Comma Too? You?

Whenever I have a grammar or punctuation question, my first stop in the search is a visit to Grammar Girl.

Her answers always make sense, and when I’m still confused, she responds to messages on Twitter. How I love a true grammarista!

Yesterday I sent a question regarding what seemed to be a new push toward removing the comma from before the word “too”. My writer friends and I have been up in arms over the change.

Her response was that she didn’t get the impression it was a recent thing, but guided me to her post on the subject for some clarification.

Sometimes in grammar and punctuation, issues come up that can be discussed. In professional editing, when questionable changes are made, the best editors are able to justify their choices, making the act of editing much like writing; creative within boundaries of proper form.

It has been much to my dismay, since my continuous testing failures at CloudCrowd, that 3.16 of their style guide says this:

“Do not use comma before the words “too”, “also”, “as well” and any similar terms.”

Such a definitive rule with no grey areas for discussion. No wonder I failed.

Grammar Girl’s post in regard to “comma too” gives a writer the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not the comma should to be used.

Apparently, many children’s book-publishers agree with Grammar Girl and not with CloudCrowd. In four recently published children’s books (checked out this week at our local library), the comma is being used freely in front of “too” restoring my faith in publishers everywhere.

I like commas an awful lot (it borders on an addiction), so I appreciate the freedom to decide if and when they should be used (in this case, specifically).

How about you? You, too?

M.

Are you with Grammar Girl and me, or do you take the side of CloudCrowd?

An example of the comma being used in front of the "too". This came fromt eh adorable book Crafty Chloe by
An example of my point from the adorable book Crafty Chloe by Kelli DiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross. Moms … go and find this book. It’s sweet and crafty! We love it!
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For the Love of Haiku – A Poetry Game

I am stealing and copying in abundance this weekend; additional imitation and flattery.

All About Lemon has started a blogging game called, “For the Love of Haiku.” Using the Japanese poetic form (17 moraes; syllables of  5, 7, and 5), poets add meaning to Ms. Lemon’s art collages that are updated and changed weekly.

Once you link up, you’re added to the list of haiku contributors. At the end of the month, votes are calculated to find the winner with the most likes.

Blogging good fun!

Here is my contribution …

Princesses beware

Bored extraterrestrials

Roll like bullet trains

————————

Wear your bunny ears

Smile wide as the train rolls by

Rats can’t dim your shine

M.

Too deep? Think you might give it a try? Not a blogger? Leave your contribution in my comments!

The Taylor Swift Defense

Songstress Taylor Swift has made an enviable career by writing and singing her truths. While some of her songs (like Hey Stephen from the Fearless album) speak of sweet love, Taylor’s lyrics often touch on the other side of boy/girl relationships; the stuff that some might find embarrassing.

She’s gotten a lot of flack for speaking the truth. Grown men have said they love her, but wouldn’t date her, because of the risk they run in having a song created about them that might document a failed relationship. “Chickens,” I say.

Though my format is different, like Taylor, I write about my feelings and experiences. Nothing is off-limits. Is anything safe?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I am currently writing about my divorce and all of the traumatic, embarrassing, and disappointing parts of the transition.

The other day I was advised not to tell the world that I have my kids in play therapy (to help them adjust to the upcoming changes). But what is wrong with telling this truth? My kids are benefitting, and as a parent I am doing what is responsible for their well-being. Should I not disclose the things that led my husband and me to separate? Should I not share experiences that might help someone else (going through a similar life-trial)?

The argument that it’s private doesn’t hold weight. What is private? Isn’t sharing, caring? Don’t others benefit from shared experiences? It’s not slander unless it’s said with malicious intent. Is secrecy, then, an attempt to hide a bruised ego?

I’m willing to disclose my own bruised ego.

Here’s this gem:

Yesterday I failed another CloudCrowd test, after three mind-numbing hours of writing, editing and proof reading. I even had back-up this time to ensure that I’d pass; mom was a room away to double-check my work.

It looked good, I thought, but I failed.

