Houston, We’ve Got a Problem

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Practioners of the English language…

Nous avon une grande probleme.

Wier haben eine grosse Problem. (Bigger even than auto correct’s attempts to turn French and German into English)

  
The National Spelling Bee is this week where grammar school-aged kids spell words that I swear were made up five minutes before being given to them, and TV news anchors try to guess the meanings…

while the scroll flying by under them is riddled with misspelled everyday words. 

I read articles by paid journalists in USA Today, the LA Times, various blog sites (presumably places with trained editors) contain errors of homonyms, usage, punctuation, and inability to differentiate between contractions and possessives. 

One site posed the question, “should we still teach spelling even with auto correct?” I was going to answer,  “Are you fucking kidding me? Hell, yes!”, but stepped back and toned it down to “Hell, yes!”  By the way, that comment got 20 likes.

I am a beneficiary of advancements in publishing technology in that I have been able to publish two books with it that had been rejected by every publisher and agent I approached (they liked the writing, just didn’t think there was a market). You can upload a file, push enter and voila;  you have a book available for sale. It’s that easy.

Unfortunately, too easy, in some cases. 

I have read offerings by some independent authors in which the mechanics of their writing was so bad, they completely distracted me from the story. Now, I KNOW these people have earned at least a high school diploma in the U.S., and that requires several years’ worth of Language Arts and English studies. 12 years worth of study. Couldn’t tell it by the writing. 

The truly appalling one was an article about a man reunited with his dog after several years. The author used this phrase to describe what the man had done in between losing and regaining the dog “He had became a dog trainer.” 

In case you don’t get it, the proper choices are either “he became a dog trainer” or “he had become a dog trainer.”)

I did some Google research on the author and it said she’d been a Language Arts teacher for several years. 

  
Too harsh?

 

I repeat myself. In other blog posts and on other blogs, I have urged the 5, 6, or 7 readers to not rely on auto correct or word processing programs in lieu of learning a broad vocabulary, mastering spelling, usage, punctuation, and grammar. 

“But that’s all memorization. It’s boring.”

Tough. Shit. It’s training.

In “The Paper Chase,”  the Contracts Professor, Charles Kingsfield, admonishes one of hi students for being unprepared for clas by telling him, “You come in here with a skull full of mush, but leave thinking like a lawyer.”

Training. He’s talking about training. Learning the difference between correct and incorrect; what is the proper word or arrangement of words for the given situation. 

We live in the information technology age, which makes the (rather small) dissemination of this essay possible. Computers can do a lot of great things for us, but we need to use our own brains or the skulls aren’t even going to be full of mush. More like month old oatmeal. One crucial things word processing programs and auto correct have not learned is that the English language is loaded with quirks, exceptions to rules, homonyms, and other holdovers from Angles, Saxons, the odd Viking raid, and a millennium long pissing contest with France. Word cannot completely grasp the tangle of Germanic and Latin roots that describe things like lactose (Latin) in milk (Germanic). 

In other words: the machines don’t have your back. You cannot rely on them to fill the gaps in your own Language Arts knowledge.

The current terminology to describe a seemingly random collection of words (usually to describe Sarah Palin’s utterances) is “word salad.” Without knowing the rules and how to build the solid structures for sentences and paragraphs, AND APPLYING THEM, it’s just a jumble without syntax.

Not only have these millennial (and Gen Y and Gen X) writers seemed to have ignored the rules of good writing, but they use beta readers (trusted friends who are avid readers that you choose to be an additional pair of eyes on your work) and editors who either don’t know them or don’t care to apply them. As a result, self-published authors as a whole get a bad rap for the poor quality product hitting the market from these sources. “This is why the traditional publishers don’t want work from self-published authors. They don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care as long as it sells.” 

It’s time for remedial Grammar School.

Find those DVDs of Schoolhouse House to learn parts of speech. (Everybody loved “Conjunction Junction” conjunction Junction)

Start following a grammar blog. I was considering starting a YouTube channel to teach spelling and grammar, but one of my cousins told me there was already a “hot chick” teaching grammar. 

  
Actually, that’s a picture linked to a grammar blog. You get the idea.

I love Weird Al word Crimes. #Yankovic

Some who continually slapped a bunch of bricks and masonry together, yet never built a usable structure, could call himself a mason. The same for hammering together a bunch of boards without consideration to measurement, support, and function ; that’s not carpentry. 

Yet, we have stories, novels, articles, and essays made public that lack the basics in written communication because of electronic means of dissemination. No need to bring something to an editor for approval or rewrites.

There is a scene from “All the President’s Men” (1976) showing editor Ben Bradlee with pencil in hand (the age of typewriter) copy editing articles by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that would expose the Watergate break-in as being the tip of a corruption iceberg in the Nixon White House. Bradlee was their highly trained and experienced pair of eyes to catch and remove errors, streamline, and improve the story. Woodward and Bernstein are not slouches as writers, but they know they aren’t perfect. (I couldn’t find a clip showing this scene) the quality of their writing, in terms of mechanics, was a helluva lot better than a lot I’m seeing lately.

