10 July 2007

Say a Prayer for Grammar Grrrl

I’m teaching a new class — Grammar Geeks and Punctuation Punks (yeah, we be witty and creative at my place o’ biz) — in five very short hours. I developed this class to complement the business writing and technical writing classes I teach, to go in-depth on the fundamentals of writing. I'm rather stressed about today's class. Nightmares all weekend — not the "I'm wearing just underwear to class!" one, but the "I'm drawing a blank in front of the class!" one.

I’m not sure why.

I love talking about grammar and punctuation. I'm the embodiment of the geek/punk (that’s putting it nicely; I’m a grammar bully and a punctuation Nazi, to be honest). I rant and rail to my boss when a poorly written e-mail goes out to the entire organization. I kvetch about fellow communicators who use which instead of that. I mock misused commas and colons. I can recite much of the rules in the Associated Press Stylebook. Yeah, I'm a grammar bitch.

And I love an audience. I enjoy standing in front of a class, feeding off their energy, excitedly explaining prepositions and appositives, making them giggle about subjects and verbs that don’t agree.

But I don’t feel prepared.

What if my pants fall down again? The horror if I call an adjective an adverb, or if I go blank on a grammar rule! Will I confuse them when I get into collective nouns? Do you think they’ll doze off on me?

No wonder my nails are gnarled raggedy and my eyes are circled darkly.

* * * * * *

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51 Comments:

At 7/10/2007 07:32:00 AM, Blogger Marni said...

First!

You are going to totally rock... I have no doubt.

 
At 7/10/2007 07:46:00 AM, Anonymous John said...

Beth: I hope the class goes well - I owe you a couple of chanted mantras, I think.

I'm sure you're gonna be a star, your wardrobe will function perfectly, and any modifiers caught dangling will be swatted with jaw-dropping aplomb.

 
At 7/10/2007 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Dan said...

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you

While combing my hair, now
And wondering what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

 
At 7/10/2007 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Nadine said...

Wow!

I had no idea...

You'll be wonderful, I'm sure.

 
At 7/10/2007 09:43:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Worries? You? There should be no worries, you'll be fine.

 
At 7/10/2007 10:11:00 AM, Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well no wonder I love you - I'm a grammar Nazi too! Actually, I am more of a grammar Nazi wannabe, as I seem to have forgotten many rules over the years. I should be taking your course, and I could keep an eye on your pants for you.

Are you truly seeing the Decemberists this week? I am jealous beyond all belief. If at all possible, give Colin a hug for me.

 
At 7/10/2007 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Artful Dodger said...

Beth, do you teach online classes? I need a refresher course on my synonyms and homonyms, and verbs and consonants. That's so cool that you stress over grammar. I'm sure it pains you to read my blog full of errors. But since I have to be 100% correct grammar with legal work, when I post, I just don't care. But feel free to take a red pen to my work anyday. Just don't give me a sad smiley face stiker, that would hurt. :P Oh and you'll do fine in your presentation. I'm sure of it. At least you don't have to do a presentation entirely in French like I have to next week. Gasp, I might pass out as soon as I get on stage. I'll say a gypsy chant for you to give you that extra boost. ^_^

 
At 7/10/2007 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

The present continous tense should only be used to describe continuous actions which are taking place at that very moment, and should only be used with continuous verbs. Non continuous verbs should never be used with the present continuous tense, one should use the simple present.

Accordingly, Australians and Ronald Macdonald can all be f***ing off with their wanking "I'm thinking it's time for a cup of tea", and "I'm loving it".

Well I am not!

I'm f***ing thinking it's time you learnt to speak English properly you cream* of foreign c**ts.

*'Collective noun' suggested to me by a rather lewd, licentious, lascivious and lecherous c**t. Whom, my sources tell me, has a particularly impressive mastery over the gag reflex. The veritable envy of the late, great Linda Lovelace herself!

VD

 
At 7/10/2007 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

That poster would make a decent book cover if you ever decide to distill the course info into a printed book!

 
At 7/10/2007 11:03:00 AM, Anonymous gifted typist said...

