New Year’s Resolutions for Word Nerds

The following is a verbatim excerpt from an e-newsletter, which I subscribe to, from Jane Straus on  Jane is also the author of “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.”

Resolutions for Word Nerds

Below you’ll find our New Year’s resolutions for self-appointed guardians of the English language. We language cops need our own code of ethics to protect us from ourselves and shield others from our self-righteousness.

The Stickler’s Ten Commandments for 2016

1) Thou shalt proofread. Proofreading your work is a dying art—but why is that? Do we really think that everything we write is effortlessly perfect on the first try?

2) No correcting someone’s informal correspondence. If you get an email that says, “We just want whats our’s,” stifle that impulse to respond with a dissertation on apostrophes. Maybe your correspondent is just kidding around—or didn’t proofread.

3) … And casual conversation gets a lot of leeway too. Language purists ought to ease off when people are just relaxing and making small talk. No one ever mistook a Super Bowl bash for a summit conference.

4) No using fancy words when simpler ones will do. A barrage of big words is impressive the way a mesomorph bench pressing six hundred pounds is impressive.

5) Always look it up. Twenty-first century technology makes it quick and painless to look up words like mesomorph. But for whatever reason, most people just won’t do it.

6) No correcting strangers. Grownups are so touchy nowadays.

7) Do correct your kids’ grammar. It’s not belittling if you do it right; they may even thank you someday. The English they hear all the time—from their peers, the media, even some teachers—sets a horrid example. Good English deserves equal time.

8)But keep it private. Never give grammar lectures within earshot of innocent bystanders or service animals.

9) No excuses when you slip. We all make mistakes. If you’re nailed red-handed, don’t try to wiggle out of it.

10) Know what you’re talking about. Here is something your English teacher never told you: the rules change. So before you cry foul, how do you know you’re right? There are many myths about “proper” English floating around.

A century ago, contact as a verb was banned in polite society, and anyone who said, “I will contact you soon” was dismissed as a philistine. In the 1970s, hopefully was considered a ghastly vulgarity, and anyone who said, “Hopefully, the disco won’t be too crowded tonight” could be ostracized from the cool crowd. Today, no one has a problem with contact or
hopefully … but you may find yourself ostracized for saying “disco.”



Success at Last!

I began smoking because I got tired of my then-husband telling me what I could and couldn’t do, as well as, falsely, believing it would help me control my appetite. It didn’t. I eventually went from 2 1/2 packs a day of full-flavored cigarettes like Marlboro to 1 1/2 packs a day of “lights.” Not any better, huh?

Ten years later, tired of the smell on my clothes and constantly hacking and coughing, I quit cold turkey. I still craved them, especially in social situations or bar-hopping, and was even smoking in my dreams, but I succeeded in quitting for 11+ years.

Then I hit one of the really stressful times in my life and was going to psychotherapy every Friday for a while. One Friday, I caved in and bought a pack of cigarettes. I only smoked one and left the pack at my BFF’s in her refrigerator. I got through until the following Friday when I went to my friend’s and smoked another one. By the end of 4-5 weeks, I was smoking more than one on Fridays, so I caved and took the cigarettes home. And the old cycle started again.

I come from a large family, but because I lived away from them for so many years, I missed out on the birth and first few months of each niece and nephew’s birth. Then my last niece, Hannah, was born and because they were living with me and my mom I got the chance to bond with her from the day she came home. I call her “my heart” because we became so close, and we still are even though she is a teenager now. (Can you see my eyes rolling?)

When Hannah was two years old I decided once again I wanted to quit smoking so that I could be around to see her graduate, get married and have kids. Although I wasn’t sure I would succeed because my job was extremely stressful, I set a target date for smoking my last cigarette as her third birthday.

On the target date, I had one last cigarette before going inside to sleep. As I did, I looked to the heavens and said, “Okay, Lord, it’s in your hands now. Please give me strength.” He did.

Twelve years later I am still smoke-free. This time, though, I haven’t craved a cigarette or dreamed of smoking one at all, even in social situations around other smokers. I will always believe that the defining difference between the two “quits” was that I gave my craving into God’s hands.

I know, without any doubt, that if I am ever dumb enough to start smoking again – especially at the price of a pack today – I’ll  be unable to quit again this late in my life. But I won’t have to worry about doing that; God’s got my back.

Jesus vs Satan

The Daily Post Happy Endings
Tell us about something you’ve tried to quit. Did you go cold turkey, or for gradual change? Did it stick?