Old lady: Do you have gift cards here?
Employee: Yes, we do.
Old lady: Can I get one for Best Buy?
—Barnes & Noble, Whitestone, Queens
Teen girl #1: He broke up with me on Facebook!
Teen girl #2: Like, on your wall?
Teen girl #1: No, he just changed his status back to 'Single'!
—Metro North terminal, Grand Central
Professor: I've heard from students that have taken my exams that they're generally considered thinking exams. Rather than just have you recite the law, I try to throw questions in there that will make you examine the policies behind it... Yes?
Law student: What would you say the ratio of thinking questions to normal questions is going to be?
Professor: Hmmm... Really, I don't know if I can answer that. I mean, what to one person would be a thinking-type question, to another might not be, you know?
[Same student raises hand again.]
Professor: Usually I'm reluctant to let a person who asks a question like that ask another question, so let me ask you first—how many of your questions are thinking-type questions?
—Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
I got the following e-mail from Myra, which was an affirmation, while cracking me up at the same time:
You've been dubbed a desirable dinner guest (not in a cannabalistic way
either). Sarah is hosting a welcome dinner for Dani on Saturday, Jan.
20th - time to be determined. You are invited if you'd like to come.
Just let me know.
I went into the office today, and missed the rush hour traffic. Amen.
I listened in on an hour-long IBM Editors Meeting, which was fairly worthwhile. They reviewed 2006 accomplishments, and proposed 2007 goals.
After the meeting I forwarded my article, "Podcasting—entercation or edutainment," to those who attended.
Podcasting—entercation or edutainment
by John Martin
What do you think about someone you see walking around, or riding the bus, with earbuds in? I’ve wondered: What song are they listening to? What kind of music are they listening to? I wonder how loud that music is in their ears!
There’s a name for that “tinny sound that leaks out of somebody else’s iPod.” NPR producer Neva Grant calls it “ear spray.” But I digress...
Personally, I listen to about as many podcasts on my iPod as I do songs. Often, on a bus, when I literally “LOL” at something in a podcast episode, I wonder if people are wondering what could possibly be so funny about a song. And then I realize that what they’re really thinking is, “It’s not the song that’s a looney-tune.”
My newest podcast series subscription is to one called “Grammar Girl,” which I found addictive (or is that addicting—see episode #16 for the answer) after hearing the first two episodes. What’s great about them to me is that they address issues that even the most experienced of writers and editors think about, and they are presented in a most concise manner.
According to her website, “Grammar Girl quietly hides in plain sight as the real-life science writer Mignon Fogarty. She makes her living writing highly technical documents for large biotech companies (e.g., Applied Biosystems) and health articles for websites (e.g., the Stanford Cancer Center).
Mignon earned a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and a M.S. in biology from Stanford University.
Grammar Girl believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. She strives to be a friendly guide in the writing world.”
Her average podcast is less than five minutes in length, and some topics covered so far in the series include:
- Overuse of the word “of”
- “i.e.,” vs. “e.g.,”
- “Who” vs. “that” when talking about companies
- “Which” vs. “that”
- “Who” vs. “whom”
- “Effect” vs. “affect”
- “Among” vs. “between”
- Split infinitives (She calls this a “grammar myth.”)
- Style guides (Don’t work anywhere without one!)
- Fighting wordiness and investigating idioms
- “If I were there” vs. “I was there”
- Which words in a title should be capitalized
- Ending a sentence with a preposition (Times have changed!)
- Redundancy with acronyms (e.g., the HIV virus)
- The difference between acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations
- Helpful tips for effective proofreading
- Single quotation marks vs. double quotation marks
- Generic singular pronouns (e.g., “he” vs. “she” vs. “one” vs. “s/he,” etc.)
- When to use dashes
- When to use colons
- How to identify sentence fragments
- “Its” vs. “it’s”
Grammar Girl is big on mnemonics, and whenever possible, she offers them as a way to remember a certain rule or tip. Here’s one she gives to remember the difference between effect and affect: "The arrow affected the aardvark," and "the effect was eye-popping." There are a words in the affect sentence, and e words in the effect sentence.
