While political polls revealed final American voting counts last night, here’s another worthy poll result for writers: Who wins in the writing lineup between men and women?
The world’s “best grammar checker,” Grammarly, conducted a study with 3,000+ participants to settle the matter. Nick at Grammarly reached out to me with their results in the infographic below and offered to donate to a charity promoting literacy when I shared it. (Um, sweet.) Besides, it’s favorable to my gender. How can I not share that?
What do you think about these results?
Oh baby, I’ve been reminded recently how much pronouns matter. Without knowing gender, it’s bothered me for months to not have a proper way to address our growing baby Beck. I consciously boycotted “it,” and opted for “they” and “them.”
As an example, I’d say, “They’re moving. I can feel them!” This (understandably) prompted others asking over and over if I’m carrying twins. My dad suggested using the universal “he,” but that didn’t feel right either, on account that our he/she(?) could be a girl.
Solving my “lack of pronoun” problem
Yesterday my husband and I had our much-anticipated mid-pregnancy ultrasound. We saw baby’s heart, brain, ribs, and toes. I noticed the technician said, “There’s its bladder and its pancreas,” and the word person I am, out popped the question: “May we get a pronoun? I’m really wanting to know what this baby is.”
She smiled, moving the ultrasound wand down the perfect 12-ounce body. Then came an announcement that surprised me so much, happy tears started down my cheeks.
It’s wonderful to have a pronoun now: SHE’s a GIRL!!! She’s healthy and beautiful and we love her already.
Celebration of punctuation
To add to the joy, yesterday also happened to be the 10th annual National Punctuation Day®. It’s a legitimate holiday with its own website. Think of all the over-used apostrophes around the world; isn’t it right those little marks that make our language lovely get a shout out?
For my fellow contest (and grammar) lovers out there, you can enter the national punctuation essay contest. Here’s the prompt from the site:
In an essay of no more than 250 words, explain how National Punctuation Day® has affected the way you think about punctuation (or not), and how the holiday has affected your writing (or not).
Send your essays to <<Jeff(at)NationalPunctuationDay.com>> by October 31. Please use proper punctuation. Contest winners will be announced in December.
While I’m all about proper punctuation and respecting the lowly comma, some occasions do call for breaking the rules. Take exclamation points. I rarely use them in professional writing, savoring their value for truly dramatic moments. A former colleague of mine had the rule: “You only get two exclamation points in life. One is to announce your death!” When I usually use an exclamation point, I stick to one.
Yesterday I couldn’t help myself. I’m still busting out pronouns and punctuation all over the place: She’s a GIRL!!!
Or, art thou?
Indeed, some words are on their way to the literary grave. And “whom,” it’s your turn.
In the April 2013 issue of The Atlantic, the article “For Whom the Bell Tolls” caught my eye. I take that back. It was Megan Garber’s subtitle that entranced me: “The inexporable decline of America’s least favorite pronoun.”
While I’m not a fan of unnecessary formality, I felt a little sad to see this word obituary.
She goes on to explain that “whom” has been dying a slow death since 1826. Apparently Time magazine included 3,352 instances of “whom” in the 1930s, and only 902 in the 2000s. Garber insists “technology seems to be speeding up the demise” of the grammatically incorrect.
She’s right. We didn’t sing along with Ghostbusters theme song, “Whom Ya Gonna Call,” nor do we see “Whom to Follow” on Twitter.
Perhaps I have a soft spot for phrases without a future.
Or maybe it’s my defense of four-letter words. In any case, I call for a moment of silence for whom the bell tolls.
What would you like to add to my R.I.P.?
P.S. While we’re talking grave yards, here’s why I dance a little jig every time I go to my local cemetery.
Well, at least according to comic Wiley Miller’s take on ancient history, Egyptians made grammar blunders too. Gotta love the kicker here: “Oh, for cryin’ out loud … you never end a sentence with a (bird figure)!”
Indeed, the art of word crafting and science of grammar rules can make writing seem almost mystical, a magic out of reach. I took a graduate course on editing last year, and learned a lot from my trusty When Words Collide. In fact, I keep it within arm’s length whenever writing, so I’m ready to take on (almost) any editing question.
Besides forever striking the word “irregardless” from our vocabularies, such a helpful grammar ally guides writing. If you’re serious about being a writer or editor, I highly suggest getting a reliable grammar guide. Keep it close. Let’s show those ancient grammar police who’s boss!
We all have our grammar strengths and faux pas. Here are my grammar weaknesses – the ones I have to look up often! I’ve personalized this mini grammar lesson, and included you’ll see links to my personal blog. You’re welcome to check out the ones (that/which) pique your interest:
Grammar Rules to Remember
that restricts meaning
which elaborates on it
who can be used in either case for people or things personifying humans
A free service that takes the headache out of budgeting.
The funeral procession for the officer, which involved Ogden’s community, made us remember.
A snowboarder who does tricks would be cool to see!
affect v. effect
affect means to influence or to pretend to have
effect means result or impact
“Create Distinction” giveaway winner
Last week I was delighted to share a Q & A with best-selling author and speaker, Scott McKain. Thanks to those who entered to win his book, “Create Distinction.” A signed copy of the book goes to…Gloria!
