April 18, 2013
Sometimes, it’s OK to break the rules of grammar.
Sometimes, it’s OK to break the rules of grammar.
Grammarians, unite—and celebrate!
March 4 is National Grammar Day, a day to “speak well, write well, and help others do the same.” It’s a mission we writers and editors promote all year long.
So, how will you celebrate National Grammar Day 2013? Here are some ideas:
Play the AnaGrammar Game, and unscramble grammar-related anagrams to win a prize.
Download free wallpaper for your desktop (Check ’em out—they’re quite witty!).
Read some funny typo stories—or share your own!
Buy a language-themed T-shirt.
Write a grammar haiku.
I plan to spend the day—red pen in hand, stylebook at elbow—editing brochures for a client. A perfect way to observe this special day. However you choose to celebrate, do it with good humor—and great grammar!
Each year, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., releases its “List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.”
Compiled from thousands of nominations, the list is comprised of overused words and phrases and pet peeves from everyday speech, the media, technology, advertising, and politics.
Here are a few terms from the list that I would love to see banned in 2013:
Well, we didn’t tumble over it, but I sure wish the people who keep using this phrase would tumble over some kind of cliff.
This acronym for “You Only Live Once” is really just an excuse to do stupid things. Thanks, Twitter, for yet another incredibly pointless and annoying contribution to the English language.
The term “SPOILER ALERT” is really not all that effective when it’s immediately followed by the plot point or sport score it’s attempting to protect us from.
If there’s something you want to do before you die, then stop writing about it and just do it. Let’s kick this term out of our vocabulary, shall we?
Why? Seriously. Why?
What makes a food “super”? Good marketing, apparently. According to the medical community, açaí is no more nutritious than an apple.
The rest of the list:
KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD
Congratulations to Building Excellent Schools and the creative crew at Pagano Media on their recent Gold International Davey Award for Website Design (Education Category) from the International Academy of the Visual Arts!
SmithWriting is proud to have partnered with this award-winning team, helping to tell the compelling story of Building Excellent Schools, a national nonprofit committed to improving the academic achievement of underserved students in urban centers by starting and sustaining charter schools of excellence.
With nearly 4,000 entries, the Davey Awards honors the finest creative work from the best small firms, agencies, and companies worldwide—the “Davids” of creativity. Like the Biblical David who defeated the giant Goliath with a big idea and a little rock, these small firms derive their strength from big ideas, rather than big budgets, like many of the giant firms in the industry.
The Davey Awards is judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 200+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media. IAVA is comprised of media, advertising, and marketing professionals from such organizations as Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Yahoo!, Estee Lauder, Wired, The Webby Awards, Bath & Body Works, Brandweek, Polo Ralph Lauren, ADWEEK, Coach, MTV, HBO, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Myspace.com, and many others.
September 24 marks the ninth annual National Punctuation Day® (NPD), the holiday that, according to the NPD website, “reminds America that a semicolon is not a surgical procedure.”
As grammar lovers know, there are many ways to celebrate this special day: Read a newspaper and correct all of the punctuation errors you find with a red pen. Bake your favorite pastry or bread in the shape of a punctuation mark. Or take photos of punctuation marks you find in nature.
Punctuation (and political!) pundits are encouraged to enter this year’s NPD contest and vote for your favorite “Presidential Punctuation Mark” in one, highly punctuated paragraph (see website for details).
However you choose to observe NPD, do it with style! (And consistency. And proper grammar …)
… double contraction, that is.
In the grammar world, double contractions are words that contain two clitics (unstressed words that can’t stand on their own so they attach to a stressed word), such as ’re and ’ve.
Some of the more common double contractions are I’d’ve, she’sn’t, and y’all’re. And although they look terrible—and my spell check is screaming red—they are in fact grammatically acceptable. But I caution you to use these apostrophe-laden mouthfuls wisely.
For instance, if you’re writing an email to a friend or a novel that contains informal dialogue, go ahead and include all the double contractions you can think of (there are less than 50 recognized in the English language). However, if you’re composing a court brief or your doctoral thesis, steer clear of these cumbersome contractions.
Here’s a sampling of double contractions and their meanings:
‘twouldn’t – it would not
couldn’t've – could not have
I’ven’t – I have not
mightn’t've – might not have
shouldn’t've – should not have
that’ll’ve – that will have
we’ven’t – we have not
y’all’re – you all are
These are fun because they are nouns in and of themselves. Apparently, sailors are big fans of the double contraction:
bo’s’n – boatswain (a petty officer on a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen)
fo’c’sle – forecastle (a superstructure in the bow of a merchant ship where the crew is housed)
I mightn’t've included your favorite, so feel free to share!
