Thursday, August 29, 2013

But, It's a Trend

At least one of those pencils is blue.
Confession: I sent a garbled email this morning. The garbling was accidental, but isn't it always? When I reread anything I've written, I find typos and errant commas. I make mistakes. They decrease in quantity as my coffee consumption goes up but their severity accelerates with the number of emails I must send before seven a.m. This morning proved a doozy. Here's a snippet from my mixed-up email: "…to get you what you the disclosure form…" Oh, the humanity. Woe the clarity.

I'm no grammar guru. That said, I like language and believe using it correctly increases the chance we'll be understood. Good grammar = easier communication.

Two evenings ago, an unexpected comma in a student's work snagged my attention. The sentence went something like this: "But, no one answered." I scribbled Why the comma? in the margin. (Are you surprised I let a student begin a sentence with but? I don't fight that battle anymore. In fact, I've joined the enemy.) A page later, the same construction appeared. And then it showed up again.

Three times? I smell a trend. 

Language trends thrill me, and I see no conflict in appreciating both good grammar and the elasticity of the spoken and written word. Think of an interior designer who creates a room around principles of scale, balance, and symmetry and then injects asymmetry to shake things up.

I clapped in delight at a post entitled "But, Are You a Person That Does This Alot?" by the Houston Chronicle's Kyrie O'Connor: Check out # 7 on the list. Yes, it's a trend!

While no one will ever accuse me of being on trend, I'm guilty of the last oddity in # 5. That's right, I say "I'm good" whenever servers approach me in noisy restaurants. Why? I'm afraid I'll misunderstand what they're offering/asking and will end up with the Kale Special or a $24 glass of wine. A former student who arrived in this country with little English learned to answer requests with "okay" rather than yes or no. He figured "okay" acknowledged the request but didn't commit him one way or the other.

Update: The recipient of my garbled email responded as if I'd written nothing wrong. More to the point, he understood exactly what I'd meant to say. 

Have you garbled any sentences lately? How much coffee do you drink before you trust yourself to send important early-morning emails


aroseisarose said...

I am guilty of starting a sentence with "but" or "and" followed by a comma. But, in my mind, it reads properly.

Someone sent me this the other day: Stephen Fry Takes a Firm Stance on Grammar.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, A rose,

The sentence you gave as an example is correct. You set of the interrupting phrase, in my mind, with commas. Well done!

Thank for the Stephen Fry piece.

Coleen Patrick said...

I make mistakes in blog comments all the time. I have a tendency to write as I think then go back and scan, but sometimes I delete half of a thought while putting in a new one. Then when I hit enter and see it, I cringe. I used to reply to my reply with the edit, but now I let it go. Mostly. :) Also, I noticed I mix up your and you're when I'm typing--even though I know the difference. :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

OH, Coleen, I, too, delete half a thought while putting in a new one. You'd think that the more we write, the better we'd get at producing error-free copy, but the more I write, the more mistakes I make.

This morning, in an email to one of my daughters, I typed the wrong word and ended up with an incomprehensible sentence. I can't blame Auto Correct as I don't have it. Did a gremlin in my laptop type the wrong word? Nope, I did.

My bugaboo is it's/its. Sheesh.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hey, A rose,
I liked the Stephen Fry commentary. Doesn't he have a great voice?