Monday, September 29, 2014

That Semicolon is Killing Me #IWSG

A sign at the local coffee shop had me giggling and wincing at the same time. It read:

Dear Customers;
EFTPOS is temporarily unavailable.
Sorry for the convenience

The owners of the shop may have heard my guffaw because, not a minute later, the sign was taken down and a new one put up. Convenience was changed to inconvenience. But the semicolon remained. It made me squirm as if I had a tick in my eye.

Do you have trouble ignoring the bad grammar or punctuation around you? Do you correct presenters on TV shows, rewrite sentences while reading published books, chuckle at dodgy sentence structure on goods? Have you influenced your non-writing family member enough that he or she also corrects the bad grammar?

If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, then I have bad news for you: You are cursed. Yes, cursed. There’s no going back to being blissfully unaware of typos, comma splices, or dangling modifiers. You are doomed to annoy your friends (or bite your tongue a lot), fated to spend hours nit-picking over your work, ruined for the rest of your literary life.

The good news is, you’ve also been blessed. Why? Because you are a writer, and being a writer is the best thing in the world. Go on, you can admit it. It’s safe here.

What are some of the funniest mistakes you’ve made or seen? How do you survive the errors everywhere?

--
This post was written for the IWSG Group. We post on the first Wednesday of the month. Sign up is HERE.

I’m posting early because I wanted to remind everyone about the impending deadline for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond. It’s chugging toward us at a rapid pace. Not the book, but the deadline for submissions, which is October 2nd. We’re looking for articles on writing, publishing and marketing. For the guidelines, click HERE.

While we prefer email submissions, TheIWSG[at]gmail[dot]com, if you are submitting via your blog, then make sure to use the book sign up sheet so we don't miss your awesome work.


138 comments:

  1. Oh, I know! Before I started writing, I could shrug those types of things off. "No big deal. We all make mistakes. I won't mention it."

    Now my eye twitches and I want to shout, "Fix it! Fix it now!" LOL

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    1. hahaha, I sometimes wish I could go back, just so I could enjoy a book without self-editing.

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  2. It's even worse than being hyper-grammar aware about social media posts or signs. I can't read a book without critting it in my head. Everything from confusing lines to info-dumps to plot twists that don't work to unsympathetic characters (that I hope die before the end of the novel) are ripped apart by my inner editor. It's very hard to enjoy reading now...

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    1. I'm with you on that count. My inner editor won't shut up.

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  3. Those funny signs with their weird grammar are everywhere. There is a cafe in the city where they run their blackboard menu by me...'omelet', 'lasanya'...such fun being an English teacher.

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    1. Does that mean the 'omelet' is missing some eggs too? ;)

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  4. I notice the wrong words (it's instead of its) and missing words most. I can ignore dashes though! (As you are very much aware of...)
    Keep emailing those submissions, folks. Go ahead - drown us.

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    1. It's ok, I'll break you of your en-dash habit soon enough... muwhahahahaha.

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  5. I especially notice when words are repeated. I just caught one on my daughter's college application for her.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. repeated repeated words drive me crazy.

      (giggle)

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  6. Shamefully, I do have a hard time ignoring poor grammar and/or punctuation. I'm notorious for grammar correcting family members (aka hubby & kids) during disagreements. I usually get an eye-roll or they'll just say it again to irritate me. LOL

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  7. Once you're aware of it, you can't ignore it.

    My husband likes to correct my mispronounced words. Now I can badger him about placing two spaces in between sentences and placing the period outside of quotation marks.

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    1. Ha, in British English there are some instances where the period outside the quotation marks is correct. Because I write in both American and British, I have to pause and remember which one I'm writing in. Consequently, I sometimes mix up my countries. Sigh...