When I had settled down enough (after receiving my rejection email; F-word F-word F-word), I went back to look at the critique.

1. I made one subject/verb agreement after the thing had been written and during my last minutes before posting. I knew I shouldn’t have changed act to acts (the subject). I didn’t even think about the verb. Bad, bad writer girl!

2. I was accused of not comparing and contrasting the subject matter, which was the main objective to the second written piece. The fact that the subject was “Religion in the United States,” and that I compared the freedom from religion in our country to countries who do not allow such freedoms, seemed to go unnoticed.

3. My mom and I had major discussions about whether our freedom was “from” or “of” religion. Ultimately, I chose to say “from” since our government doesn’t require us to practice a national religion, nor are we ruled under a government that preaches a particular choice. We are free from being told what we should believe.

4. The last time I tested, I wrote far more than the 200 words that were required. I felt that this set me up to be judged on more errors (resulting in fail number one). Yesterday, I decided to keep it closer to the word limit, but with a topic like U.S. Religion, this was hard. Still, I thought I did a good job, though apparently I was wrong.

My frustration with CloudCrowd has me questioning whether or not I should hang up the editing piece of this budding writing career.

At the same time, I wonder if I should try again with a different company whose reviewers are a little more open-minded to written interpretation, especially on the written exams?

The truth is not always pretty, but there is power in its function. I believe in this wholeheartedly.

M.

Are you a secret keeper who believes that things should be private or do you speak the truth despite the consequence of embarrassment?

Get Inspired

Searching for inspiration is tough when ho-humnity is the name of your game, and your job is to write things that people want to read.

It’s better, then, to turn off the part of the brain that refuses to cooperate and focus on the activities that generate tidings of comfort and joy.

Here is the plan:

1. The kids and I browsed Pinterest this morning and found a graphic designer named Sarah Walsh whose aesthetic interests (pins) spoke to my brain on the side that doesn’t use words. The kids became so inspired by Sarah’s Illustration Station board that they are currently, quietly content at their own art table creating what I know will be framable works of art.

Somewhere in this messy house of mine is a beautiful set of art pens (hidden so the kids wouldn’t use them, but where could they be?) that I must (MUST) find today. Expression through art is necessary in this time of angst (divorce, divorce, divorce).

2. Outside my windows is a dark grey sky; the kind that makes me wonder if the sun is ever going to rise. No matter, I will be bundling my bod (from top of head to tip of toes) as I exit for an early morning run.

It will probably be brutally cold, hurt on a cellular level, but the results will be warmed blood, a regenerated system, and hopefully some adrenaline to push me through my day.

3. Later today, I’m taking my kids to vote. The lessons that I hope they’ll learn will outweigh the irritation that might occur from bored kids pulling on my clothes or the uncomfortable squeeze and tight proximity of three inside a voting booth.

“Women have rights, girls. They have the right to choose who they think should be the boss of America.Once upon a time women weren’t allowed to vote. People with different colored skin weren’t allowed to vote. Ridiculous, right? I don’t know who is going to win today, girls, but I pray he is able to do a good job. We are lucky to live in the United States of America. We are lucky and blessed to have freedom.”

Freedom. The ultimate inspired thought.

What do you do when you are struggling for inspiration? Do you change your focus or just plow though?

M.

Sophie’s Girl on Swing.

Hyphenated Halloween

Yesterday, as we scrambled to put together costumes for the pre-school Halloween party, my daughters’ personality differences were on full display.

Sophie, generally easy-going and not as fussy about her appearance, made the quick decision to go as a cat. Simple enough; we gathered the all black ensemble; kitty ears, tulle skirt with attached tail, turtleneck, and leggings.

Grace, my mirror, inherited her mother’s discouraging habit of trying on every outfit in the closet (thus mussing the room with tossed, willy-nilly clothes) only to end up in the first frock that began the unfortunate series of events.

Standing amidst the candy-colored, tulle mess and finally pleased with her costume, I realized two things; Grace and I are very good examples of the power of genetics, and I need to get going on my punctuation re-education; this time placing focus on the hyphen.