That and which....

The 7th car that has it's lights on is the 7th light-on car in a long line.

The 7th car which has it's lights on is the 7th car that happens to have it's lights on.

Correct? Or is that backwards...

 
At 7/10/2007 11:37:00 AM, Blogger blog Portland said...

I too love playing grammar police, the major downside of which is that people are quick to take a shot at your skills if given the opportunity. Typos are unforgiven, improper sentence structure is mocked to the ends of the Earth.

 
At 7/10/2007 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

I just like playing:
"Strict School Marm disciplines the naughty school boy myself".

 
At 7/10/2007 01:04:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Have a drink before class starts. It loosen you up and calm the nerves. Plus, all the students will think you're cool, because you drink. Maybe you'll even buy them some beer after class.

 
At 7/10/2007 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

You'll be fine. You got grammar which is good.

 
At 7/10/2007 02:11:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

"I can recite much of the rules in the Associated Press Stylebook."

Here, I would've written, "I can recite many of the rules..." OR "...much of the Associated Press Stylebook."

I was WAY off.

 
At 7/10/2007 02:14:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

PS - To "gifted typist"

I have no idea. But, I do know "it's" is a contraction, and "its" is the possessive form.

Just to spare Beth from having to go all "grammar Nazi" on you...

:-)

 
At 7/10/2007 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Bubs said...

I didn't know this about you.

Now I'm too ashamed of my poor grammar and punctuation to comment on your blog.

 
At 7/10/2007 03:00:00 PM, Anonymous john said...

Also to Gifted Typist:

Beth has probably seen enough grammar for today, so...

In your sentences, both 'that' and 'which' are arguably correct. Sometimes, the distinction between a defining and a non-defining relative clause is a fine one.

A picture of the cars would help, so we were clear what exactly was in the line-up and whether rogue dark cars had infiltrated the scene.

Words like 'rogue' and 'infiltrated' are pitiful attempts to spice up grammar.

This may help:

Students who/that use commas correctly pass their punctuation exams.

Students, who use commas correctly, pass their punctuation exams. (Dream on)

But I'm really a shepherd at heart!

 
At 7/10/2007 03:34:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

John and Haahnster - Correct grammar and syntax when practised by those who stubbornly adhere to American Misspelling Coventions is quite humourous.
Innit?

*Stands up adjusts penis and testicles in trousers and runs for cover.*

 
At 7/10/2007 04:46:00 PM, Anonymous john said...

RS: Is 'Coventions' the multi-layered irony spelling?

I couldn't find a spelling error in my post.

And your present continuous explanation is a bit off the mark!

 
At 7/10/2007 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Tenacious S said...

My dad handed out writing guidebooks to his department back when he used to work. He said he was sick of correcting everyone's poorly written reports. Personally, I have to read a lot of therapy notes and I HATE it when someone writes, "Wow! Great therapy session!!!!!" Could we be a little more specific?

 
At 7/10/2007 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I'm pretty sure you'll be on your mark Beth. Notice how I didn't say period?

 
At 7/10/2007 05:42:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

Dear rectally storcuntlian,

Please, do tell exactly which words in either of my previous comments you would've spelled differently. I'm so anxious to know.

I certainly apologise if I've practised anything that doth offend thee.

 
At 7/10/2007 07:01:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

Like I said,
Run for cover!
I am a doctor, I do not know any better.
Just joking guys/gals. Apologies, really. I was told that this blog was rife with a sense of humour. I tried to oblige.
I know how the Yankee has a bit of a problem with the British and the OED. As a Canadian, we have more cause to hate the Limey than you folks south of the 45th do.
Neither of you spelled anything incorrectly, in either 'convention'(irony spelling! Glad someone picked that up).
My 'I'm loving it' dross was arrived at with a significant amount of Academic Convergence from a Style Guide. It was only meant to be funny. I've no idea what I was talking about! But it is funny! Innit?

rectally storcuntlian?
I like that, especially considering that Sterculius was the Roman God of Fertiliser.
Sterculian Rhetoric = Bull Shit

 
At 7/10/2007 07:37:00 PM, Blogger Mountjoy said...