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  8. The copywriter where I work uses grammar different to how I write it, and even though I disagree and cringe at some of the copy he writes I have to force myself to step back because even though I class myself as a writer, I'm not THE copywriter. That style has been used for a long time before I started, so who am I to change it. At least it's taught me to be more tolerable...lol

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    1. There are a lot of styles around. Most publishing houses have their own style they stick to. It can get confusing!

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  9. lol I notice blatant stuff like the ; and I notice all the wrong words used. I just tend to make fun and move on.

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    1. Yep, those errors can offer a lot of amusement.

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  10. I have problems with grammar only in my own language and I'm unable to read a translation if it's not respectful towards our language...

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    1. That's why I imagine your translations are immaculate.

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  11. It's the missing serial commas that drive me nuts. Though that's not technically/grammatically wrong. Just bad style. :P

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    1. I think we all have our pet peeves when it comes to bad grammar. Mine is 'Bob and I/Bob and me'. Sometimes 'Bob and me' is correct, depending on where it is in the sentence.

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  12. Yeah, I notice those things. The most common one out there seems to be the insistence on forming plurals with an apostrophe. Yuck!

    I find less blatant grammar errors in books, but it drives me nuts when I see books riddled with passives, or lecture-like expositions, the kinds of things I'd be critiquing on. I keep asking myself, "Was this actually edited before it hit the shelves?"

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    1. Yep, those used to drive me insane. Now I can (mostly) push them aside for the sake of enjoying the story.

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  13. Ha! That semicolon would get me too. I try not to influence people with my curse, but my son is already noticing what sorts of editing marks I make, and a few times, he's pointed things out in his books that aren't right! *LOL*

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    1. See, that's the best! You're teaching him respect for the language. :)

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  14. Yep, I have that curse/blessing. Just this morning I was reading the recycle pamphlet that said the drop-off was "available on alternate Wednesday's and Saturday's." Ack!! There is nothing possessive about those days. Simple plural, people! :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. well, the Wednesday owns the 'and' and the Saturday wants to own the 'and'? hahahaha

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  15. The one that really grates on my nerves is the use of that, when who is meant. As in: The firemen that arrived at the scene, found the house completely engulfed in fire. It should be, The firemen who... I was taught, that is for things, who is for people.

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    1. Yeah, that one gets my goat too. I end up sounding like an owl: "Who! Who!"

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  16. I'm so laughing now. I read all the comments and have seen the same mistakes as everyone else. Restaurants with their signs are notorious sinners.

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    1. I love the errors on permanent signs. They hang there forever... taunting me. ;)

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  17. I used to write dangling modifiers until I did my MFA and got schooled by one of the teachers.

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    1. I still let one or two dangling modifiers slip through. It kills me when I eventually find them, then I ask myself, "How did I not SEE that?"

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  18. Yes I do notice these things more and more! One that annoys me is 'your' being confused with 'you're.'

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    1. yeah, I struggle not to say anything when I see your when it should be you're. Or there instead of their. Or its instead of it's. The list goes on...

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  19. I like reading chick lit best, and for some reason a lot of the authors think that it's okay to begin sentences with the word "which"; as a result, they have a lot of fragments in their writing. It drives me up the wall. Have you ever read the book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves? It's a great, funny book about grammar.

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    1. I've heard of it but I haven't read it.
      I must admit, I wilfully fragment a lot of my sentences.

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  20. I can understand things that are written in a rush, but if something's meant for the public and isn't corrected immediately, then my eyes are glued on the typo.

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    1. For sure!
      And yeah, typo away in the comments. They don't bother me there.

      Delete
  21. Kurt Vonnegut said we should pretend the semi colon no longer exists. I agree. It makes me scratch my head in fiction. Most likely, a longer pause than the writer intends for me to make.

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    1. I don't mind semicolons as long as they are used correctly...which is rare.

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  22. I'm with you!!! My favourite Jay Leno segment was always Headlines. I'd giggle endlessly & drive my family nuts :)

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  24. LOL. I should have proofed before I pushed publish.

    Hi, Lynda,

    I definitely laughed at this! That sign is hysterical...

