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Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's not that I'm picky--I'm just a purist.

As I've worked in the public schools and taught classes in higher education, I've been baffled by the fact that the average person does not know how, or simply does not choose, to use good grammar. I've graded numerous papers in which I've explained that slang terms are to be used sparingly and only under special circumstances, there is no place for profanity in a professional paper, it's a good idea to choose one narrative mode and stick with it throughout the paper, and subject-verb agreement is a necessary component. It always surprises me that I'm explaining these things to college level students (sometimes grad students, but those are usually not native English speakers, so I grant them a great deal of leeway).

Then I stumble onto things that cause me to say, "Ah-hah!"

For instance, this article which was not in the Huffington Post itself, but reprinted in a related Huffpost blog:

Allergy Season Myths Debunked

Posted: 03/19/2012 8:42 am
By Hanna Brooks Olsen for
This year's relatively warm winter led to a mild flu season that was the latest in over two decades. Which was nice, because it meant fewer people were sick overall. But now, those same mild months may mean a perfect storm of sniffling and sneezing, because they could lead to an early onset of allergy season, creating an overlap between the two. Yup, that runny nose may not be due to a late-blooming flu, but rather, prematurely high pollen counts. It's time to brush up on your seasonal allergy knowledge to make sure you can separate myths from facts.
Just as flu myths and wive's tales prevail during the chilly months, when the first crocuses begin to bud, so, too, do the fallacies surrounding allergy season. Seemingly-sensible pieces of advice (like eating local honey) get passed between friends, old assumptions (like that flowers cause irritation) get repeated and, as a result, people suffer through watery eyes and sniffly noses, waiting for relief that probably won't come.
Flip through this gallery to see some of the most commonly-held allergy myths, and why they're simply not true. Good luck this season!

Yellow problem:  Dear writer, this is called a fragment. The preceding period is unnecessary as is the comma following "nice."

Orange problem:  This is not a horrible mistake and people do it all the time (myself included), but it's not a great idea to begin a sentence with a conjunction. Once again, please note the unnecessary commas.

Green problem:  Really? "Yup"? Also, I ask you again to check your comma usage.

Turquoise problem:  Because "wive" is not a word, one cannot make it plural. However, "wives" is a word and "wives'" would be its possessive. This is something you should have learned a very long time ago before you considered yourself a writer. Again (this is becoming annoying), excessive comma usage.

Blue problem:  Please explain to me why you have hyphenated the first two words. They stand alone and are perfectly understandable (and correct) without the hyphen. However, congratulations on your correct comma usage at the end of this clause.

Lavender problem:  My dear old high school English/Lit teacher would roll over in her grave (I assume she's dead only because she was ancient when she taught me many years ago and I believe she is immortal only in the sense that her legacy of critical examination seems to be continuing right now in my blog). There is never an excuse for using such an awkward senseless word set ("like that...") when "for example" is the clear choice for your meaning, unless you're seven years old. I suppose such a mistake is forgivable for a precocious child writing Canadian blog posts for Huffington.

Purple problem:  Please learn how to use commas properly--I'm begging now.

I suppose if this is considered professional writing and people read it daily, there's no mystery as to why my students can't write. I also can't whine too loudly because I never proof my own blog posts and there are undoubtedly a very large number of mistakes here. However, my blog is not endorsed by any widely read publication, it's written for my personal use and published for those who are selectively interested in my life, and I'm guessing there are fewer mistakes in a dozen of my posts than there are in the above news article.

And now I will retire my soap box for a season. Thank you.


  1. I generally agree with your rant, but "wives" is the plural and "wives'" is the possessive.

  2. Oops--that is exactly what I meant to write and one brilliant example of what happens because I do not proof. I got my "p" words mixed up. Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I'm hoping, should the author of the article ever stumble across my rant, she'll feel the same. :-)

    Also, I'm changing the post but leaving our comments as evidence that I made that lovely mistake.