No doubt your class will be a capacity one, as word will have gotten round from last time that you will more than likely be flashing your knickers by mid-way through the session. Therefore, remember to wear something other than black silk underwear, lest everyone thinks they are the same pair from before...

 
At 7/10/2007 07:51:00 PM, Anonymous john said...

RS: My irony comment was also an attempt at humour.

Apology not really needed, but thank you if I was included in it.

 
At 7/10/2007 08:33:00 PM, Blogger Moxie said...

I am sure your class went well, and that your clothes cooperated. (I just rewrote that clause 3 times in order to avoid ending with a preposition.)

I think I break the rules of grammar on a regular basis. Momcat always said, "Once you know the rules of proper grammar, then you're allowed to break them." And yet I don't remember many of the rules! If something doesn't look right to me, then I change it. I was one of those dorks that could never explain why a sentence was wrong, it just felt wrong to me.

 
At 7/10/2007 09:28:00 PM, Blogger jewgirl said...

you are such a riot. I love the passion. so... did you kill or what?

 
At 7/10/2007 09:48:00 PM, Blogger chelene said...

How did it go?? I also like that flyer's potential as a book cover.

Can you send me your class notes? My commas are all over the place. :)

 
At 7/10/2007 10:16:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

Dear r.s.

No need to apologize. Sarcasm begets sarcasm. All fun 'n games from this end...

 
At 7/10/2007 11:13:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

My ex-boss used to refer to herself as the Grammar Gestapo. You can use that. I won't tell.

I'd love to take one of your classes. I think I've got most of this grammar and punctuation nonsense under control but some things still confuse me. Like when I refer to a band, I can never decide if the band should be considered a plural group or a singular entity. So I get all crazy wondering if the sentence should be "Pearl Jam is awesome" or "Pearl Jam are awesome." Don't even say that the sentence is inaccurate either way Miss Funny Pants, because Pearl Jam to me is what R.E.M. is to you.

 
At 7/11/2007 01:42:00 AM, Blogger lulu said...

Beckeye--
Pearl Jam is an awesome band. Correct.
Pearl Jame are awesome musicians. Also correct.

 
At 7/11/2007 07:15:00 AM, Anonymous gifted typist said...

Haanster, I saw that mistake with its/it's, gasped, planned to write a mea culpa and then noticed your correction. thank you.

John, I have actually drawn a picture of lines of cars to figure it out... couldn't work out how to draw such a picture in a blogspot comment box

 
At 7/11/2007 12:17:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

Well alrighty then!
I am in the right place!
I need not throw myself from the Pont Du Garde out of shame and embarrassment.

How's this?:

I have a problem with calling Sept. 11th, 9/11. 9/11 is the 9th of November isn't it? We need to be careful or history could get confused 1000 years from now. The 9/11 thing, that is confusing for British people. They invented English and telling the date long before any Americans started writing it arse about face. It is also the phone number for their emergency services, 911; although why they can’t have 999 like England does is beyond me. Like, if I was dying in a fire and all the firemen were busy playing pool and drinking coffee, I would have to fumble around for my phone, and once I had pressed the nine, I would then have to fiddle about looking for the one instead of just going nine, nine, and then one more nine. I think Americans make life difficult for themselves.

 
At 7/11/2007 02:34:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

"I think Americans make life difficult for themselves."

Amen to that.

I never realized how screwed up our dates were until I started trading (cough)b**tleg(cough) concert CDs. But, it's pretty crazy when people don't all follow a standard convention for writing the date.

2001-09-11 seems logical (descending order: year-month-day), as does 11-09-2001 (ascending order: day-month-year). But our little shell game of 09-11-2001 (month-day-year) certainly has no real basis in logic, other than following our (also screwed-up) method of writing out dates (e.g. September 11, 2001).

I usually just go with something like 11-Sep-2001, as I figure it's just about fool-proof, regardless of with whom I'm trading.