Here are her thoughts on distinction:
If everyone believed in themselves and their own truths, and told their stories with confidence and openness, while others received them with the same kind of openness and confidence, I think that we wouldn’t be stuck in a rut today where we have to force ourselves to be “individuals” … Growing to trust yourself is the most organic way to distinction.
Comic mage via Non Sequitur Comics
Shout out to small business owners and writers – this one’s for you.
In an ultra-competitive landscape, freelance writers must think of themselves as a small business. Even if you’re not a writer, if you own a small business, wrangling the right words helps your business to stand out. I wrote the following list of tips for Alex Lawrence’s StartUp Flavor blog – check out his site for clever startup ideas.
6 tips to make your business writing worthy of eyeball time:
1. Know your audience. Marketing homework complete, you’re keenly aware of your target market. Think from their perspective. What is relevant and meaningful to them? Personalize your message to meet their innate business needs and goals, and articulate in a way that will be both relevant and valuable for them.
2. Resolve a tone. What tone or voice should you use? Your writing voice can range from formal and technical to witty and playful. Do you use “we” and “you” or keep things third person? Each piece (website, ads, email marketing, etc.) resonates differently, depending on the chosen voice. Your credibility rides on your ability to keep voice and tone consistent.
3. Understand messaging. Long before sending ads to print or buying AdRoll space online, spend thoughtful time with messaging. Dive into key takeaways and clearly define them. Make sure your overarching communication plan offers valuable information for prospective customers, and not merely sales jargon. Always remember to keep the “so what?” factor top of mind.
4. Write tight. Skip the fluff. Every word counts, so weigh the importance of each phrase. This doesn’t mean sacrificing eye-catching words, which paint a picture or slam-dunk an idea. Effectively communicate with a dose of creativity, but realize audiences prefer bite-sized, palatable sections to verbose ramblings. As a rule, vary sentences both in terms of length and word choice.
5. Incite action. Purposeful marketing writing provides readers with a recognizable call to action. Often the success of your writing is measured by click-through rates or sales stats. When you’re looking for quantified results, you must persuade readers and invite them to act. This could be as simple as, “Call now for a free trial” or “Sign up for our next webinar by clicking here.”
6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Dodge this one, and you’ll regret it. A large mall recently sent me (and countless others) an email advertising an event. I might have opened it, had it not born a grammar-offending subject line: “Your Invited.” Really? With a quick edit, the correct “You’re” could have saved their invite from my trash box. As a rule of thumb, if you’re planning to share with potential customers, get a trusted colleague/friend to give your words a second look before you press send or approve the printing press.
Anything else I missed that’s been helpful for your small business? Feel free to chime in with a comment.
Writing’s a wonderful art form – with endless options to express thoughts and ideas. Words are fun for all ages.
I was delighted when a young writer reached out to me recently, asking for advice on writing. I sent back these five tips- what I wish someone would have told me as a kid:
1. Read, read, read. Get your hands on all kinds of books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Read websites. Read labels on your morning cereal. Read signs when you’re driving on the freeway. Notice how people write in different styles, and read with the intention of improving your writing.
2. Keep a journal. Maybe you already do, but if not, get a nice one from a bookstore – not just a spiral bound. Have it be a place where you can write the things of your heart – your dreams, ideas, events in your life, and capture your world right now. I started journaling at age eight, and have loved it ever since. I have a whole shelf full of journals recording my life, and they are my most prized possessions. Someday you’ll read your words and be able to step back in time. It’s amazing.
3. Learn (and use) rules of grammar. It’s not always the most fun thing to learn, but I’ve grown to appreciate and even love grammar as I’ve gotten older. It makes it so much easier to understand and communicate when we used proper grammar. It’s really the mark of a true artist – and when you learn the rules, you are able to break them with flair. I recommend the book, “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” by Lynne Truss. She makes grammar fun!
4. Enter writing contests. There are lots of them out there! Google search “writing contests for kids” (or whatever age you are) and you’ll find all kinds of things. I also recommend Writer’s Market, a giant book you can find in the library that lists all the places you can send in articles and stories to be published and for contests. I won contests as a child, and that built my confidence and propelled me to grow and learn more. It’s fun to win, too!
5. Ask questions. If you read a book you love and want to ask the author something, look up their address and send them a letter or email. You just may get a reply. Be willing to learn from those you admire, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.
Do you have questions for me about writing? Feel free to send them my way.
Some punctuation marks never see the light of day. Say what?!
That, my friends, is an example of when the interrobang could come in handy. When the question mark and exclamation point had a love child, they named him INTERROBANG, although you likely never heard of him in English class.
Truth be told, according to all-knowing Wikipedia, American Martin K. Speckter conceptualized the interrobang in 1962. “As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark.”
As you know, the interrobang failed to live up to Speckter’s lofty dreams for it, and in today’s digital world, the interrobang doesn’t exist in most fonts.
I say it’s time we bring it back, and I’m not alone. Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook used an interrobang in the 2012 Seventh Circuit opinion Robert F. Booth Trust v. Crowley. The State Library of New South Wales includes the interrobang in its logo.
Here are some more interrobang-worthy examples:
He did what‽
Expelled from school, again‽
Now, tag, it’s your turn. Share some phrases that deserve the long-lost interrobang. (You can copy/paste mine, if you want.)
P.S. Next week I’ll host a contest here unlike any you’ve ever seen, with rad prizes you don’t wanna miss. Standby!