Archive for the ‘Grammar Nerdery’ Category

The results are in!

Well, the results are in! Shockingly, the majority of you think I have some issues regarding my passionate tirade against Oxford comma abuse:

Real poll

(48 percent translates to “the majority” in Squirrel Math.)

But, the joke’s on you, because I already knew that! HA!

But really, I’m just glad the choice of the die-hard Oxford commanistas came in last, and that I likely swayed .01 percent of them over to the good guys’ side. Perhaps there is hope for the English language after all!

Your reckless abuse of the Oxford comma is furthering the demise of the English language

Oxford comma-nistas around the world are having a heyday over a recent push alert sent by Sky News, which they believe is the end-all, be-all argument in favor of their precious punctuation mark.


Now, let’s be clear: The Oxford comma is necessary in this “sentence” as it’s written. Obviously, there are some pretty serious implications without it. However, this whole “sentence,” if you can even call it that, could be rewritten for clarity, and we would not have been subjected to all this nonsense in the first place. The Oxford comma-nistas would never suggest that though!

See, the purpose of a comma when used in a list is to replace the word “and.” When you use an Oxford comma in a list of three or more items, it’s redundant. You’re essentially writing “and and.” And that’s just silly.

Let me spell it out for you using another famed Oxford comma-nista example: Instead of saying “We invited the strippers and JFK and Stalin,” you substitute “and” with commas. “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.”

See how I used the Oxford comma there? Because it’s necessary for clarity. Without it, one could infer the writer is saying JFK and Stalin are strippers. Better yet, you could just rewrite the sentence to read “We invited JFK, the strippers and Stalin.” Because what kind of red-blooded American puts strippers before JFK, anyway?

(JFK. JFK may have put strippers before himself.)

I’m certainly not for an outright ban of the Oxford comma. I just ask that people tasked with the glorious responsibility of writing sentences pause to think about whether it’s necessary instead of blindly inserting it. Because if you can’t make that distinction, do you really have any business writing sentences in the first place? Especially those involving world leaders and strippers.

I mean, have you been on the Internet lately? Couldn’t we all benefit from everyone taking a moment to consider whether their sentences could be written more clearly?

And Oxford comma-nistas, let me ask you: With the current state of the English language, do you really want more people paying less attention to appropriate punctuation use? Do you want society to inflict upon your precious comma the same fate that has befallen the poor semi-colon? Just scattering it throughout sentences from time to time, showing no courtesy for its intended use? Do you really have so little respect for a punctuation mark you claim to love? HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?!

If you continue your misguided crusade, before you know it all the written word will consist of is emoticons and Oxford commas:

SmileConfused, Loser, and Dizzy. LOL!

So, knowing what the future holds, do you still want to continue on your quest? Let’s take a quick poll:


If your answer is still yes, fine. But just know you’ll be on the wrong side of history.

A new verb: ‘to Brady’

In an attempt to more eloquently text a snarky remark back to a friend about Tom Brady — whom I openly hate for several reasons, but mainly for his general skeezability — I googled “word for a guy who abandons his pregnant girlfriend” the other day. (Yeah, that’s right. I googled that.) I came across a lot of disturbing stuff, but not an exact term, as I was hoping for.

Then, I got the Best. Idea. Ever. If no such term exists (and maybe it does, but if I can’t find it 2.5 seconds after an Internet search, I’m assuming it doesn’t) then why not invent one myself, and why not base it on the very object of my loathing?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a new verb: “to Brady.”

That’s right — from now on, whenever you’re talking about some dude who abandoned his poor, vulnerable, hormonal pregnant girlfriend — and his own child, for crying out loud! — regardless of how hot the supermodel he left her for is, you have a sweet, more succinct way to say it: “Can you believe he Bradied her like that? What a douchebag!”

(If you’re using this term more than once a week, you might want to reassess the crowd you’re hanging with.)

Will this stack up the the success of “to Squire“? Probably, because that never really got off the ground, as far as I know. But if we band together to make “to Brady” work, anything can happen!

Maybe it'll even make him cry!

Maybe it’ll even make him cry!

I will throw down over the long dash

As someone who truly cares about proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, writing complete and intelligible sentences, etc., I’ve noticed a disconcerting trend over the past several years: the blatant disrespect for, and subsequent overuse of, the long dash.

See, I have a soft spot for the long dash. It’s my most favoritest punctuation mark. When used appropriately, it can be extremely powerful. That’s because you’re supposed to use a dash “to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to introduce a long appositive or summary” or “to create emphasis or drama.” You don’t use it to replace a colon. Or a semi-colon. Or, for the love of beans, to replace a comma.

I first came to sympathize with the plight of the long dash during a summer internship after my junior year of college. I worked as a copy editor and designer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and once a week, the news editor and I would go over my pages so she could give me advice on how to improve. She only had to point out the rampant abuse of the long dash in Associated Press copy once, and all of sudden, I couldn’t help but notice it. All. The. Time.

It’s almost like the AP was out to get the long dash for some transgression committed long ago. Perhaps the long dash accidentally flushed the childhood fish of one of the higher-ups, and years later, he/she  issued a decree demanding it replace every form of punctuation whenever possible, thereby diminishing its power so it could never, ever do something like that again.

Or maybe they were just lazy and didn’t want to think about what kind of punctuation was actually appropriate, so they defaulted to the long dash. Whatever the reasoning, the trend has spread to all kinds of writers, and IT IS NOT OK. And I am taking a stand!

Take this sentence, for example:

“The golden ferret — despite being favored for second — beat all the other ferrets at the Ferret Derby.”

So, the ferret was favored to take second, but he actually took first? BFD. I mean, I’m really happy the ferret has achieved everything he’s ever dreamed of, but it doesn’t mean that clause requires the extra emphasis the dash provides. A comma would suffice:

“The golden ferret, despite being favored for second, beat all the other ferrets at the Ferret Derby.”

However, let’s say the golden ferret began the race with the odds against him:

“The golden ferret, despite having just half a leg, beat all the best-trained thoroughbreds by an hour at the Ferret Derby.”

His half-leg is so small you can’t even see it!

Wait — shut the mother-effing front door. Did I just read that right?! Let me read it again …

Yes, yes, I think I did. HOLY. SHIT. That golden ferret has just HALF A LEG, and he still managed to win by AN HOUR?!? He only has HALF AN EFFING LEG!!! HE’S A GODDAMN HALF-LEGGED FERRET!!! That shit is CRAZY!!

Here, setting off that clause with a long dash is necessary to convey the drama of the half-legged ferret’s victory:

“The golden ferret — despite having just half a leg — beat all the best-trained thoroughbreds by an hour at the Ferret Derby.”

I completely understand why people love the long dash and want to use it all the time. It’s pretty awesome. And I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes use it inappropriately on this very blog.

But when people continually overuse the dash, it loses the power that makes it so effective. It’s like if we capitalized every noun, not just proper ones. If we did that, how would we know which ones are important?

So, next time you’re about to haphazardly insert a long dash into your writing, stop and think about whether it’s actually necessary or if you’re just contributing to its demise.

And for those of you who love the long dash, don’t let me stop you. But please, don’t just love the dash — respect it, too.

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