Wednesday, March 4, 2015

National Grammar Day

 




Did you know that March 4th is National Grammar Day?  

That means it's time for a rousing discussion on grammar, right? :) Well maybe not, but I'm thinking we can at least share a few grammar tips that have helped us along the way. 

One of my favorite gems comes from William Strunk and E. B. White. In their book The Elements of Style they said, 

“Do not overstate. When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind because he has lost confidence in your judgment or your poise. Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer’s enthusiasm.”

I believe that overstating can take different forms. For example:

1) Capitalized Words 

Consider - which is better? This:

I KNOW you’ll AGREE with ME when I SAY that we MUST put an END to THIS DISPUTE.

Or this: 

We must end this dispute.

Have you ever received an e-mail loaded with caps like this? I understand the desire to make a point, but this is distracting and unprofessional.  

We can avoid this pitfall and emphasize instead with clear, efficient prose. Skip the caps except for abbreviations and similar instances.

2) The Exclamation Point 

The exclamation point (or mark) suffers from overuse too. Its true purpose of course, is for commands or exclamations like: 

Stop!    Wait!     Halleluiah!

Ever read anything (other than informal correspondence) that had exclamation points sprinkled throughout? Was it really that exciting or was the emphasis lost? 

I've read advice that said to review your text for exclamation points and remove all but one. Other alternatives such as italicizing key words and selecting sharp content help make our writing shine.

I think Strunk and White had the right idea. When we put our best writing foot forward, we avoid weak and diluted content. What do you think?


Visit Grammar Girl's National Grammar Day page for tips, links, and more grammar fun.

Do you have any tips to share? Have any grammar pet peeves?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images

Text copyright Karen Lange, 2015. Please feel free to link to this post, but no part of this post may be reproduced without written permission.
  

28 comments :

  1. Didn't realize it's National Grammar Day. One us writers should celebrate. And we can always learn more grammar.

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  2. The only tip I have to share is that I have a really good editor. That's the only to catch all my grammatical errors.

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  3. Natalie,
    I agree! I'm always learning something. :)

    Stephen,
    That's a great tip! That part of the process is important. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  4. Karen: I understand that all caps in a email is considered yelling. (How's that for simplicity?)

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  5. Thanks. I often am guilty of poor grammar.

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  6. Karen,

    I sometimes stammer over my grammar! Thanks for these timely reminders. Happy Anniversary, too. May you continue to enjoy the blessings of the Blog Gods. :-)

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  7. I've never heard of National Grammar Day in Canada. Shame. You're never too old to be reminded of what doesn't work. Great list, Karen. Happy IWSG day.

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  8. Cecelia,
    You are right! I had forgotten that. Thanks for reminding us. :)

    Lisa,
    Me too - and I am working to polish things up. :) Nice to meet you! Thanks for coming by.

    Jen,
    I hear you. I do as well. Live and learn, right? :) Thanks so much!

    Joylene,
    Well, maybe you need to start a campaign to introduce it to Canada. :) I'll help you spread the word. Thanks a bunch!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  9. I am guilty of too many exclamation points. I am getting better at removing them from my stories though. Really!

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  10. All caps just sounds like you are shouting.

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  11. Alex,
    LOL! Well, that's a good thing, I'm thinking. :)

    Diane,
    It does, doesn't it? And most times, we only need our quiet inside voice. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  12. What about CAPS and exclamation marks together!!! That's really over the top, ha :-) Thanks for giving us a reason to celebrate. Especially since we got another 4" of snow tonight here. Did you get much where you are?
    Enjoyed this post. Stay warm :-)

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  13. I have a friend who uses WAY too many explanation points. An average of seven per sentence. It should be illegal.

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  14. I do not like all caps. Some of my students do that, probably because they don't think about the caps lock. When I'm editing, I take out a lot of exclamation marks.

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  15. Hi Karen - I don't like caps in emails - I sent one yesterday and had better apologise to the poor lad! Just trying to encourage him to drink water for his health .. not the brightest to hit the send button. I use way too many !! and ...... ..... .... - those are my speciality! I am verbose, and could easily reduce my words - in due time I'll make use of an editor. Grammar Day - we need them everyday ... cheers Hilary

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  16. I'm guilty of overusing exclamation points, not in my actual writing, but in my letters and notes to people, and comments on blogs. It's something I try to catch and fix, but I'm not always successful.

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  17. Too many exclamation points annoy me no end, but I've also been accused of over-using and hang my head. Sometimes you just want to make sure they get it, right? =0) Love Strunk and White. Keep them nearby.

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  18. At times caps work but not in every sentence...probably for emphasis. But exclamation marks are way better for emails only!

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  19. Kenda,
    Now there's a combo, right? I don't have a problem with them used sparingly in a good balance. :)

    Keith,
    I know people who do that too. It's almost exhausting, isn't it? I agree, it should be illegal. lol :)

    Medeia,
    My teen students do that sometimes too. And the exclamation points, well, now that I think of it, they do overuse them. :)

    Hilary,
    Well, I am sure you used it for emphasis and meant it in the right way. :) I find I am more liberal with exclamation points in blog comments. I agree, Grammar Day should be every day!

    Lisa,
    I use them in informal stuff more it seems. I think that is okay to a point (an exclamation point, lol). Something to be mindful of, right? :)

    Susan,
    I know, I have been on both sides - letting them get to me and then overusing them. :) Oh well, we are always growing, right? :)

    Nas,
    I agree. They have their place sometimes and in informal correspondence. Can you imagine if we used them in our books? lol :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  20. I've always understand stood all caps in an email to be the equivalent of shouting. And who wants to be yelled at?

    Wait...one exception. Baseball season is starting. GO RED SOX!!!!

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  21. It always makes me sad when exclamation points are banished. We should be allowed to use one or two per book. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it!

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  22. LD,
    And shouting is only okay at sporting and other similar events, right? LOL I understand, I shout at hockey games. :)

    Susan,
    Well, I wouldn't say to eliminate them altogether, you know? I'd say you could use them more than that in book. Maybe just not on every page. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  23. Strunk and White are correct, but they didn't blog or facebook post. I feel like these new "genres" of writing come with a few exceptions, especially in the exclamation point area. Of course, that may mean that I'm just lazy. I'm okay with that.

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  24. Hahahaha. I hope I don't do these things. I forgot all about National Grammar Day with the visit for Christopher and everything that happened. I hear you gasping, amigo. ;-) Thanks for another lesson in grammar. xoxoxo

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  25. Tyrean,
    You make a good point here. I think things have changed, relaxed somewhat in many areas, and like you said, they didn't have blogs, etc. to deal with. For me, it's about balance, and what seems best for each format. And no "shouting" when not necessary. lol :)

    Robyn,
    I don't think you do. :) No gasping here. I probably wouldn't have remembered except someone from Grammar Girl emailed me. lol So no worries on that count. Hugs right back at you.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  26. I didn't know we have a grammar day. Thanks for the info. And yes, these are good points about writing about overstating. :)

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  27. I think the advice is great and very true. I am someone who overuses exclamation points in my emails and comments. Sometimes I notice and stop. I think when emailing you are trying to make the email sound more personal, so the exclamation points get thrown in. :)
    ~Jess

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  28. Lux,
    Thank you! And thanks for stopping by - it's great to meet you. I wonder if every day is Grammar Day for us writers. :)

    Jess,
    Thanks a bunch. I too, sometimes overuse them in informal places too. I think they are more acceptable there, of all places, you know? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!