Posts Tagged ‘AP Style’

Dear Former Students,

You have no idea the joy I feel when one of you contacts me to tell me something I said or did had an impact on you. This is why I started teaching in the first place: to make a difference.

I flourished under professors like Dr. Brightman and Dr. Taylor. I wanted to be the same kind of advocate for learning and growth.

Or even just make you question the existence of certain words.

Susan, you made my day by sending me this:

I still hate those words (and others). If anyone catches me using them, that person should take me to the hospital as I’ve clearly had a stroke.

Ken recently told me that he never closes with “Best” in an email because of me. What’s my problem with “Best?” It can be used as an adjective or an adverb, but it has to modify something. So I always think to myself, “Best what? Best regards? Best wishes? Best in show?”

So thank you for taking my classes and letting me mold you into critical duplicates.

And keep sending me little anecdotes of my permeating influence (or put them in the comments below). It fills me with glee.

Best in show,
Dr. Beth

*”We don’t need no education,” interestingly enough, is a double negative. So what Pink Floyd actually said was that we need education. So Pink Floyd was right.


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Dear readers (and, I hope, fellow lovers of language):

I need a break from the 2016 election.

Let’s talk about the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma) for a moment. We’ve all seen the following to advocate for its use:

But here’s the thing: I would use a colon to clarify if I really meant that JFK and Stalin had side jobs. My sentence would read:

We invited the strippers: JFK and Stalin.

If I meant that JFK, Stalin and some ladies working their way through college were all coming to the party, I would write:

We invited JFK, Stalin and the strippers.

I’m a fan of improving clarity by rewriting. No need to overwork the comma and use it for a simple series.

However, we cannot give the comma a gold watch and say goodbye. We still need it. And some people certainly appreciate it. (Read this from the bottom up.)

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina

Email courtesy of 36-hour Tina


We also need articles or bad things happen.


Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

Image courtesy of Shane Marshall Brown

A “the” before “pen” would have made all the difference. (Or even a bigger space before “is.”)

What we don’t need is random quotation marks — not even one random quotation mark, as seen in the photo below. (By the way, quotation marks come in pairs. That’s how they work. But if the signmaker had added another, we’d be wondering what the dogs are actually doing.)


Image courtesy of Angela DeVore

Please send me your sign/email/meme fails in the comments or via Twitter (@BethCon5). I think we all will be needing more election breaks over the next 45 days.


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Dear 16th-century Poet Who Wrote the “12 Days of Christmas”*:

I’d like to adapt your song to reference my life as a professor. I hope you don’t mind.

For space’s sake, we’ll skip to the last verse. Please sing to the tune of the standard arrangement by Frederic Austin.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my students gave to me:

12 “strongly agree”s
11 alumni notes
10 brilliant comments
9 rec. requests
8 mangled clauses
7 late-night emails
6 Twitter retweets
5 bacon links
4 lame excuses
3 “utilize”s
2 ampersands
And pride in a job well done!

(They drive me crazy, but I love them just the same.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


*No one knows for sure who wrote it.

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Dear AP:

I don’t know if I can continue in this relationship. I trusted you, but you betrayed me with that trollop, “hopefully.” You know how I feel about that word. How could you do this to me?

Your change of heart was swift — much quicker than your decisions about “email” and “website.” How long did you go on defending yourself about those two, even when the whole world used the form you finally adopted? Everyone knew you would cave eventually. But “hopefully” was, sadly, a blindside. At least for me.

You might say, “The whole world used ‘hopefully’ to mean ‘I hope’ or ‘It is hoped,’ so what’s the big deal?” You and I both know that there is a huge difference between deleting a hyphen (“e-mail”) and accepting a word used improperly. Just because everyone uses it the wrong way doesn’t mean it is OK.

I held you to a high standard. I badgered students in my classes to learn your mysterious ways or face certain peril, grade-wise. Now I just don’t know if I can continue to cite you, to force adherence, to claim allegiance.

You are a sellout. I’m so disappointed in you. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

It’s been two weeks and I’m still not even close to being over this stab to the back of good grammar. It will take time. It may not happen at all.

I hope you understand.


Your Former No. 1 Fan

P.S. Of course, you can make it all better and say it was just a joke. Please say you were just kidding.

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Cracker Barrel is to me is like catnip is to our cat Reggie (who seems to have left us for a neighbor). I cannot get enough of the Sunday homestyle chicken with a side of dumplings. Before entering the Starch Consumption Plaza, though, guests have to navigate the maze of rooster quilts, Oak Ridge Boys CDs and ceramic birdhouses. I can’t ever get past the “Good Old Days” food section. (Cracker Barrel calls this the “assortment of nostalgic and classic products that evoke memories of the way things used to be.”)

While I have been known to plunk down the debit card for chocolate mints and Jordan almonds, I usually pay more attention to the packaging of other consumables. I want to help the people who create these labels.

Shouldn't "old-fashioned" be the adjective here?

Besides the fact that I hate the ampersand, "tips" doesn't sound like anything tasty.

