I use words goodly


Find a degree in English, Philosophy, and Theater in every box! Plus a temporary tattoo!

I have a Bachelor of Arts in English. I swear, they give those things out in Cracker Jack boxes.

I kid! I kid! Put your spatulas at ease, fellow English majors, those burgers don’t flip themselves!

Seriously, I loved, and still love, everything English, it’s my native tongue after all. What I mean is, I love literature and grammar and writing and being pretentious. Apparently, I also love not knowing what to do with my life, why else choose such an ambiguous degree to pursue?

Even with that certificate authenticating that I made it through four years at a reputable institution, charming my professors through long-winded essays that never came to any conclusion on anything conclusive, I must confess, I am a sham.

Yes, a sham. You may even see it in the way I write my blog sometimes. Not only do I make up my own grammar rules, sometimes I use a word so grossly incorrectly that the only thing that can be deduced is that I took an existing word and made it into a new word, devoid of it’s prior association. I’m that good.

It doesn’t stop there. You should hear me talk. I don’t even pronounce words correctly. For 28.5 years, I pronounced the word placate as “play-sate.” My husband first pointed it out to me, and I told him he was an idiot (I have a BA in English after all, from Penn State!). Well, he was, and is, correct, but I still can’t kick the habit. It’s far too entrenched in my brain. This mispronunciation is inoperable.

I have no idea what I would do at work without Grammar Girl. She is my savior whenever I forget the rules of capitalization in a title, which is everyday. How am I even employed?

I know I have faults as a writer (I’m talking about you, passive voice! ) and I’ve come to terms with it. Mostly because I don’t even notice my bad habits at this point—they are far too habitual. I don’t even want to change.

Perhaps I justify this with the compliment I received from the best professor I ever had, in the best class I ever took, and the only class I never skipped (creative writing, of course). All the students had to write a piece of fiction and critique every individual’s short story—mine was naturally the longest by a good 15 pages (remember, lover of passive voice here). The teacher said, “after reading Gingermermaid’s, did it really seem like 25 pages?” And the class was like, “no! How magical!” And he was like, “style…blah blah blah…genius…blah blah blah…A+++++” or something along those lines, I’m sure of it.

Look, I’m no Thomas Hardy (my personal favorite) or Shakespeare (thank goodness) or Suzanne Collins (nom nom nom games), I’m just me. A girl with a degree in English who works in the unrelated topics of the Middle East and Africa, who disregards the grammar rules that I don’t agree with (or remember), and a girl who should never ever teach English to anybody—ever. A girl with a blog I can abuse with words.



Email courtesy

Since the advent of email, the rules of proper email etiquette and grammar style never fully infiltrated into this popular form of communication. I realize that we aren’t writing letters and affixing a 46 cent stamp, but does that mean it needs to be “addressed” any less seriously? Does a stamp make that much of a difference in tone and capitalization?

I work mostly with academics, the kind with PhDs and suede elbow patches. After the quantity of time spent in school, writing papers, publishing books, teaching moldable minds, one would think that simple grammar, punctuation, and common sense would permeate their correspondences. In reality, it’s as if there is a rebellion against their schooling and profession.

If I’m paying $35k a year for an education, the least my professor can do is find the energy to hit SHIFT while pecking out the first letter of a sentence. I expect it.

It’s not just the blatant disregard for all things grammatical that makes me crazy, it’s the tone, the way I’m addressed as if I am a simple plebeian. I realize they address me the same way they address anybody, but nevertheless, it is belittling.

Where is the “Dear Ms. Gingermermaid”? Where is the “Sincerely” and “Kind Regards”? When did this become acceptable:

what, no receipt?

You want a receipt for submitting payment to an organization? That’s great! I’d be happy to oblige! How about you try this:

Dear Ms. Gingermermaid,

Thank you for the confirmation of my membership. I was curious if it would be possible for to obtain a receipt as proof to my university that I am a member and can receive reimbursement?

Thank you, and I look forward to your reply.

Kind Regards,

Dr. Gramaluva

or even…

Dear Ms. Gingermermaid,

Thank you. May I also have a receipt?


Prof. Supanisguy

Now, was that so hard?

Look, between friends, do your thing. I opt for capitalization, punctuation, and witty openers among my closest kin. That’s entirely between the correspondents on this particular amicable level. But between professionals, let’s be just that—professional. It’s not just a matter of courtesy, it’s also a matter of respect.