The other thing that’s great about her is that she is not at all pretentious. She freely admits that she’s there to provide “quick and dirty” tips. Here’s one of them with regards to the use of “who” and “whom”: “Like whom, the pronoun him ends with m. When you’re trying to decide whether to use who or whom, ask yourself if the answer to the question would be he or him. That’s the trick: If you can answer the question being asked with him, then use whom, and it’s easy to remember because they both end with m.”
She gives an example for better understanding: “If you were asking, ‘Who (or whom) do you love?’ the answer would be ‘I love him.’ Him ends with m, so you know to use whom. So it’s, ‘Whom do you love?’
“But if you were trying to ask, ‘Who (or whom) stepped on Squiggly?’ the answer would be, ‘He stepped on Squiggly.’ There’s no m, so you know to use who. So, it’s, ‘Who stepped on Squiggly?’”
Before her quick and dirty tip, of course, she does give the actual grammar rule, in this case: “Use who when you are referring to the subject of a clause, and whom when you are referring to the object of a clause.”
Two other things I really like about Grammar Girl's teaching style are that she provides historical context to rules when it might help in learning, and she uses current events as an impetus for some episode topics.
An example of historical context use can be found in her episode on apostrophes, where she says, "An interesting side note is that it doesn't seem so strange that an apostrophe s is used so make words possessive once you realize that in Old English it was common to make words possessive by adding es to the end. For example, the possessive of fox would have been foxes, which was the same as the plural. I assume that caused confusion, and someone suggested replacing the e with an apostrophe to make fox's in the possessive case. So, apostrophe s for the possessive case was initially meant to show that the e was missing, and then the idea caught on and everyone eventually forgot all about the missing e.”
With regards to topics around current events, a recent podcast discussed the use of the word is in the Christmas carol line, "The Lord is Come," another about whether Saddam Hussein was hanged or hung, and yet another about why people are saying, "Nancy Pelosi is the first woman Speaker of the House," when they would never say, "He was the first man Speaker of the House."
Grammatically inquiring minds want to know!
There is a transcript of each episode on the Grammar Girl website, though she is currently polling her audience as to the value in this time-consuming activity for her. The transcript usually contains two sections at the end, one called “References,” which basically contains her citations, and another called, “Further Reading,” which contains pointers to articles of interest on the topic, or to the “nitty gritty” of the topic when the “quick and dirty” doesn’t tell the whole story.
Grammar Girl is committed to continuously improving her product. She often polls her audience on various ways to improve her episodes, and is currently working to add “slides” to her podcasts, so that, depending on what kind of “client software” you’re using to receive her broadcast, you can see written examples of what she’s talking about, which at times, would be incredibly helpful. Eventually, she’d like to delve into video as well.
You can listen to Grammar Girl podcasts even if you don’t have an mp3 player! Just go to her website, at either qdnow.com or grammar.qdnow.com, and you can listen online!
I, as a technical editor, intend to share this “resource” with the writers for whom I edit. (Even though Grammar Girl says it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition these days, some old habits die hard.)
The official podcast name is “Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” All quotes in this article are from Grammar Girl episode transcripts at her website at qdnow.com. Reprinted from “Technically Speaking, the newsletter of the NCSU student chapter of the STC, by permission of the author and editor.
I began my edit of Shruti's ITIM Lotus Notes Adapter Users Guide, and it's going to be slow-going. Dolores was in tune with my workload, and pro-actively canceled our 1-on-1 for today. I appreciated that!
We had our STC Board meeting tonight at Helios @ 7:00. Only Sarah, Jenn C., Kim, and I were present. It was a productive meeting.
I hung out at Helios until they closed, where I had dinner, edited Kim's pamphlet, and caught up this blog.
I also updated the newsletter with date changes we decided upon during our meeting.