Most editors travel everywhere with a red pen in-tow. It’s more than a calling card; it’s a way of life for my fellow lexiophiles. These grammarian nomads saunter from desk to desk etching the hell out of a press release, white paper or editorial placement causing so much red, it looks like a warning sign from one of the biblical plagues.
Ah, memories. How I love them so.
And then I discover something like I wrote yesterday about a silly punctuation mark and it causes me angina. So, I began thinking of my next listicle up in this piece. What are issues in grammar that people in PR — you know, those deemed “writers” by many — still can’t agree upon.
I came up with at least 1,248, but these five will do after the jump…
1. Just a Dash. Yes, there are several types of these damn things that many in this fabled profession still don’t know, don’t care or don’t have a clue to decipher. Last year, I got into a full-blown argument with one of those dolts who believes she (or, um, he) knows the AP Stylebook like most tweenager girls know lyrics to One Direction songs. And it was about the difference between an “en-dash” and an “em-dash”. The kicker? The other party thought I was making it up.
For review, note the picture. What most people call a dash is actually a hyphen. And then there’s those two aforementioned lines in a sentence, which are as long as an “N” and “M” respectively. There is also a “horizontal bar,” which could be the same as an “em dash.” And, if you are ever slightly more daring, the “swung dash” (otherwise known as the tilde ~). So when to use:
- Hyphen: Phone numbers
- En-dash: Ranges, like page numbers
- Em-dash: Sudden breaks in a sentence
- Horizontal Bar: See “Em-Dash”
- Swung Dash: Go to Spanish class
2. More Than Over This Crap. Admittedly, this is an immense pet peeve of mine but then I learned this difference was not taught in PR 101. Much less, journalism 101. Although I would not be surprised if some random copywriter created this kerfuffle to save space on a headline, but there is a huge difference between “more than” and “over.” For the record, a circus freak does not have “over 10 toes.” Said resident at the state fair has “more than 10 toes” because that signifies amount not height. Also, I could care less about the missing space or character count. Write it correctly please.
3. Department of Redundancy Department. I think some flacks wax redundant because it sounds more official. Granted, it is ironic in a field where we are taught not to use 10 words when only five will do, that PR pros are some of the largest offenders of this ballyhoo. Ask yourself if your PR director has ever said one of the following:
- 12 noon or 12 midnight
- I, myself
- the general public
- very unique
- a win-win for both of us
- past history
- basic fundamentals
I could go on, but what’s the use? They are not going to change their habits and those of us with a modicum of grammar sense will continue to enjoy the train wreck. Let’s pretend I didn’t write this one down and just add to the list in the comments below. MmmmK?
4. Irregardless. Do you know how many people with “C-E-whatever” on their business card, much less “A-P-R,” use this horrendous word? It is a self-reflexive double negative, ostensibly meaning “without without regard.” Yes, Noah Webster in all his wisdom made it a word. He also made “thrice” and “floccinaucinihilipilification,” but you don’t use those damn words in a sentence either. Other nonwords to discuss would be “orientate” and “impactful.” Stop it, people, before you put someone’s eye out with that thing.
5. The Oxford Comma. I know. Pulling out your hair already, right? “Irregardless” what side of the fence you are on, this heinous debate continues and will never die. I have just about come to the conclusion that I could give a crap. Why? Because any grammarian you ask will always be right and never wrong. It doesn’t matter what he or she believes about the dreaded comma that never went to college. This has become the other topic you never discuss at the dinner table, next to politics and religion. It mainly has to do with what you were taught … and then telling everyone else they are wrong in using it. No wonder the British hate us.