The soda isn't possessing anything. Lose the apostrophe!

Again, no apostrophe needed as there is no possession in place.

Cracker Barrel isn’t the only restaurant with advertising issues, though.

I don't want to jump into these items. I'm not sure I even want to eat anything that is "twisted."

Am I the only one who pays attention to things like this? Clearly not. Here’s something from my friend Shane Marshall Brown.

What the HECK is going on with the "Tatamagouche" and "Hurricane Harbor" entries?



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The following tweet and resulting class discussion prompted today’s post:

The discussion concerned the use of “dreamt.” Should he have used “dreamed” instead?

Both are correct, but “dreamed” is standard American, while “dreamt” is a British thing. So #Ross can use “dreamt” without raising an eyebrow, along with “regards,” “towards,” “spilt” and “learnt.” Americans drop that “s” in the former two and use the “ed” form in the latter two.

And that brings me to other “ed” issues.

  • The correct past tense of the verb “to plead” is “pleaded” (at least according to AP Style). Sorry “pled” lovers.
  • The preferred pronunciation of “striped” is “strEYEpt.” Fortunately for Claire, Merriam-Webster also allows “strEYE-ped.”
  • The most common pronunciation of “blessed” is “BLESS-ed,” but Merriam allows the one syllable variant as well. It depends on how you use it. One syllable for “I’ve been blessed with a generally even-keeled demeanor, even in the face of perceived classroom disrespect” and two for a use such as “I never get one blessed moment of peace at home.”

And by the way, I have never brought any Starburst candy for class — laced with drugs or not.

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‘Twas five days before Christmas when all through our house,
All creatures were stirring, except for a mouse.

In Naveen’s belly* it rested, all squeezed to a pulp.
(The boys loved watching the snake grab it and gulp.)

The children denied attempts to put them to bed —
Optimus, Bumblebee filling their heads.

And I with my chicken and Eddie with his dog
Had just settled down with some spiked eggnog

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.

Away to the front door we flew like a flash.
In our bare feet, we looked like white trash.

Out on the driveway something made our eyes hurt:
The guy next door again wasn’t wearing a shirt.

Then what to our watering eyes did appear,
But a strange being — just whom was not clear.

What this being was bearing gave me pause:
Poorly written signs? Must be Santa Clause!

More rapid than Bob Ross, these signs he produced,
And shouted the many mistakes he deduced:

“No comma! No period! And what’s with the quotes?
A misspelling here – Just see what they wrote!”

To the step of the porch he came with his haul.
“Let’s slash away, slash away, slash away all.”

“Get me your stylebook, and Strunk and White too.
They must learn the difference between whom and who.”

Eddie looked at us and in a manner quite snide,
Said, “You two have at it, I’m going inside.”

And then in a twinkling, I fetched my Mac Air
And my iPhone as a camera to capture signs there.

As I drew closer to my mysterious guest,
I noticed something odd: He was kind of a mess.

He was dressed all in things that I write about
From snack food to rednecks – how’d he find out?

A bundle of Utz chips he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a vendor, just opening his pack.

A mask – just like Batman! His shoes? Birkenstocks!
His jeans were jacked up, Dixie flag as a top!

His mouth was covered in hot cheeto dust
And the beard of his chin was colored like rust.

The stump of a Sharpie he held tight in his yap,
To give to the kids for their skin art crap.

He had a broad face, around which headphones
Blasting some KISS – thank God — not the Stones!

He was chubby and plump – hadn’t been to the gym.
So I suggested that later I’d go there with him.

He winked with his eye, then his head he did nod,
And I knew right then he’d been reading my blog!

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work.
“If we fix all these signs, does that make us two jerks?”

Laying his writing hand aside of his knee,
He nodded his head, and we laughed with glee!

It took us a while; we edited with passion.
Then he left – but I have loads of blog rations!

I heard him exclaim ‘fore he strode out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good write!”

* Naveen is the ball python we are snake-sitting for the break

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On this day of thanksgiving, I am thankful for family, friends, health, a great job, and all of the usual things.

And I’m also thankful for punctuation.

  • Quotation marks: Thank you for telling us when someone else starts talking and finishes, helping us recognize exact language in other instances, and also when a word is not being used in its usual sense. I feel awful that people incorrectly use you to emphasize a word.
  • Parentheses: Without you, we would not know that the writer is offering an aside (information that is useful, but not crucial).
  • Brackets: You are underused, I think, because people don’t know what to do with you. You set text apart, insert some information, identify clarifications, enclose missing material, and help out in math. Perhaps you are not as common as [several other marks] but you are useful nonetheless. Thanks!
  • Ellipsis: People like to add to you. But it’s nice that you have just three simple characters … and that you show that the writer omitted something.
  • Hyphen: Thank you for connecting words to modify a noun. Without you, the phrase “dirty-movie theater” wouldn’t be as interesting. We also appreciate the way you create numbers, show time periods and create fractions.
  • Dash: You are another mark with substance — like a super hyphen — to show change in thought or that the speaker has been interrupted. Thank you for your heavy lifting. (Note: I’m talking about the “em dash” here. AP Style doesn’t recognize the “en dash,” so I don’t either.)
  • Question mark: Do you know how useful you are? Thank you for allowing us to ask a question. And in Spanish, you get all fancy!
  • Exclamation point: You are the sad victim of abuse. It’s terrible! When used sparingly, you provide an element of excitement. Thank you!
  • Apostrophe: Thank you for letting us know what belongs to whom, and when some letters are missing. You’re the best!
  • Comma: We appreciate your ability to link similar items, but also show difference.
  • Semicolon: You’re like a super comma; we celebrate you because you are completely awesome.
  • Colon: You are more substantial than a comma or semicolon, but not quite as burly as a period. In addition to making introductions, you do other important things: separate hours from minutes, chapter from verse, and two numbers in a proportion. Thanks.
  • Period: We celebrate your ability to end a thought. Period.

