A Day in the Life of a Grammar Columnist
Posted by June on May 23, 2016
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FROM: USC David
TO: June Casagrande
SUBJECT: Wrong!

I realize the article is almost 2 years old, but I barely saw it.

You claimed a lot of people don't know that "Talk to Mary or me" is grammatical. It's not. It's "Talk to me or Mary."

 

FROM: June Casagrande
TO: USC David
SUBJECT: Re: Wrong!

Actually, grammar has no rules about the order of nouns or pronouns in a coordinate noun phrase, regardless of whether it's functioning as a subject or object.

So "Talk to Mary or me" is just as grammatical as "Talk to me or Mary.

Grammar's funny like that: It's about syntactical function, not propriety. That's why it's also perfectly grammatical to say "I and John went to the movies." No one would say that, of course. But it's as grammatically correct as "John and I went to the movies."

Perhaps you're confusing grammar with properness? They're very different.

Thanks for writing!

 

FROM: USC David
TO: June Casagrande
SUBJECT: Re: Wrong!

If it makes you feel better to make up the rules, fine. I'm amused on a daily basis about the dumbing down of America. Thanks for showing how we've gotten here. You point out an error and people try to argue the point, no matter how wrong they are, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to learn & grow.

See ya!

 

FROM: June Casagrande
TO: USC David
SUBJECT: Re: Wrong!

You're right: I should seek out more information and learning opportunities.

So please tell me where I can learn more about the wrongness of "talk to Mary or me." I have a dozens of grammar books and not one of them backs you up. So if you have some good sources that contradict them, that would indeed be very educational for me.

 

FROM: USC David
TO: June Casagrande
SUBJECT: Re: Wrong!

I have no need to read more of your stupidity. I hit delete without even opening it.

Some people don't want to learn and that's ok. I just don't need to be a part of it.

See ya!!

 

FROM: June Casagrande
TO: USC David
SUBJECT: I want to learn. Teach me. Point me to good sources.

Had you wanted to learn how I'd replied to your last email, you'd have read this:

<<You're right: I should seek out more information and learning opportunities.

<<So please tell me where I can learn more about the wrongness of "talk to Mary or me." I have a dozens of grammar books and not one of them backs you up. So if you have some good sources that contradict them, that would indeed be very educational for me.>>

 

FROM: USC David
TO: June Casagrande
SUBJECT: Re: I want to learn. Teach me. Point me to good sources.

In addition to not being able to write, you can't read either. Your notes go right in the trash.

 

A Test for Your Semicolons
Posted by June on May 16, 2016
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Here's a test to see whether that semicolon in your sentence should stay: Try recasting the passage without it. If the result is clearer, shorter, less cumbersome sentences, then you have your answer. More than 90% of the time, I find that semicolons result in worse sentences, not better ones. Turns out, the writer included the semicolon not for the reader's benefit -- that is, not to organize the information in best way possible -- but for his own benefit -- that is, to show off his own semicolon prowess.

That's why I'm anti-semicolon: They lead to clunky, inelegant, long, poorly organized sentences that don't take into account that it's the writer's job to serve the reader.

Of Drunken Members of Parliament and Modifying Phrases
Posted by June on May 9, 2016
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In 2014, to promote a new exhibit on Vikings, the British Museum set sail with a clever public relations spectacle: an authentic-looking vessel manned by a motley crew that sailed down the Thames and past government buildings where members of Parliament had a front-row seat for the show.

 
As one insightful observer reported: "A longboat full of Vikings, promoting the new British Museum exhibition, was seen sailing past the Palace of Westminster yesterday. Famously uncivilized, destructive and rapacious, with an almost insatiable appetite for rough sex and heavy drinking, the MPs nonetheless looked up for a bit to admire the vessel."

This joke was brought to you by a grammar concept called modifying phrases. If you want to know more, here's a recent column.

 

John McIntyre's Peeve Peeves
Posted by June on May 2, 2016
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For about 14 years, I've been engaged in the less-than-endearing  task of telling readers of my newspaper column that their grammar peeves are, in fact, superstitions. So I figured I'd let someone else bear the bad news -- Baltimore Sun copy editor and columnist John McIntyre. And if you still think it's wrong to split an infinitive, start a sentence with "and," end a sentence with a preposition, use "hopefully" to mean "I hope" or use "they" to refer to a single person, McIntyre would like a word.