Friday, March 4, 2011

March Forth On March Fourth For The Fourth Year

Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It's not only a date, it's an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!

Today Is The Fourth Annual National Grammar Day

National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us [Sic], also available as an e-book. I am a member of the Society and Marched Forth in 2008, 2009, and 2010. There are some of you who would question my membership having read footnoteMaven.

For all the newbies I give you myths that well-meaning people argue about every day in offices around the world AKA:

I'm giving you the number 10 grammar myth here, but please read the other nine as they are all my favorites.

10. A run-on sentence is a really long sentence. Wrong! They can actually be quite short. In a run-on sentence, independent clauses are squished together without the help of punctuation or a conjunction. If you write I am happy I am glad* as one sentence without a semicolon, colon, or dash between the two independent clauses, it's a run-on sentence even though it only has six words.

In a comment to A Baker's Dozen, I wrote:
My opinion is that commas and periods are highly overrated and often get in the way of a fine writer completing an exquisite thought as it is transferred to the page in one pure stream of consciousness emerging unmolested from the brain to the hand.
It was engineered to be long, but tell me, is this a run-on sentence?

This year I add the use of may and can. The difference? Permission versus ability.

To my husband, "Can I jump off the 520 Floating Bridge?" The answer is yes. There is no physical impediment to my jumping off the bridge. I have the ability to make the dive.

To my husband, "May I jump off the 520 Floating Bridge?" The answer is no. He is withholding his permission until the appropriate moment arrives.

Now go, enjoy National Grammar Day!


Blogger Greta Koehl said...

My favorite, of course, is Number 6. Not only is the passive voice not always wrong, it is not even something to be avoided, even if the subject of the action is known. It allows the writer to play around with perspective, for one thing, and allows translators to follow the theme-and-rheme order of the language of the original text, for another.

March 4, 2011 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Good one Greta - can you believe it, I had a professor who marked down law school exams if he found the passive voice.

But then, he was always right? Wrong.

Hey, I thought you'd comment on my jumping off a bridge.


March 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I enjoy grammar though I'm sure I don't always use it properly. Grammar Girl is new to me. Thanks for posting about it.

March 4, 2011 at 6:44 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

No, but I did laugh!

March 4, 2011 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

This is why I love your blog... I learn so much! How much I'll remember remains to be seen. ;-)

Let's get this bridge thing straight... No, no, no! No jumping off bridges, now or ever!

March 5, 2011 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger Kathryn Doyle said...

Sorry, it's taken me days and days to get here to comment. Grammar Day reminds me that I keep forgetting to ask you about diagramming sentences. Somehow I get the impression that you must have had a childhood fondness for that bygone exercise. Am I right?

March 19, 2011 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Oh, Kathryn, you got me.

I was a master at diagramming sentences, and I loved it. The more complicated the better.

But you know, I truly understood sentence structure when I was done.

Thanks for the memory, and the laugh. I guess I'm far more transparent than I thought.


March 19, 2011 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Doyle said...

Ha! I knew it! Yours truly won an award in 8th grade for diagramming an absurdly long sentence. We are two peas in a pod.

March 19, 2011 at 7:13 PM  

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