 
At 7/11/2007 02:36:00 PM, Blogger blueblanket said...

Damn Beth! You sure gots yous a whole lotta comments on this here post, there, yah? Must be you hits you a nerve or twos with this 'un. Crimeney on a pickle!

 
At 7/11/2007 02:42:00 PM, Blogger haahnster said...

"Crimeney on a pickle!"

Is that a southern term for female matsurbation?

 
At 7/11/2007 02:54:00 PM, Anonymous john said...

Re: 999 - I'm genetically biased to favour the British system. However, 999 is also so simple that a baby could dial it. Which was amply demonstrated by our two-year old several years ago. He then just tossed the phone aside. Those friendly British bobbies traced the call, arrived within half an hour, and thoroughly searched the place. "Sorry to have troubled you, sir."

On recording day and month, the Brits are also smart enough only to get bombed on user-friendly dates like July 7 - 07/07. Ever the diplomats.

 
At 7/11/2007 03:01:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

I thought was "polishing the pearl"?
Blueblankies grammar and syntax gives me the horn.

 
At 7/11/2007 03:03:00 PM, Blogger Allison said...

I need to take a class in grammer.
Yes, definitely.

Good luck!

 
At 7/11/2007 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

"...only to get bombed on user-friendly dates like July 7..."

Nyuck, nyuck.

That is the British way!
The playing fields of Eton and all.

 
At 7/11/2007 03:31:00 PM, Blogger blueblanket said...

Why thank you RS! I write English goodly!

 
At 7/11/2007 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

I's a charming popinjay, I is.
I'm just about to sit myself down for a spell and drink me some Mint Julips and have me a piece of Pecan Pie.
Care to join me? For the Julips that is, not the pie. I'm not that charming.

 
At 7/11/2007 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

Oh ya, I know of what you speak. If it makes you feel any better, I speak to groups all the time and have drawn blanks from time to time. If it happens just make something up or ask if anyone has any questions about what you've covered so far.

 
At 7/11/2007 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Zed said...

Beth, I've been a college textbook editor for 20+ years, a grammar geek/nerd for just as long, and I used to be able to recite every single rule in Chicago Manual of Style or Words into Type verbatim. There was a time I corrected everyone so much they couldn't finish a sentence in my presence. I was a grammar pain in the butt.

Over time, I became far less uptight about grammar because it took SO MUCH ENERGY. I relaxed. I try to be careful with my own writing, but now, if someone else makes an error and if it's not especially egregious, who cares? I no longer have to correct everybody all the time. Who am I, the Grammar god?

You say "the horror if I call an adjective an adverb, or if I go blank on a grammar rule!" ... Okay, pay close attention here, Beth. I'm about to utter a known truth: Most of the students aren't even listening anyway. They're busy daydreaming about meeting up with friends after school or about the possibility of snagging that cute boy/girl in their next class.

It's okay to stop biting your nails, Beth. And use an under-eye coverup stick for those circles. It's obvious you're going to do the best you can, and after that, $#@!%# it.

P.S. If there are errors in this comment, I don't want to know about it! :)

 
At 7/11/2007 04:51:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

"...or about the possibility of snagging that cute boy/girl in their next class...."

Or her!

 
At 7/11/2007 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Zed said...

So very true. Mea culpa for that omission.

 
At 7/11/2007 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Rhetorically Sterculian said...

I am glad you are 'Zed' and not 'Zee'.
There is hope!

 
At 7/11/2007 08:45:00 PM, Blogger Tumuli said...

Grammar rules.

 
At 7/12/2007 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Johnny Yen said...

Okay, maybe it's the teacher in me, but the one thing that bugs me is when the signs say "15 Items or Less," when they should say "15 Items or Fewer." I was ecstatic yesterday at Whole Foods because of their properly-worded sign. The clerk, on the other hand, was probably wondering if she should call security.

 
At 7/19/2007 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Old Lady said...

Ooo! This sounds like you need to be a member of Gews for Gesus, Beth!


The below comment is for you-know-who:
Christ on a stick! Look what reared up on it's hind legs!

 

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