Thank you, handy symbols — not just today, but every day!

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Apparently, when my friends, family and students see errors in the wild, they think of me. That makes my heart swell. Maybe someday I’ll get a book deal out of my passion for correcting other people. (Or maybe I’ll just get a punch in the eye …)

Anyway, it has been a good week for adding to my collection. My friend Chad sent this bit of loveliness:

It was in the Savannah Morning News, of course, but what is worse than that is that it is an AP story. So it made it through the AP editors AND the ones at the SMN.

But writing student Elizabeth sent me one that topped that by a long shot! Pan down to the bottom to enjoy this little slice of heaven:

According to Elizabeth, her mom ripped this page out of the menu. It is probably a good thing for the restaurant. You wouldn’t want to advertise that you have a victimized rabbit.

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For reasons that should be obvious from some of my earlier posts, my anthem for this summer is Bowling For Soup’s 1999 song “1985.”

These lyrics in particular really resonate with me lately:

She’s seen all the classics, she knows every line
Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, even St. Elmo’s Fire
She rocked out to Wham!, not a big Limp Bizkit fan
Thought she’d get a hand on a member of Duran Duran

Where’s the mini-skirt made of snake skin?
And who’s the other guy that’s singing in Van Halen?
When did reality become TV?
Whatever happened to sitcoms, game shows, on the radio was

Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school they tell her that she’s uncool
‘Cause she’s still preoccupied with 19-19-1985
(Woo hoo hoo)

She hates time, make it stop
When did Motley Crue become classic rock?
And when did Ozzy become an actor?
Please make this stop, stop, stop!

I can’t stop time, and I can’t go back to my 20s, so I must find joy in the present. And in the present, I find joy in little things.

Here’s a non-comprehensive list in no particular order of 50 things of things that make me happy.

  1. Doing impressions with Eddie of Tim Gunn.
  2. When Gideon yells “I love you, Mama” in crowded places.
  3. A hot, hilarious, handy husband
  4. Deciding to give up hoping that certain people will stop saying mean, untrue things about Eddie and me.
  5. Realizing that my best will never be good enough for some people, and coming to terms with that (a corollary to the above).
  6. Greek yogurt
  7. Greek yogurt with pomegranate
  8. Montessori school
  9. An iTunes playlist on which artists such as Lady Gaga, Will Smith, Amy Winehouse, OK Go and the Dixie Chicks live together harmoniously.
  10. Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy
  11. When my mother-in-law isn’t speaking to us
  12. “Everything” bagels
  13. That my father found a woman who makes him happy in his post-Mom life.
  14. Shopping for groceries
  15. Trying new recipes
  16. Having friends over
  17. Close female friends I’ve had for years who “get” me (Trish, Linda, Julia, Tina, Khaki, Heidi, Sophia and Terri come to mind)
  18. Funny male friends (Royce, Billy, Edgar, Alex, James, Ed, Michael — I’m talking about you)
  19. Facebook and Twitter
  20. Certain past and present students
  21. My Beer of the Month Club membership
  22. Grammar, punctuation and spelling errors in the wild because it means fodder for this blog
  23. Hearing the kids sing along to Owl City’s “Fireflies
  24. Primary colors, especially blue
  25. Coffee, specifically in a Starbucks frappuccino
  26. That I killed a venomous snake by myself
  27. Entertainment Weekly and People magazines
  28. AP Style
  29. “Amazing Race,” “Survivor,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef”
  30. Knowing how to make certain meals, such as empanadas with Spanish rice, without a recipe
  31. Dominic’s interest in science
  32. That Eddie and I know what each other is thinking with one look (a code look)
  33. Cheese
  34. Cranium
  35. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Puffs (of course)
  36. Chickens
  37. That I can figure out a way to get to New York roughly twice a year
  38. Week 10 of the quarter
  39. Apple products
  40. Leaves changing in the fall
  41. Christmas Eve
  42. A quiet house
  43. Candles
  44. Living near lakes, the ocean, and people with pools
  45. Petra’s strawberry cake
  46. Ida’s Iranian cutlets
  47. Dragonflies
  48. Zunzi’s
  49. Walter the Farting Dog
  50. Bedtime

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