Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope yours went swimmingly. In fact, I hope mine did as well, since I’m writing this column two weeks in advance.
Although I’m not typically one to subscribe to calendar-initiated behavioral changes, in the spirit of self-improvement – and filling 400 words – I thought I’d set out some grammar goals for myself this year.
Goal #1 – Proofread, proofread, proofread. This isn’t bad advice for any writing occasion; be it an e-mail, mission statement, shopping list … even a snarky grammar column. There’s nothing worse than sending a professional e-mail and realizing there’s a glaring typographic error in an important spot – except for maybe bringing a grocery bag full of soap home to a sick loved one hoping for soup; especially if it’s chicken soap.
Goal #2 – Use fewer parenthetical statements. Regular readers of my column will recognize that I’m an avid fan of asides. And the first three paragraphs of this column are especially loaded with them since I knew this goal was coming. I just love them so much. But, as with all good things, if you include too many parenthetical additions you run the risk of losing the topic of your writing, and thus your reader. And so, whether they come with “em” dashes, commas, ellipses or good old-fashioned parentheses, the asides will have to come fewer and farther between this year. Except for that one, of course. And that one.
Goal #3 – Ferreting out common, yet pernicious, word misuses. There are a lot of everyday phrases we use that are just wrong grammatically. Often, we know they’re wrong. Take the phrase “I could care less,” for example. Logically, that doesn’t indicate the complete lack of care people intend to express with it. But we say it anyway. Some common errors are less obvious. One of my pet peeves, for example, is the misuse of the words asocial and antisocial. The latter is used frequently to refer to people who prefer their own company or avoid social interactions. This is incorrect. An antisocial person is one who is antagonist, sometimes even hostile, toward other people or social interactions. Think Eeyore versus Oscar the Grouch. Oscar is a mean, grumpy old grouch who lives in a trash can, while Eeyore just likes being alone. Oscar is antisocial. Eeyore is asocial. All of that being said, there are, of course, occasionally good reasons to be a little lax with grammar: Like just letting a friend say “sure” instead of “surely” so that you don’t have to hear that joke from “Airplane!” for the 10,000th time.