Get copies of Strunk & White, a good dictionary, Roget’s, Zinsser and USE THEM when writing. Train your brain. In fact, try writing the old-fashioned way; paper and pen. Do this as an exercise, then correct it or get it corrected. Think of this as a drill.

 

“Drop that laptop and give me 50 sentences. In cursive.”


Do you write? Get an editor, and not just your best friend Jo Jo, unless Jo Jo has been teaching writing and has a degree in it. There are sites to hire freelance editors for copy and for style. You need someone who knows more about this stuff than you do. Like maybe a professor at the community college, or a high school English teacher (although, that one woman with the “Had became”…be careful out there).
TLC channel just freed up hours per week by finally ditching those goddamn Duggars (Before anyone jumps: child molestation is neither godly nor moral. It’s sick. And we don’t know that he has actually stopped). Were it up to me, I’d have them filling that time with interactive educational programming hitting math and Language Arts (let the History Channel teach…I’ll go on a limb here…history), different hours geared to different levels. If AMC can create content to sync up your computer to program that’s on right now, then it shouldn’t be difficult for a student with a question about homonyms to be able to get it answered by a teacher on TV. We have the technology to make better, stronger, faster writers. 

 

Free Range Woman *

(I’m trademarking that sucker)

Tis Mother’s Day weekend and  I am not a participant. I have no children and my own mother passed on in 2013. (She wasn’t crazy about the holiday. I pointed out to her once that she seemed to be as far away from her children as possible when it rolled around. She didn’t deny it)

I am not, nor ever have been, married. I’m not alone. (And I’m not defective, either. Let’s be clear) I’m also well past my twenties, which is the traditional age range for marrying and starting a family (although, that seems to be stretching on the back end onto one’s thirties). The labels women of my situation have had to endure are such quaint terms as “spinster” and “old maid.” Men get to be bachelors all their lives. I know; it’s an old complaint, but I suspect men are the ones who made the naming rules. 

Without the task of bearing and raising children, I’ve been free to, quite literally, move around the country, as wanted (or needed. I’ve been in that situation), pursue a career that I wanted as a child (without much success, but I pursued it), and go through some serious shit without worrying about dependents and what would happen to them. 

I propose that, in the 21st century, we shed the old, rather derogatory terms and replace them with a new one:

  

The Free Range Woman is just that: she is able to pursue her own path (which may lead to marriage and family even in middle/old age) and does so.

With the advent of animal rights, locavore, farm to table, food-related movements, “free range chicken” has become part of the lexicon. These hens are allowed room to be chickens rather than penned into a tiny space. 

“Spinster” and “old maid” are terms that have been around at least 200-250 years. They’re antiquated and carrying the baggage of patriarchal expectations that girls would grow into wives and mothers or be on the fringe of society because they didn’t find a way into the acceptable status. Think of Miss Havisham in “Great Expectations”: not being married wasn’t her fault, but the shame and humiliation of having been jilted left her mentally and emotionally stranded at that moment for decades. She had one job…

“Unmarried woman” brings up images of a Jill Clayburgh movie from the 70s and a line from “Private Benjamin” where Goldie Hawn, the newly widowed and unhappy about being single Judy Benjamin, wails “I would have been Mrs. Alan Bates in a heartbeat.” 

Free Range Woman also looks good on a T shirt. And may have mathematic meaning. (I didn’t do well in algebra and math, and my mathematic consultant passed away 12 years ago). 

The next time some dipshit asks me why I’ve never gotten married (A more subtle version of “What’s wrong with you?”), I shall smile and answer, “Because I’m free range, Baby.” 

Then end the date.

I’m Takin’ Over Facebook!

well, not really, BUT I am taking over a couple of event pages in the next 7 days:

On Thursday May 7 at 11 AM Eastern, I’ll be answering questions and giving away e books at All About Books Divas 7,000 Likes Takeover

7000 Likes Party

On Sunday, May 10 at 1 PM  Eastern, I’ll be in charge over at T.K. Leigh’s Chasing the Dragon Release Week Party

Chasing the Dragon Release Party
Do me a favor, come by and engage. Ask me a number between 1 and 10, why is there air, who’s on first (Whats on Second, I Don’t Know – Third base), what’s the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (42. Everybody knows that) 
  

Tra La, It’s May! I’ve E Books to Give Away! 

And if you don’t recognize the reference, it’s to “Camelot,” as sung by Julie Andrews. I listened to that cast album a lot. What can I tell you? I’ve been a Julie Andrews fan since I was 3. Richard Burton appreciation came later after I’d seen him in “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Anyway, I am participating in a MEGA AUTHOR GIVEAWAY (it’s a big deal and deserves all caps). 

Want this?
 
Then follow this link: MEGA AUTHOR GIVEAWAY LINK 
And enter. 

Simple.
Also, I will have more promotional activities later this week, so stay tuned and join in.