest. Photographs of all entries will be posted on the NPD website, so if you’re interested in have a comma cake for your next birthday, check the website soon for some awesome, punctuation inspiration!
For more information on National Punctuation Day, punctuation lessons, and pictures of punctuation mishaps, check out Jeff Rubin’s Web site:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Advertising, these days, just really grinds my gears.

Oh, sure, I “get” being creative to attract attention. A creative license, however, does not give you the right to ignore English.
In fact, that “creative license” can really do a lot to screw up the next generation’s ability to use their native language.
In my hometown (and probably a lot of other towns across this great state), we have a gas station called The Kwik Stop.
Unfortunately, this is not a name change by the business to be hip and cool and use textspeak.
This place has been around a long time, much longer than the concept of the text message.
A second example, also from my hometown, is a now-closed car dealership’s “SALEABRATION.”
That’s right. It’s a “celebration of sales.”
The banner they proudly displayed with this exclamation must not have done any good; the dealership is now closed.
The best sign I’ve ever seen, though, is right here in Terre Haute.
“Worship is a verb.”
Of course it is. Just not in this sentence. Unfortunately for the creator behind this, “worship” is actually functioning as a noun.
This sign, however, is harmless. While amusing to an English major, this interesting fact is not going to “ruin” anyone for life.
It actually brings up one of the reasons it is so difficult to grasp the English language: words aren’t always what they (or you) think they are. But that itself is an entire other lesson.
Another, more damaging example?
I understand; it’s catchy – cellular becomes cingular. No harm done, right?
During Cingular’s reign as the best cell phone company around, at least half of my mom’s then-second-grade students misspelled the original “singular” on a spelling test.
Even Geico’s overdone cavemen commercials are more creative than intentionally misspelled/misused words.
This is not so much a lesson as it is a call for attention. These “creative liberties” are all around us, but it’s not doing us any good.
So take notice – and just say no to companies like “Muzik and Memories.”
Trust me; the world will thank us later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apostrophes are your friend; don't abuse your friend

It’s high time that we learn to embrace the apostrophe (as well as a lot of other abused and neglected punctuation marks), my dear friend.

Every piece of punctuation is important, but today I’m here to fight for the apostrophe, one of the most misunderstood marks of punctuation.

Our apostrophe problems exist for a number of reasons, the first being a miniature communication lifeline called the cell phone. The problem itself is not the technology, but simply the fact that text messaging severely limits the amount of space we have to express ourselves. Punctuation, like the apostrophe, and even letters are often omitted because of spacing issues, not just to annoy grammar sticklers like me.

Second, we don’t read enough. Society in general places little to no significance on books. Sit down and read? Psh! Why would I do that when I could play this video game instead? Don’t get me wrong, I love “The Sims” as much as the next Sim-obsessed person you come across, but video games don’t really make us any smarter. And don’t even get me started on the brain-numbing qualities of television (especially reality TV).

And third and finally, a lot of books break the grammar rules we know and love. I’m all for rebelling against authority, but, Cormac McCartthy, you have gone too far. Just because I understand what “dont” means, does not mean I am OK with you banishing virtually all apostrophes from your book. McCarthy writes with a theory of “necessary” punctuation, omitting anything you don’t absolutely have to have to understand the sentence. In short, if you’d like an example on how NOT to write your next English paper, please read “The Road.”

But, I digress. I am not here to merely point out your flaws, but to help you fix them, as well.

There are two uses for the apostrophe:

1. Showing possession

2. Saving spots for missing letters

That’s it, people.

Apostrophes do not – I repeat, DO NOT – make words plural. Ever. I don’t care what obscure or outdated rule you think you know.

Correct: It’s raining outside.

Here, “It’s” equals “It is,” and the apostrophe is saving a spot for “i” in “is.”

Also correct: Miss Martin’s blog is totally awesome!

It’s my blog, hence the apostrophe, showing that I own it. (OK, OK, so really the Statesman owns it, but… whatever.)

Not correct: Zucchini’s, squash and tomatoes

Really? Zucchini’s what? I wasn’t even aware that vegetables could own anything! And, if you’re wondering, I really did see this on a sign for homegrown veggies. Amazingly, they got the other two right.

Also not correct: The 80’s called, they want their big hair and legwarmers back.

OK, OK. I love ’80s fashion as much as the next trendsetting, leg-warmer-wearing girl, but the real problem here is the apostrophe in “80’s.” It implies that the era owns something, and, yeah, it doesn’t. Two correct options? “’80s” or “1980s”