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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Grammar Gremlins

I read through my copy edits this weekend and had affect/effect marked a couple of times in the manuscript. I'm not surprised. No matter how hard my teachers drilled me, I never got it. Not in high school, not in college and not now. I know that I don't get it and I even copied a piece out of a book and posted it on the wall so that I'd be able to reference it easily. Unfortunately, I get more confused after reading it, so I've decided to just go with what feels right. Either that or I rewrite the sentence so I don't have to use that word. :-)

I didn't see this marked, but another one I have a huge problem with is lie/lay/laid/lain and any derivation of this word. This is one of those cases where I'm always wrong. Whichever option I choose, the other one is right. You'd think I could just go with the opposite then and that would take care of it, but the few times I've tried this, I was actually right originally and switching made me wrong. Again, I try to rewrite to avoid this series of words.

As I went through the manuscript, I learned that a while isn't always two words. I thought it was. This will now become another rule I don't understand, right there with: into/in to, anymore/any more and onto/on to. What I do in these instances is pick one way to write the word(s) and do it throughout. :-) Consistency is key, right?

Then there's my comma usage. Blame this one on journalism school. We had it drilled into (one word) our heads to never, ever put a comma before the word and unless it's part of a clause, that it's completely unnecessary. This I learned well and to this day it bugs the hell out of me to see a comma in this position. So of course, at both my publishers they stick commas before the word and and I have to grit my teeth and say, yeah, okay, most people didn't go to J School. But the overabundance of commas drives me insane. Of course, I also have a habit of leaving out other commas or putting them in where they don't belong and this has nothing to do with college. I've had several comments over the years about my "interesting" use of this punctuation mark.

What can I say? I try. My teachers tried. I remember week after week of diagramming sentences and being drilled in grammar. I think I need a refresher course or something. Of course, it's unlikely that this would help with affect/effect or lie/lay/laid/lain, etc, but there's always hope.