Words & Banter

Arrested … And Amused … By The Grammar Police?!

Image by Feng Yu on Alamy

My sister seems to think that I pride myself on the use of 50-cent words, but I don’t think I use as many of them as she likes to give me “grief” about. But if she wants to talk about vocabulary, I want to talk about grammar, and her frustratingly focused and ever-present fixation on making sure our posts are grammatically correct. And I hope she finds the humor in this post when she reviews it, although she’ll probably only mention grammatical mistakes (I guarantee the first draft had some), ways to tighten up my writing (OK, I like to blah-blah-blah), and other “improvements”.

Regardless, I work with the grammar police. And for someone like me, who prided myself on being a straight-A student, seeing that side of her (she admits she was more of a troublemaker than a student until she got to college), came as a shock to me. Over the years, my shock has been replaced with tolerance, but I was recently just flat-out … entertained by it.

OK, technically, it wasn’t about grammar; it was about her “issues” with the extremely popular software Grammarly and was in response to a comment from a trusted consultant about how Grammarly can be “a bit errant”. Please “read” that with a very British accent as the fact it was written by an Englishman is important in what may now be one of my favorite emails from Black,

Since I have used Grammarly for years, I thought I would jump in and tell you that I “feel your pain” …

1. First, it does not speak English, only American, and not always fluently
2. FYI, the British “style” is to put punctuation AFTER ghost quotes (my preference), but Grammarly insists on putting it inside the quotes
3. I found its recommendations sometimes change the meaning of what I am trying to say (its algorithms sometimes try to “correct” things that are correct but less commonly used)
4. I am frustrated that I cannot define a style … for example, I always use put a comma after “and” and “but” when I use them to start a sentence (Red does not), it insists on trying to delete those commas (funny thing is I am old enough to remember being taught you should never start sentences with “and” or “but”)
5. I hate the fact that Grammarly hates … wait for it … dot-dot-dot, aka, ellipses … as I love them
6. Our posts are conversational versus formal, but Grammarly insists on trying to make our writing more formal and have us change frequently used words to more obscure ones (I guess to sound more intelligent)
7. Grammarly also likes to “tell” me to change words because they are used more than once in a sentence, and usually, that is intentional (see prior item, as when I checked it on Grammarly, it wanted me to change “more formal” to “more traditional”)
8. I ended up removing the plug-in and now manually upload important documents, but do not use it for routine emails or working drafts of documents (I wait until they are “almost final”)

Well, only Black could make a list of commiserating reasons for a passing comment (although it did surprise me, she used numbers and not her beloved bullet points). But the best part of her email was still to come … (yes, I also love dot-dot-dots) as she has a way of perfectly summing up a conversation in the most unexpected, but often most amusing, way,

So, if you find punctuation and/or (oh, it does not like “and/or” and advises it is “frowned upon in formal writing” and I should consider using only one conjunction or rewriting the sentence) grammatical errors in my emails and/or draft documents, please do not blame it on Grammarly. And, know that I got an A+ in high school English … because … I flirted with my teacher.

When Red first heard Black talking about the importance of "soft skills," she didn't even know what she was referring to, let alone that they would be important to her life. So, Black explained that it was a term used to describe intangible but essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communications, and conflict management.

Red, trying to be sarcastic, then asked if there was such a thing as “hard skills,” Black matter-of-factly told her those are tangible and technical skills such as computer skills.

Of course, Black couldn’t pass up an opportunity for sarcasm and explained that although there’s consensus about the importance of soft skills, there’s debate about what they should be called, with her favorite being the Texas Education Agency (TEA) calling them "21st Century Skills" – although she's old enough to remember they were important in the 20th Century, too.

But would anyone call them “Mom Skills”? Well, Red couldn’t help but remember the time Black told her, “Your job is every bit as demanding as a corporate position, and, in fact, you use many of the same skill sets.”Not something Red could ever have imagined, but it made sense once she better understood what soft skills are and how they are used. But then Black took it a step further,

Keep Reading ...Show less

Red was your typical straight-A student, getting great grades starting in kindergarten straight through to graduating from college.(Black’s grades were less than stellar, plus she was a discipline problem – some things never change.) And then, excited and proud of herself, Red thought she was done. Black, on the other hand, thinks of education as something that never ends, and much to the chagrin of students, will tell them,

Homework never ends; it just is called “research” when you get older.

Over the last few years, Red has come around to Black’s way of thinking and realizes it’s a mindset. And that education is more than the classes you take in school.

September is when students of all ages are back in school, but it’s also National Literacy Month, which is about so much more than reading and writing. Literacy includes things like Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and even News Literacy. (As the linked Conversation Starters indicate, Red was the “poster child” of a highly educated person who lacked many of these basic literacy skills.)

So, we challenge you to find a topic that interests you or one you could benefit from learning (personally or professionally) and start doing your homework.

Keep Reading ...Show less

For many of us, Labor Day marks the end of summer (temperatures aside), and as we switch from a summer holiday mindset back to the “real world”, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

You don’t need us to tell you how falling back into a work or school routine can be challenging, especially if you’re facing a backlog of tasks and responsibilities. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the “silly season” is just around the corner. (Red has been seeing Halloween decorations since mid-July, which means Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays aren’t far behind.)

But you don’t need us to tell you why you feel overwhelmed; you need help dealing with being overwhelmed.

When our new website goes live next year, one of the major sections will be THE DAILY HELP, where you’ll find easy-to-implement tools to get your day back on track and feel more in control.

But that doesn’t help you … NOW. So, here are a handful of our favorite posts to help you deal with daily challenges we all face. (Red admits that she picked the ones she felt she needed to reread.)

Keep Reading ...Show less