To Live or Die by the Comma
|by Sydnee Bagovich, September 2012|
We’re all nerds at something, but we can’t be nerds at everything. So, we need each other. And, I believe that we should help each other. I have been a nerd about grammar for, well, most of my life. English was my favorite subject way back in fourth grade with Mrs. Schneiders. How funny is it that my husband and I bought our home from her! I look back now on that as a sign of what was to come. Surely she was whispering to me through the walls!
I think what I loved most about grammar was its basis in rules—right, wrong. Well, mostly! There were lots of rules, but there were so many more exceptions to those rules. Anyway, I just got it. I loved diagramming sentences and conjugating verbs. I understood the rules and the exceptions. Those same rules went out the window with poetry and English literature. Literature and poetry had all of that symbolism that went over my head. If that is what he meant, then why didn’t he say that?! So, that is why in my senior year of high school when given the choice between classes, I opted for Business English over English Literature. I was very clearly a black-and-white-kinda girl, and the grey of literature was too muddy for me!
That was all so long ago. Now, all of these years later, after the evolution of the computer and the introduction of the smartphone, I am more passionate about grammar than ever. After more than 20 years in professional roles with various companies, interacting with a multitude of people in a wide range of industries, with different levels of education, and at all functional levels, I continue to see that bad grammar is hardly restricted to any one of those groups. It’s just not true that only the uneducated use bad grammar. I have seen collateral materials, heard professional newscasters, read articles in prominent publications, and viewed posted signs—all from sources you would expect to know better. It has been a passion of mine that has expanded over the years. Want an example of the nerdery that got me to this point? Several years ago, I started a running document on my desktop of all of the grammatical errors that I read in emails, heard on the phone, saw in printed materials—from all of those different sources. Some examples are posted signs in restaurants: Kid’s eat free; wing night Tuesday’s; cheap eats’ and drinks; buffalo nuggets: there back. I took a picture of the back of a company truck that stated No job to large or to small. You’re Service Specialist. I got a letter in the mail about insurance that included any questions concerning the coverage’s provided… A funny example of an email that I received is from someone after he had returned from vacation. Apparently he was overwhelmed going through all of his messages since this one read, “Please bare with me.” Whoa! I don’t think he meant what he said! Another is a posted sign that I saw, No smoking aloud. Well, I guess you’re allowed to smoke there, but you must do so quietly! And, while in the Hamptons, I picked up a magazine with the headline: Your free guide to all that’s new in the Hampton’s! Seems that one got past the proofreader!
I dumped examples like these into that document for probably two years. Then, I put all of the notes into categories, and from there, I made little tutorials about them. The topics covered a broad range of grammar blunders: I vs. me; your vs. you’re; they’re, their, there; to, two, too; apostrophes and so many more. I presented that document to my team as an educational tool, saying what has come to be a tagline for me: Like it or not, fair or unfair, we are judged every day by how we communicate in our writing and our speaking. Don’t let bad grammar negatively affect the perceptions that others have of you and the message you’re trying to convey. That document has come to be the foundation of what I do today.
The epidemic of bad grammar has been hitting the news for quite some time. The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, and The New York Times all have headlines that cite the alarmingly high percentages of correspondence among adults and business professionals that contain grammatical errors. With the explosive growth of email and texting over our phones, and the resulting need for brevity, our communication skills have really taken a beating! I hear from hiring managers who get cover letters from job candidates that are written in text—or as if they were talking with their high school buddies. Employers and professional organizations are concerned about this, especially for their employees who interact directly with clients. Clearly a large part of our society really needs some help with the basics of good grammar in communications.
Grammar is hardly an attractive topic! It can be intimidating, dull and dry. Why do I do this? Watching someone’s face and seeing that Ah, I get it! during a presentation is exactly why I do this. I love teaching, and I love knowing that I am helping, if only one little bit at a time. It is so rewarding for me to hear someone say, “Thank you. I learned a lot from you today!”
Sydnee creates presentations to meet the individual needs of organizations. Her seminars are full of tips and tricks to eliminate common everyday grammar blunders that make you seem less “smart” than you really are. Her style is fun, interactive and relevant. She will humor your way to good grammar. You can contact Sydnee at the address below to see how she can help you in your unique situation!
p – 412.848.2053
e – firstname.lastname@example.org