Monday, January 02, 2006

Call the comma cops!

We’ve just updated the Playground website and one Playfriend has a partial going out, so the emails have been flying fast and furious with the subject line “Look at this, please.” One of the best things about this group is that five sets of eyes can look over something before you release it to the world, thereby saving you the embarrassment of sending out query letters with your name misspelled.

Since Danniele has a BA in English and I teach the stuff, we spend a lot of time chasing down errant commas and dangling participles to ease the grammar fears of the Playfriends (who don’t really need to be worrying all that much.). Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind doing it. I think it’s important. (Just don’t ask me to look at something after I’ve been grading papers. Freshman writing is enough to drive anyone over the edge of grammar sanity, and I may just nit-pick your query letter to death.)

I think because I teach English, folks seem to think I read every email with my teacher hat on, looking for misplaced modifiers and tsking your comma usage. Sorry, life’s too short for that. I wouldn’t want anyone going after my emails with the red teacher pen. Now, this only applies to emails sent to friends and family. That email query you’re sending in should be perfect. But that’s business; you want to put your best semicolon forward.

Of course I notice stuff. But it’s probably the same stuff you non-English teachers notice. Typos like ‘is’ instead of ‘it’; ‘form’ for ‘from.’ But the only reason I see it is because this is the first time I’ve read it. You know what you’re saying—your eyes will see what you meant to say. My eyes see what you actually typed.

(I'll even let you slide on a 'your' instead of 'you're'--at least once or twice. After that, I'm coming after you!)

This is why I’m a huge supporter of cold reads as part of your proofreading. It’s great if you can find someone else to read your stuff as they’ll find a lot of the typos. Just be careful of who you ask. Folks who know you well will also see what you meant to say. I had a manuscript read by half a dozen people—none of whom noticed that I had typed ‘imaging’ instead of ‘imagining.’ Put your pages away for a while—cold eyes will catch a lot. Find a friendly English major to take a look. :-)

So if you notice a typo on one of my blog posts, just ignore it. (But if you see one over on the Playground, send me an email immediately!) Not even English teachers get it right every time. And our embarrassment when we do mess it up is far more acute than you can imagine. Just know, though, that I rarely take out my red teacher pen unless asked.

Otherwise, I really would be the Problem Child.

PS: Be sure to check out the updates over on the Writing Playground and enter our first contest!


Instigator said...

I really appreciate your red teacher pen, PC!! (and Angel's too - she's been bleeding red ink on my pages for years. THANKS!)As one of the playfriends with comma issues it comes in handy. I swear I try. But I can't seem to get the hang of it. I even printed out your comma article from the newsletter. One of these days I'll get it. We can all hope.


Smarty Pants said...

What I found has been really great is that with a couple different pairs of eyes, they see different things. In reading my partial, everyone caught some punctuation & POV stuff, but then, Angel seemed to focus on my character development and plot, Instigator on the pace and rythmn of my writing, PC on the grammar rules I'm out to break and PM on the final once over to make sure its clean. I was surprised to see that PC didn't bleed red everywhere. Yay me. :)


Problem Child said...

Hey, if everyone learns all the comma rules, what use will I be?

Everyone needs an English major around...


Smarty Pants said...

Yeah. And if anyone needs someone with a degree in American Political Studies with an emphasis in environmental policy...oh wait. NO ONE needs that...not even me. Guess that's why I turned to my geek skills instead.

Playground Monitor said...

I have a degree in Psychology (specialized in running rats through mazes and doing strange surgeries on them -- mwahahahaha) so I'll be happy to run your heroine through said maze or do strange surgery on your hero. **gg**

I don't think PC needs to worry about me ever learning all the comma rules -- even with the book COMMA SUTRA calling to me every time I pass it in the book store. Clever title, huh?

Smarty Pants said...

Comma Sutra. :::snicker::: said...

That's a ton of gifts :)