Tag Archives: grammar

Important Stuff Happening Here!

Installation Marketing - Lowe's

Hey! Guess What I’m Doing Inside.

As I was leaving my house yesterday to go pick up my daughters from school, I noticed a sign reminiscent of the political signs that had been so ubiquitous in my town for the past month or so. This one was in my neighbor’s yard, stuck in the median grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. Although I wanted a picture of it for this blog, I was in a bit of a hurry to get my oldest and had to continue on. I was pleased to find, upon returning to drop her off, it was still there. I got out of my vehicle for a moment and snapped this picture before going after my younger one.

Right after I saw it, though, I found myself wondering if there was a way I could do something like this. My first thought was I should have a big sign I can raise on my roof that says things like “Rick writing here!”, “Rick editing text in progress”, “Rick proofreading a blog post right now”. Now that I think of it, I doubt that’s a very good idea. Actually, the city would likely frown on it and I’d soon find myself at odds with the very people I wish to work more closely with. There’s likely an ordinance prohibiting it. Scratch that.

So, how about this? In keeping with my theme of being a Senior Inspector of the U.S. Grammar Police, I’m thinking when I go to someone’s house or office I should put up some yellow plastic tape that reads “Possible Literary Crime Scene. Do Not Cross!” How’s that sound? Any better ideas?


To Correct and Preserve

I'm an Engineer

Ahm also illitaret.

Being a member of the Grammar Police is not a pleasant thing at times. It can often be a curse, as it makes reading for pleasure  distracting and, sometimes, painful. I’m finding it also makes it difficult to write for this blog regularly because I’m too freaking anal about mistakes and how I say things. I’m seriously working on not caring . . . well, not NOT caring but not being paralyzed by caring . . . if you get my drift.

When I was working for Rocketdyne I wrote a blog post in response to the reality that many people who had a lot to share with their colleagues didn’t step up to the plate precisely because they were afraid doing so would expose them to ridicule or, at the very least, make them look less competent than they actually were. The fear was somewhat real because Engineers are notoriously lacking in overall English and grammar skills, as evidenced by the numerous t-shirts and coffee mugs available with the slogan you see here. However, my experience is blogging doesn’t require the same kind of attention to detail designing an auto, a microwave, or a rocket engine does. Unless, of course, you hold yourself out as a member of the Grammar Police.

Therein lies the rub. I do hold myself out as such and, in fact, am herein sharing a new business card I created to advertise and promote my services. The first iteration of it brought me a small amount of embarrassment because I used “ghost writing” instead of “ghostwriting”, the latter of which is correct. Careful research seems to show it’s correct to use either “Ghostwriter” or “Ghost Writer“, but “ghostwriting” is the only correct usage.  A friend of mine shared the graphic of my card and one of her friends immediately called me out on it. I thanked him profusely for his unwitting collaboration and immediately changed the spelling, after which another person suggested some design changes that made sense as well, so I once again edited the graphic.

I’m pleased with the results and want it known I do not hold myself out as beyond error or reproach. Most people are painfully aware their own writing generally contains errors they are virtually incapable of spotting because of their proximity to the subject of the text. I am no different, though I am pretty damn meticulous in reviewing nearly everything I write – including chat messages. Yes, I am a wee tad obsessive, but therein lies my strength.

I recently was required to read a novel; one which I will likely soon talk about at some length on these pages. In doing so, I asked the author if it was OK for me to make note of any errors I came across. I received the go-ahead and, although it had been read by quite a few others, I nevertheless came across a couple dozen small (but frequently distracting) mistakes. I even discovered a rather glaring error in continuity, which the author was glad to have me point out.

I am currently working with several authors and on several projects. I am looking for more business. If you or someone you know could use a little help polishing up their novel, blog post (one that requires a modicum of professionalism, that is), or even some simple promotional or marketing text, please consider running it by my discerning eye. I believe I can help more than you might imagine. BTW – Here’s the card I ended up designing and may even print out some day. If you spot an error somewhere, feel free to admonish me. I can take it.

Grammar Police Biz Card

One day the shield will read “To Correct and Preserve”


Acronyms and the Indefinite Article

Raw Material for Acronyms

Acronym Raw Materials

A Trivial Pursuit

If you work in a large organization, chances are you’re familiar with a reasonably large number of acronyms. At the aerospace company for which I once labored there were hundreds upon hundreds; so many we required a company-specific dictionary to understand what they were. There were certain acronyms for which most people hadn’t the faintest idea what they actually stood for. They just became the names people used for the component or report the acronym designated.

