Dear English Teachers

2012_APSTYLEBOOK_COVERDear English Teachers,

I try hard as I can, but writing is difficult. English is difficult.

You didn’t warn me.

Writing was an unpleasant chore in school. Now, it’s fun. The downside, I examine what I’m writing more closely.

I was led to believe grammar rules are hard and fast. They are not!

To, two and too–I’m good with those. Same for their, there and they’re. No comma after and, fine.

I’m still old school and add two spaces after a period. The web defaults to removing the second empty space. My quirk is hidden.

My bigger problem is where to break paragraphs, place commas and how to use semicolons? I have never consciously used a semicolon. Where have I gone wrong?

I sometimes write in my own personal “Geoff English.” One word sentences. My blog posts are sprinkled with them. Often. Just adjectives or adverbs.

Short paragraphs.

I use lots of single sentence paragraphs. Is that wrong?

Every word in the blog gets written then rewritten, often a few times. Sentences get shorter with each revision. Shorter is better.

Today the Associated Press, defacto arbiter of the language through its AP Style Book, announced a change. From Mashable:

In the new version of its venerated Stylebook, used by hundreds of news organizations across the country, the Associated Press will allow “over” as a synonym for “more than.”

In other words, it will now be acceptable to say:

There were over 78 crocodiles at the metallurgist’s convention.

Where it was previously only acceptable to say:

There were more than 78 crocodiles at the metallurgist’s convention.

According to Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, there were audible gasps when the change was announced.

Something else I’ve been doing wrong. Thanks.

6 thoughts on “Dear English Teachers”

  1. To this day, I still have never been able to “diagram” a sentence. Never had any practical application for me. And yes, I too, use two spaces after a period as well.

  2. There’s a book, which I’m re-reading now, called “Eats, Shoots & Leaves (The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”, by British author Lynne Truss. It’s very helpful, and very funny.

  3. Grammar was a big deal in catholic school! I can diagram a sentence like nobody’s business!
    As for commas – I was taught to use the comma after “and” (I believe that’s the Oxford Comma). Along the way in my secretarial days, I realized it was missing! So I dropped it. Thanks to Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” and the ensuing conversation about it and an example “My heros are my parents, Batman and Robin” OR “My heros are my parents, Batman, and Robin.”, I’ve started using it again!
    I think I finally have a handle on semicolons, definitely colons and I use way too may dashes in my sentences!!

  4. Me and English never got along. One of my daughters is an English teacher. So when I need a letter written I just call her! Lol

  5. I just write like I talk. I can’t worry whether it’s grammically correct. If I did i wouldn’t write another email.

  6. I two-space, too. Don’t expect me to change after 35 years.

    My personal pet peeve is that the Brits are invading our version of English. I’ve started seeing more and more things like “in hospital” and “maths” – I figure that any day now, the random “u” will start sneaking into various words. Colour me not impressed. 🙂

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