The other day I read an interesting and amusing post by blogger Butterfly Sand relative to the use of punctuation. Specifically how the use or lack of it can change the meaning of a sentence. I happen to be a person that writes the way I talk. If it sounds right when I say it, that is the way I write it. As such, my use of punctuation is wholly based on what looks right to me at the time. No more, no less. I also would not know a verb from a pronoun unless someone held up a cue card. They just never did it for me in English class and had little or no impact on my grades in English Composition, so if not perfect, I guess I must have been close enough to pass.
Today, I display my literacy with the assistance of spell check. Without it, I would still be writing with a dictionary by my side. Today, I refer to it only to make sure the word I want to use really means what I think it does.
So why do I bring this all up? Well, because I read a lot, and what I read begs me to ask the question “Does anyone read what they wrote before they publish it”? I am not talking about you and me. I am talking about the people that do it for a living. The people that supposedly understand the tenets of proper English and presumably cashed in on a degree in journalism. While they can generally be depended on to dot all the ‘i’s’ and cross all the ‘t’s’ (and yes, put commas where they belong), I often feel that they are more conscious of content then context. “Hey Bud, give me a quick 200 of local interest. Acme just pulled their ad and I have four inches to fill”.
To illustrate my point, I offer the two following examples excerpted from my local paper just this week.
The first was a story about the recent robbery of a tanning salon. In the article, it gives a description of the robber as between 6 feet and 6-foot-2, wearing a long, dark hooded jacket who kept his face covered during the robbery. It then goes on to say “In a post on the police department’s Facebook page, a rendering drawn by a sketch artist shows a white male with bushy brown hair and light stubble on his chin.” Now, I don’t know about you, but when they said he had his face covered, I just assumed they meant the bottom half. Is it just me?
The other story pertains to an inmate in the local County Jail. The article reads “An inmate at the County Jail unsuccessfully tried to hang himself in his cell Wednesday, jail officials said. A corrections officer and member of the jail medical staff found the man around 9:25 a.m., placing a bed sheet around his neck. It goes on to say “jail staff helped the man”. “Hey buddy, are you going to be able to get that around your neck by your self, or would you like a little assistance?
So, Miss Regan, it appears that all those tears of anguish when I was in your class were for naught. Your fear of calling on me because my answer may have been construed as the failure of your prowess as an English teacher was unfounded. After all these years, it appears that indeed, I can now write as good as the professionals.