There’s a question I often wrestled with – and argued over with others – regarding the proper use of the indefinite article when writing contains one or more of these acronyms. For the grammar police (of which I am a proud member), this isn’t a trivial question. It goes like this. For an acronym, when spoken (or sub-vocalized) with a vowel sound at its beginning, but for which the full pronunciation of the term begins with a consonant sound, which is more correct? “A” or “an”?

For instance, the acronym LOL stands for “laugh out loud”. When saying the acronym itself it begins with the vowel sound “eh”. However, when saying the entire phrase it begins with the consonant sound “l”. From my POV (which, btw, is an acronym that begins with a consonant sound regardless of which way it’s spoken), I have always used the indefinite article “an” if it begins with a vowel sound.

This may seem trivial, especially with an acronym like LOL. However, one of the most widely used terms at my former place of business was SSME, which stands for Space Shuttle Main Engine. It was used a lot and when I used the acronym I would always use it as “an SSME”. However, because when the entire name of the product was used it began with the consonant sound “S”, some people would use “a SSME”. Of course, if you were to see the acronym, but read it as the entire phrase, this would make sense. However, my experience was the opposite; almost everybody used the four letters. Hence, I thought it appropriate to write “an SSME”.

Mystery Solved

As I said, this will be to many a very trivial issue. Nevertheless, inasmuch as the correct use of language is important to many (including moi), I was reminded of this distinction last night when commenting on a Facebook post by a friend. As I was writing today’s post, I was preparing to say I’ve not seen a rule that specifically addresses this issue, but I paused and did a quick Google search. Much to my surprise, and with not a little satisfaction, I found it addressed at Purdue’sOnline Writing Lab” (OWL). Here’s the specific rule.

So . . . if you have occasion to use acronyms which start with a vowel sound, whereas the item for which the acronym is a replacement starts with a consonant sound, the rule is to use the indefinite article “an”, as opposed to “a”.

I believe World Peace is just around the corner!


A Few Wordz on Spelng, Grammar, and Punctuation.

In the course of an interesting conversation precipitated by a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter (is that from the Department of Redundancy Department?), I was asked to share a blog I posted on a site within the firewall where I work. Since the subject of that blog has absolutely nothing to do specifically with the business I’m in, I have no problem doing that. Please understand, though, I was writing in response to an issue I had heard raised numerous times at work and I was specifically trying to address that issue.

Nevertheless, the issue probably exists to some extent outside our particular firewall. In fact, since the blog post that precipitated the conversation I’m referring to was making a point far more generally applicable than the subject of my blog, I feel compelled to point it out as well. It’s from ProNagger.comConverting Procrastination Into Action, and the specific post is located here. What follows now is my post from work, the title of which is identical to that of this post:

I have heard that some people are a bit reluctant to use AskMe because they know whatever they write will “live on” for a long period of time and they don’t want to take a chance of looking foolish for years to come. I can understand that, especially when it comes to taking a position with respect to a technical issue that may not have a crystal clear answer. I can also understand the reluctance when it comes to spelling, grammar, etc.

So let me point something out that I’ve learned over the last couple of years. First of all, while spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all very important (and few people are quite the stickler I am for their correctness), when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas, I think they’re a bit overrated. This has been driven home to me especially when using Windows Messenger, which I do quite a bit. I have finally reached the point where I don’t bother using capital letters and I only use punctuation when absolutely necessary to be clear.

I also use Twitter, which only allows for the use of 140 characters in any act of publishing. So, sometimes I take a lot of liberties with spelling in order to pack as much meaning into a short communication. So, the point I’m making here is . . . I hope you won’t let the possibility you will post questions, answers, etc. on AskMe with mistakes in them stop you from contributing. It really isn’t that big a deal – especially when balanced against the substantial need to increase our ability to share our knowledge and learn from each other.

This post generated quite a few comments, most expressing relief to have this pointed out to them. One of them, from a colleague I know well who blogs a fair amount internally, merely pointed out his discovery that the original author of the post can edit it, but those who comment could not. I felt compelled to respond and here is what I said:

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.

I have a confession to make. Though I changed nothing in the blog as it appears at work, I did make a couple of changes here where I discovered errors in my original post. Please forgive me. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, I have a tendency to be a member of the Grammar and Spelling Police . . . I have to follow my bliss!

Rick

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.


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