    Since I am a FORMER grammar slob, I can relate to a POINT. Now grammar has become a part of my life. I must admit I cringe...often! I can barely get through a book without making corrections in my mind. So reading is not as pleasurable for me. But, when I do read a beautifully written story, I cheer! I just wish it would happen more often. LOL.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. bah, typos in comments are acceptable around here.
      (I say that because I endlessly create them)

      I know it's a good book when I don't stop to edit. Like you, I wish that would happen more often.

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  25. I travel fairly often in Asia and am regularly confronted with Omelates, Sories and suchlike. I've stopped reacting. In the last hotel I stayed at in Shanghai, a notice on the bathroom counter said "Leave the towels on the floor and we would be happy to wash you."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahahaha... maybe that wasn't a mistake... hahahahaha

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  26. I used to be unaware. Slowly I'm noticing grammar more and more. I'm glad because that means I'm learning, and because hopefully, one day, I'll be a good writer. I'm not there yet so forgive my mistakes. But with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility which isn't always fun.

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    1. Oh I flagrantly make grammar mistakes still, especially in comments, blog posts, and first drafts. I don't think that ever stops. Often I'm blind to my own mistakes too. Sigh. ;)

      Delete
  27. I'm always very careful when it comes to pointing out errors, because so often the people who make lofty corrections on social media end up making ridiculous errors of their own. It seems to be Murphy's Law.

    In China, there were so many hilarious misuses of the English language that it became a game to find the very worst. But still, I reminded myself, no matter how bad the example, they still spoke and wrote English much better than I could ever manage with Chinese! :)

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    1. Absolutely! There's a time and place for correcting errors. Shows on tv are fair game, but not blog posts (unless I've been specifically asked by the owner to run my eye over their work).

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  28. It is indeed a pain, Lynda. particularly when I want to enjoy a book and the pesky typos keep popping up. I wouldn't have it any other way though. It means I take that much more care in my writing.

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  29. LOL. Yes, I totally notice those things, but I just laugh it off. I remember being blissfully unaware of my typos, and it just takes me back to those grammar-free days. =)

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  30. Cursed and blessed, huh? I'll take the latter. :) Instead of my eye twitching, I grind my teeth.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yep, truly we are blessed to be able to indulge in creative expression.

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  31. Thank goodness it's safe to admit that here. :-) Have a lovely month, Lynda!

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  32. I am cursed too, Lynda. I never looked at it as a blessing for a writer. Thanks for that idea. Yay for me! Enjoyed your post!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hmm, you may have inspired me to write another blog post on the subject...

      Delete
  33. It's so hard to turn it off! But I get giggles over typos so at least there's plenty of enjoyment to be had.

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    1. We're like a group of people enjoying an inside joke ;)

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  34. Thanks, Lynda. I was worried about my obsession with a missing comma after salutations and before names. It's absence drives me nuts. Good to see I'm not alone.

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    1. Yeah, I'm sometimes guilty of that when I'm in a hurry...

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  35. Great point. Just embrace the fact you are a writer and you will correct people's mistakes and your own:-)

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  36. I teach college English--so I see a *lot* of misused punctuation! I'm learning to roll with it. I mean, I have to point it out (it's part of my job), but I'm typically not too bothered by it. I did giggle a little the other day when a student wrote "I can't phantom why" when she meant fathom.

    p.s. the semi-colon is my favorite punctuation after the em-dash.

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  38. I have the twitchy finger syndrome when I see bad grammar and wrong spellings. I need to correct it ASAP. Writer's curse I guess.

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    1. That's why I hand write my first drafts--otherwise I go crazy fixing my mistakes rather than charging on to write the story.

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  39. Haha, my friends TOTALLY call me a grammar nazi.

