Whom do you trust with your commas?
March 2, 2012
Behind all of the words in all of the newspapers and all of the books in all of the bookstores and libraries are people who live word-by-word.
They are editors and grammar geeks and March 4 is their day: National Grammar Day.
They are your friends who point out errors on restaurant menus and signs, the people who itch to take a red pen to amateur punctuation errors on sandwich boards and brochures.
Yes, this is an unseen population who know the usage rules for lay and lie, who somehow know where commas belong and where they don't, whose children correct their teachers' hasty errors in the classroom. Here's a simple test to determine if you have the grammar bug. Of course the quiz is not necessary if you are even vaguely familiar with Grammar Girl, who considers Johannes Gutenberg a rock star.
They are the people who made Eats, Shoots and Leaves a best-selling book although its main character is a comma.
They are the people who understand and laugh at these grammar walks into a bar jokes.
Yes, that's true geekdom.
It's simple. If this is on your bookshelf, you are a grammar geek.
Grammar geeks have had a ball with politicians in recent years, particularly former President George W. Bush and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin who both massacre the language with incomplete sentences and verbal usage gaffes.
One would think that electronic communication like Twitter, the Wild West of messaging which encourages mangling words and sentences to stay within a 140-character limit, would also send grammar geeks into the stratosphere but no, they are doing an end-run by hosting a Grammar Day haiku contest on Twitter.
One would think these grammar geeks are harmless folk with their noses in books but that is not a safe assumption. A few years ago a couple of them got a little crazy with the red pen and went rogue, crossing the country on a dangerous copy editing spree that got them banned from the national parks for attempting to correct punctuation on some permanent signs. After their arraignment, they wrote a book, The Great Typo Hunt. That must have been a tough one to edit.
(This column was approved by http://www.grammarcheck.me/ a free online service for those of us who can't remember where our car keys and glasses are, nevermind where commas belong.)