According to Lynn Truss (Eat Shoots & Leaves), the hyphen is, “…hard to use wrongly.”

So why, then, do I feel so afraid them – not just at Halloween?

After a morning of Internet investigating, here is what I’ve learned:

1. Hyphens are very good at letting a reader in on a joke, also helping to imply that a raised or lowered voice will add emotion to the punch line.

i.e. My daughter has a face that looks like her aunt Janine – her attitude is all mom.

2. Hyphens can be used to connect or separate sentences, but are also appropriate when combining two words; creating compounds.

i.e. In Grace’s fifteen minute costume tirade, she was a butterfly-fairy, butterfly-princess, cat-princess, princess-bride, before rounding back to the beginning, settling on the original and most, “This one doesn’t tickle,” butterfly-fairy.

3. When two describing words come after a noun, they are not hyphenated.

i.e. I love apples when they’re caramel covered.

4. A hyphen can be used to join two (or more) words that act as a combined adjective before a noun.

i.e. I hope they have caramel-covered apples at the Halloween party this afternoon.

5. Lots of words can be connected (or combined) with or without hyphens.

i.e. The hair-splitting screams came from the bedroom were spooky.

i.e. Grace’s screams were hairsplitting.

i.e. Hair splitting screams are not a good way to start the morning.

6. Hyphenate compound numbers.

i.e Is it weird for a forty-one-year-old to wear a tutu?

7. Hyphens should be used with the prefixes self-, ex-, and all-, and with the suffix -elect. They can be used with other prefixes if it helps to clarify a confusing word or spelling. Here is a great list of examples (much better than my own).

But here is my attempt …

i.e. Pre-adolescence is going to fun!

i.e. It is unacceptable to leave your room a mess.

i.e. Re-education (with the prefix separated by a hyphen) looks less confusing to me than reeducation.

8. Probably the first time I was ever made to be afraid of the hyphen was when learning that they are needed in sentences when the word doesn’t fit on the line.

a. Divide line breaks at the place where the hyphen already exists.

b. Between syllables.

c. With words that end in -ing, they need to be separated at the place where the final consonant and root word are split (i.e. run-ning, or speak-ing, or dres-sing).

9. Saving the best for last, if you happen to use an Apple computer and want a longer hyphen, as opposed to a tiny word-spacing hyphen, press the alt button, while also pressing the hyphen at the upper right side of the keyboard.

i.e.[-] vs. [–]. Nice, right?

In approximately four-and-a-half hours we will revisit the “hyphenation Halloween-costume-fiasco”, as we attempt to ready ourselves for today’s afternoon Halloween house party (house-party?).

Without the help of a hyphen, what-oh-what would we be?

Are you dressing up for Halloween? What are your kids going to be? Any hyphens involved?

M.

Pumpkin-princess. But does she really need a hyphen? The debate continues …

Mother Grammar

My mother and I have a little joke; a spin-off of the phrase, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.”

It goes like this:

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!”

My mother and I tease that most of the things utterly wrong with me are the result of being raised by her; the mother God thought I should have (so technically it’s His fault?).

It wasn’t for her lack of trying to steer me straight; she did her absolute best. But I was born stubborn, and you can’t win when trying to challenge fate.

Luckily, there is one commonality (I’m unsure if it should be labeled a personality trait) that has connected daughter to mother; and vice versa.

Good grammar and proper punctuation is the place where we meet when all other places are raging with fire. I am being dramatic; another similarity that we share. We actually agree on quite a lot now that I am a grown woman, and we take pleasure in each others’ horror over the mistakes made by television newscasters and celebrities who care not for the rules of me versus I.

Even still, with my grown-up age to match my slightly, mellowing rebelliousness, we continue to have plenty of arguments of the grammatical sort.

Most recently, I insisted that the word “of” was not necessary after the words “a couple”. “A couple of” is the correct term, in case you were wondering. Just yesterday I finally admitted that she was right all along, to which she requested I repeat the phrase, “You were right, mother,” twice.