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  40. Yes. I feel the curse. I usually bite my tongue, but I could easily be the gal with the magic marker correcting signs across the country. The apostrophe, people, it's not that hard! Thank you.
    Play off the Page

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  41. Whenever I look over my high school daughter's homework, I can't help but add in needed commas, even though she says the teachers don't care. I bet they do.

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    1. Do they still teach grammar in high school? I wonder sometimes.

      Delete
  42. What a great post. You are, bar-none, the best eyes to have over a manuscript. Have you ever thought of dabbling in acquisitions? ;)

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    1. Wow, thanks, Suze.
      I was thinking of starting up an editing and formatting business.

      Delete
  43. What a great post! I read Eats Shoots and Leaves just for such a reason! I do have to confess though, I am majorly comma challenged and nothing seems to help! Good thing I have a good editor who takes those messy commas of mine and whips them into shape!

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    1. I really need to read Eats Shoots and Leaves.

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  44. Replies
    1. I love the simplicity of your statement. Beautiful.

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  45. I kind of suck at punctuation and commas and such. Each story, I make sure to hire someone who knows a lot more than I do to put the commas in the right place. I have tried too, but I can't seem to figure out how to apply it to my writing.

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    1. I'll admit that reading how to use proper grammar is dry material. And there are many exceptions to the rules too. Yay for editors.

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  46. I'm sure I commit many grammatical sins on a daily basis, lol. Thank God for editors!

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  47. I try not to worry too much about matters where it doesn't substantially change the meaning.

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    1. Yep, it's good to prioritise your time over what you feel matters.

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  48. Yes I notice errors all the time and it drives me nuts. But I also make errors, so no biggie.
    So excited for the book!

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    1. We all make the errors. I'm especially blind to my own errors. Yay for editors and critique partners!

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  49. Who's and whose is the one that usually gets to me. It's as if people have forgotten that who is or who has are two separate words that do not denote possession. Other than that, I let it all go. I'm horrible at grammar and there's no sense in passing judgment when you know you could improve yourself.

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    1. I might know the rules, but I still make mistakes. It's the quirk of bad grammar--it gets everywhere.

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  50. Oh my, confession time. A while ago (years) I read, or believed I had read that starting a sentence with the word "And" was no longer taboo. Apparently I thought it had said "start every other sentence with the word 'And.'" Oh my Lord if I could have been paid by the frequency of "and" I'd be retired. Fortunately they all got weeded out before anything went too far. I still have a few of those pages as a reminder and when I need a good laugh.

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    1. It's good to keep those kind of pages. They keep us humble ;)

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  51. Tell me about it! It can make social media a painful experience every day. I tell myself that I make my own mistakes, but at least I care! Unlike all of those people out there who clearly don't. :-)

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    1. We all make those mistakes. I had a glaring one in one of my bios and it took ages before I found it.
      It's good to care!

      Delete
  52. I have a relatively good grasp of grammar, but we all have our grammatical idiosyncrasies. That said, I think heated debates over the Oxford comma are ridiculous. Do I use the Oxford? Yes, but only so other writers don't chastise me. ;-)

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Ha, if you're consistent, then it's all good. That's my take on the Oxford comma.

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  53. I'm not punctuation savvy but even I know not to do that...LOL

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  54. I admit I not that savvy either. I tend to be less critical, if it is good story and engaging characters. I know how hard it is to get that part right. I tend to fall into a really good story and it plays in my head like a movie, so grammar and punctuation are less glaring, unless extreme, continuous, repetitive errors, or unless I am looking for them.

    Signs, like the example, I tend to notice though. Signs have also given me some really good laughs too.

    Juneta at Writer's Gambit

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    1. It's good to be able to enjoy a book, getting lost in the story.

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  55. My technical side of writing is awful. I can spin a story, but putting in the appropriate comma's, semi-colons...etc...I thank God for my editor. I admit, I have chuckled at mistakes that I've seen, but then, who am I to laugh...

