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Write of Passage

Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.

Goal for '09: Take Back the English Language

Grammar Nazi, TEAL

In addition to my usual writing duties, I had the pleasure, during the very busy months of November and December, to moderate an online family recipe contest. For the most part, the recipes sounded delicious. The grammar, spelling and punctuation, on the other hand, would have made you lose your appetite.

I expected a certain amount of vague instructions and missing information, as many of these recipes had been handed down for generations, but I wasn't prepared for the complete mangling of our esteemed language.

I admit to being something of a Grammar Nazi, and have been since my seventh-grade English class with Sister Anne Therese. (Full disclosure: I enjoy
diagramming sentences.) Yet I was still shocked at the total lack of competency in constructing a proper sentence.

I'm not talking about the many people who used text messaging abbreviations, although I had to capitalize many
i's and spell out u r more times than I care to admit. I'm referring to seemingly intelligent adults who used no punctuation whatsoever or used ellipses (…) to end every sentence. I'm recalling the woman who wrote prolly for probably and the disproportionate number of people who could not spell vinegar. That's not to mention the multitudes who used it's when they meant its or substituted your for you're.

The experience brought to mind the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL).
These two typo vigilantes pled guilty this summer to a charge of conspiracy to vandalize government property and were subsequently banned from all National Parks for one year. Their crime was to remove an apostrophe and add a comma on a sign at the Grand Canyon.

I'm not about to join TEAL, and I certainly don't condone vandalism, but I feel a certain amount of satisfaction knowing that they traveled the country, living every copy editor's dream.

I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to correct misspellings and poor grammar on menus, signs and even letters home from school. Just the other day, I had to fight the urge to correct the spelling of
Salade Niçoise
on the menu board at a popular Tosa eatery.

Here's my hope for the new year: that Americans will take the time to write a little more carefully and look things up when they don't know the correct spelling or usage. (
Woe Is I and Eats Shoots and Leaves
are both educational and highly entertaining books, even if you're not a Grammar Nazi.)

For my part, I'll try not to get so obsessive-compulsive about typos; that is, except when I'm being paid to proofread.

Happy New Year!

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