In preparation for my next CloudCrowd test, I’ve dusted off mom’s gifted copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and am taking copious notes.

Amazing writing (I’m really having to use my brain), and as predicted by the author, reading it has ignited my inner stickler.

I imagine future blog posts will revolve around the proper use of apostrophes’, and hyphens, and commas. I will try my best to make them as fascinating as I am re-discovering.

To wrap things up, I should mention that I do believe that mothers are responsible for many of our traits and quirks; our triumphs and our failures. In a way, the joke is not really that big of a ha-ha after all.

It is, in my opinion, the true definition of what it means to be a mother; to do your best, and hope for the same, knowing that the chips will fall where they may.

So, thank you, mom. I think you did just fine (I mean, considering what you were working with, and all).

M.

Fellow sticklers. Help me out. Early in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, I found the end marks outside of the quotation marks. I can’t figure out why in the world that could be? I tested it out in line 15, and it feels all wrong.

Did you notice all of my semi-colons? I’m having trouble deciphering if many of them should be commas …

This amazing child refused to open her eyes for the picture. The stubbornness gene did not skip a generation. I have a feeling she’ll take issue with the Oxford comma as I do too.

Writing and Editing at CloudCrowd

In an effort to gain paid employment in the areas of writing and editing, I signed up with a company called CloudCrowd through their application on Facebook.

CloudCrowd’s premise is simple. In order to be hired, a worker must pass credential tests in areas such as writing, editing, research and data entry. The tests include tasks riddled full of expectations (as it should be) and should a test be rejected, the worker must wait fourteen days before testing again.

Once credentials are passed, paid work is plenty. Many of the contributors on the CloudCrowd forum have expressed happiness with the company and the opportunities for good work that supplements their income.

A few weeks ago I signed up and took my first test for English comprehension.

Passing it quickly and feeling unbeatable, I took the leap into the next testing arena; the credential exam in editing.

Within an hour I received my rejection.

With a fourteen day wait until I could re-take the test, my anxiousness to get this train on track led to the ill-fated and unprepared decision (yesterday) to try a different exam; working to earn the credential for writing.

This morning I received the rejection for that test too.

Upon review, my mistakes were avoidable.

In an effort to help struggling writers and editors like me, here is some advice to take before you find yourself in my shoes; too eager to attempt CloudCrowd’s tests, resulting in a bruised ego and a two-week wait for redemption.

1. Don’t attempt to take tests with children in the house, especially around lunchtime, as precious time is wasted making ham and cheese sandwiches.

2. Take time to study the CC Study Guide. Some of the expectations go against my natural writing style. For example, CloudCrowd requires the serial comma to always be used. It’s not comfortable for me as I have struggled to minimize my overuse of commas in my own writing. I will need to take extra time to go over my work before submission, especially in this area.

3. Each test is timed. It’s a good idea to break down the way you will use your time before the test begins. For yesterday’s writing test there were two components. I spent so much time writing and fixing the punctuation on the first component that I was left with less than one hour for the second. One hour isn’t enough to create a 200 word piece from scratch (about “my favorite dinosaur” no less) with appropriate grammar and punctuation and review. The fact that I was left with twelve minutes to come up with a summary line should have alerted me to can the whole thing and try again later. But my stubbornness and refusal to accept that the past 180 minutes of work were wasted prompted me to submit, resulting in the fail. You can skip the test if you feel that a rejection will be your result.

4. Use the two weeks between failed tests to study the worker resources. Instead of stressing about the next attempt, use the time to study up on the areas that need work.

5. Take tests from under the practice tab to get you used to testing expectations, questions, and time limits.

6. Don’t quit. Attitude is everything. Instead of being totally irritated by my rejections, I’m going to use my time more wisely and attempt the tests again when all of the components necessary for passing are aligned.

In the meantime, to all of my amazing readers, should you see an editing fail on my blog posts please consider it appreciated should you feel inclined to alert me to the problem.

Studying is fine, but fixing mistakes is the best way to learn.

Have you ever failed something more than once only to pass it later? Ever failed something and quit it for good? Tell me why!

M.