Friday, March 13, 2009

You can keep your Strunk and White......

The authority for all things English in my world has always been this:In middle school, junior high, and high school, Warriner's was my calculus. It was my holy book. My participles did not dangle, my modifiers were not misplaced, and my sentences were rigidly diagrammed with the help of a yellow ruler I kept clipped in my ring binder. My math skills may have been par to slightly sub-par, but when it came to words, I was double shifting. I was using all the crayons in the box. I was reading four years above my grade level. I 'hear' awkward sentence structure like an out of tune piano, a skill that earned me the silent treatment for two weeks in college after I red-penned the living hell out of a paper a friend asked me to proofread.

The Text Messaging Age has been hard on me. I know I'm not the only one who picks up on the general slippage in language skills. Whole blogs are dedicated to woefully written notes and unnecessary punctuation. Bloggers more popular than I have discussed it at length.

I may have upped the ante this morning with my email to the Wall Street Journal. I was glancing over the headlines when I saw this.

Treasurys? It leapt off the page, assaulting me with its wrongness. I read the article, thinking perhaps the title was put on later, by an editor, perhaps, but no, the author used 'treasurys' again. So I did what any other right thinking person would do at 9:15 on a Friday morning.

I emailed him and pointed out his error.

I didn't expect a reply, but I'd made an effort to pull the grammatical dress hem out of the pantyhose of the Wall Street Journal and that was enough for me. Imagine my surprise when Andrew Peaple emailed me right back.

Wsj style I thnk. Thanks for your comment though. (sic)

Seemed nice enough, he did, and since he replied to some random woman in a backwater town and acknowledged her picky observation, never mind the research that probably went into the article and the thousand things he had to understand to discuss the topic intelligently. So I emailed him again.

Ah. I forgot that sometimes the papers do things a little outside of Warriner's English Grammar. My husband is a writer/editor and I've been on the receiving end of his "Oh God, why didn't I see that" a few times so I just wanted to do you a solid and mention it.
Have a great day!

(See what I did there? Its called the benefit of the doubt. Even though I felt a little like Cindy Lou Who being told her Christmas tree had a light out and was being taken in for repairs.)

He sent back:
Thank you. Stay in touch!

By the way, I'm british, so am constantly wrestling with american spellings....

Again, a sweetie. A sweetie who is also capricious with capital letters and blames his fine country of origin, which aside from using words like 'banger' and 'pram' and throwing the odd 'u' in words that don't need it doesn't play fast and loose with the rules. So I'm still left with the feeling that all writing, even in the august Wall Street Journal, is on the skids.



Kelly said...

You are obviously my long-lost twin sister. I 'hear' awkward grammar, too. Sadly, for me it sounds more like fingernails on a chalk board.

I used to love diagramming sentences. I'm a little rusty, but I'll bet I could still do it!

Casey said...

Those errors annoy the crap out of me too. Text messaging is hard on me, I can't bring myself to abbreviate like the cool kids do so it takes me an hour to type a sentence.

Suzy said...

BAD GRAMMAR makes me crazy. I'm with ya mama!

(Take that word verification off sweetie, you'll get more comments and only 200+ comment bloggers need it. It;s for bigger blgs who get spam, which we don't!)

boxofmoonlight said...

I said to my co-worker, "I HAVE gone." He asked, "Did you just correct my grammer?"

Shieldmaiden96 said...

Kelly: You know, I often wish that sentence diagramming would become the new Sudoku. I think with a little refreshing I'd still rock at it. My 8th grade English teacher once said to me while I was at the chalkboard, "You really love this, don't you?" Of course, the unspoken 'freak' at the end of that inquiry was not perceived at the time.

Casey: It makes me feel like a fraud. Like I'm trying to convince some phantom 15 year old that I'm actually cool.

Suzy: Done and done! I'd meant to do that and forgot. Thanks for reminding me.

Box: I have a co-worker that would probably be suicide inducing for you. One that probably heard the line 'Oh, its already been broughten' in Not Another Teen Movie and didn't think that was in any way incorrect. I wouldn't cringe so much if she wasn't first line customer service.

Jonny's Mommy said...

I ain't a bad speler or a bad speaker so I ain't got no clue what your talckin bout.

Dang. Your so prisie....*snort* *snort*

Jocelyn said...

I adore you for emailing him (twice). With a little work, you could have him in the palm of your hand by Monday, I think.

The exchanges here also indicate, methinks, that the "writing" for journalists is in the content; the rest is up to the "editors" and the conventions of the specific newspaper.

What a shame so few "writers" can see it's the whole package of idea, fact, editing, and style that could make them amazing.

Diesel said...

They do that because it's short for "treasury bonds," rather than actually being the plural of "treasury." Oddly, in this case, "treasurys" isn't actually the plural of "treasury", because no one buys a treasury. They do, however, buy treasurys (multiple treasury bonds). I know, it's weird.

Also, you may regret turning off your word veri. Suzy's wrong about only 200+ comment blogs needing it. I get spammed even with my word verification. It was nice of her to call you sweetie though.

Maureen said...

I hated English in school... it was my worst subject. Give me a paintbrush and oils instead. But since I took up blogging, I have been trying to study with a few grammar books. I am quite enjoying it now, in my old age!

And I too, like Casey, have a hard time NOT texting in full sentences, punctuation and all.

Yep. I AM an old fogie (geez, I have no idea how to spell that).