On Thursday, April 26, don’t leave home without your favorite poem in your pocket! Part of National Poetry Month, Poem In Your Pocket (PIYP) Day is all about sharing and celebrating poetry.
Started in 2002 in New York City, PIYP Day is observed with open readings of poems from pockets—some organized, some spontaneous—in schools, libraries, offices, and venues nationwide. So, go ahead: Whip out some Walt Whitman in Walmart. Shout out some Shel Silverstein on the subway. Belt out some Billy Collins in the bookstore.
Whether your poetic tastes tend toward Angelou or Aerosmith, stow a verse in your pocket, unfold, and share this PIYP Day!
Established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, National Poetry Month is a time to join fellow lovers of verse and celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.
On March 4, let’s march forth and honor grammar!
Established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, writer and founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG), National Grammar Day is an occasion to celebrate language. It is hosted by none other than Mignon Fogarty, “Grammar Girl” herself.
So make yourself a grammartini and join the fun at the National Grammar Day website, where you’ll find grammar-themed wallpaper, contests, photos, and even a theme song (“March Forth. Grammar’s the bomb …”).
And for some other grammar resources, check out some of our most popular posts:
• Where’s the semicolon love?
• Put it in parentheses (please)
• The colon: an unappreciated mark with an unfortunate name
• Quoth the writer, “Nevermore”
• The ellipsis is cool, but …
• The ampersand: form & function
This year, you might want to choose your words carefully—and be sure to steer clear of those terms recently “banished” by the folks at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.
Every year since 1976, these linguaphiles have released their “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness,” compiled from tens of thousands of nominations from word lovers (haters?) around the world.
Here’s the 2012 list:
If you don’t hear it on a talk show, it’s, well, amazing. The word is everywhere, and its misuse is widespread. Defined as “causing wonder or astonishment,” amazing has become the adjective of choice for describing the mundane, like cupcakes and hairstyles. Take note, Martha Stewart (a noted abuser of the word): Overusing “amazing” is not a good thing.
All I can say is poor Kate Middleton. The world is watching. If she’s not pregnant, she’d better have one heck of a flat stomach.
The term has occupied the media for months. Time for it to pack up its tent and go home. (see my last post, Words of the Year)
I have nothing against the man cave. My husband is welcome to have one—as long as it comes with an accompanying refuge for me and my gal pals.
What’s wrong with simply using “gigantic” or “enormous”? (And what’s next, “tiniature” for something very small?)
The rest of the list:
THE NEW NORMAL
WIN THE FUTURE
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE
It’s that time of year again—the time when dictionaries and self-proclaimed vocabulary nuts across the Internet unveil their “word of the year.”
Though I’m no lexicographer (one who writes, compiles, or edits a dictionary), I am in the business of words, so I figured I’d compile my own list of terms that have captured the essence—albeit somber—of 2011.
occupy—Unless you’ve been living in the Arctic tundra—oh, wait: there’s a protest there, too—you’ve heard all about the Occupy movement, in which activists worldwide are protesting the power held by the richest one percent. Love it or hate it, it’s everywhere, and I’d argue that the term “occupy” aptly captures the global unrest that marked 2011.
tergiversate—This term, meaning “to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause or subject,” was Dictionary.com’s choice for word of the year. From the Latin for “to turn one’s back,” tergiversate can be applied to the Occupy movement, the stock market, or politicians—if you can pronounce it, that is.
volatility—Considered by many to be the investing word of the year, volatility—meaning “unpredictability” or “instability”—could be used to describe many things beyond the stock market this year.
squeezed middle—Chosen as Oxford University Press’ word of the year (even though it’s technically a phrase), “squeezed middle” is defined as “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty.” It was chosen to reflect “the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance.” So you likely haven’t heard the last of it.
Arab Spring—This phrase refers to the wave of pro-democracy revolutions that spread throughout the Middle East, including those in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, and, of course, the fall of Gaddafi in Libya. More turmoil and dissent; notice a pattern here?
winning—Even during your dramatic and disturbing downfall, Charlie Sheen, you still considered yourself “winning.” The rest of us might think otherwise, but we salute your optimism during such a dark year.
bunga bunga—Faced with such a bleak list, I had to include this one to lighten things up. Referring to the alleged sex parties of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, “bunga bunga” is a term you just can’t say without smiling.