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  56. I think grammar is not taught enough here in the US. I lost count of all the it's that should've been its I've read in signs, newspapers, etc. My best find was: "how allergies effect people" -- bold headline in the local newspaper.

    It's imperative for writers to know grammar. You want your readers to get lost in your story, not to start counting your grammar errors.

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    1. And if the writer isn't so hot with the grammar and punctuation, then they need a good editor.

      Delete
  57. I'm a writer, but grammar and punctuation are problematic for me at times.... it actually makes me a little frustrated (and insecure) when I hear people equate grammatical awareness with being a writer, because I know I am terrible at comma usage (for instance). Which is why I make sure to have people copy-edit my writing whenever possible.
    But, then I interact with the non-writer community... and realize that I simply think I'm not a grammar and correct-word-use person because I am on the "low" end of those things in the writing world. In the "normal" world I catch all sorts of errors that others don't see. I guess it's all relative.

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    1. I'd equate grammar awareness with being an editor, not necessarily a writer. It does help writers, though. Understanding the nuances of our language will make it easiler to express concepts with greater clarity.

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  58. I'm in your army of the cursed. I love signs in our gym and now carry a red pen in my gym bag. The most recent: "Don't just lay there. Get up and move!" Arrrg.

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    1. hahahaha. Maybe they're talking about laying eggs? ;)

      Delete
  59. I'm addicted to commas, and exclamation points! Semicolons are even more of a challenge for me. Thanks for making me feel better, Lynda!

    Julie

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    1. hehe, It's good to know I'm not the only one :)

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  60. Crikey, this means I am cursed.
    But when it comes to punctuation, we all have our shortcomings.
    The one that's tricky is the Oxford comma. But I suppose it depends on the context, and whether omitting the comma would lead to ambiguity. Another one is what I call "abuse of the apostrophe" - I'm not even getting into it...LOL

    At least these moments provide some light entertainment!

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    1. ah, yes, we all have are pet peeves and blind spots. Don't get me started on their/there/they're!

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  61. Fun post! I wish I could thank my middle school English teachers because they taught me so much about grammar!

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    1. wow, grammar in middle school? I don't remember learning grammar until high school... I was probably too busy eating paint or staring off into space.

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  62. As a Tech Writer/Editor, I definitely get similiar feelings. Often the hardest thing is to deal with things that aren't technically incorrect, but could be a lot better, i.e. where to place commas or when to capitalize etc.

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    1. Yes! Oh my gosh, yes!!! You may have guessed, I can relate ;)

      Delete
  63. Someone I see regularly uses 'seen' instead of 'saw' - as in "I seen this" or "We seen this". I corrected her once, to which she replied, "I know." Frustrating. I just cringe and move on.

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    1. Hahahaha, sometimes my dearest hubby will purposely say something incorrect to get a rise outta me. Works every time.

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  64. Oh, my! True! I can't function if I see something like this.

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  65. I tweeted something to an agent once and realized after I clicked the tweet button that I had a typo. I was so embarrassed.

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  66. That one was awesome. My favorite are on the large kiosk above restaurants. Why are they always wrong. Is it the height?

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    1. yeah, it almost seems standard to get that wrong.

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  67. Oh I am so cursed. It drives me nuts but that sad part is I know I make a huge number of mistakes like that too!! But not on a public sign or on TV. Hope you have a great week writing!

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    1. Yep it's natural we all make mistakes. I laugh at my own typos and errors. Yay for editors!

      Delete
  68. Do I have trouble ignoring the bad grammar or punctuation around me... Good question. Well, you may remember I'm a university professor teaching... writing and grammar! (I know.)

    How do I survive the errors everywhere? Well, I open a new bottle of... soda... yeah, that's it.... soda... and I take a sip or two.

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    Replies
    1. sugar rushes help with many things... ;)

      Delete
  69. I am one of the cursed! If I find more than three typos in the first two chapters of a book, I can't read on. No matter the story. The inner editor is too loud. Throwing a crazy fit. LOL

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.