It’s very close to the end of the semester, and the Grammar Police Department (motto: To Correct and Serve), has noticed a strong uptick in criminal acts against the English language. As a public service, the GPD would like to make some general announcements about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from egregious usage this holiday season.
First, be warned that many holiday-season writers fall victim to the old bait-and switch scam. In reaching for the word they know they want, they unwittingly grab something nearby, something that “sounds” right, but bears absolutely no relation to the real word.
Victims of bait and switch realize, after they have mailed 84 holiday letters, that in their cosmos, the shepherds herd those angels singing. Unless the card involves people guiding a flock of angels to a watering hole, this is a crime punishable by several years of hard labor manning the homophones.
Plus, nothing ruins Christmas like having the Grammar Police pounding on the door to inform you that a web sight is what happens when you see a spider’s home, and the Canadian boarder is a person from Montreal who rents a room. If they also have to point out that “there” is a place, while “their” means “belongs to them,” the fines will take all the ho-ho-ho out of the season.
And speaking of “their,” the Grammar Police are also cracking down on writers who misuse the third person plural pronoun. Many holiday writers are unaware that using the third person plural pronoun with a singular subject is a crime.
Warn Grandma early this year to avoid telling the rest of the family that “a grandchild who wants another present from me had better brush up on their thank-you note skills.” Unless the grandchild is Walt Whitman and his interior multitudes, Grandma could be in danger of spending the holidays writing “I will protect my grandchild from his or her bad grammar genes” a thousand times. On a slate.
The Special Forces Division is on the alert for carelessly mixed metaphors, which can cause all manner of mayhem and headaches for the unwary. Be on the lookout for politicians who are “at each other’s necks.”
The GPD has received information leading it to believe that these politicians are possibly vampires, or perhaps merely affectionate. Either way, they have to be stopped.
Report mixed metaphors immediately, before the other shoe drops, and the situation gets out of hand.
The Bureau of Missing Punctuations reports that commas have gone AWOL this season, and they suspect a serial killer is at work. Keep your commas firmly attached to your independent clauses, and protect them with conjunctions whenever you can.
Don’t let the children leave commas out of their letters to Santa, either. There’s a big difference between getting “Barbie, trucks, and a sandbox” and “Barbie trucks a sandbox.” Missing commas can break kids’ hearts.
In a related matter, the BMP warns that missing apostrophes can cause catastrophes. If the Christmas letter brags about one’s husband’s promotion, all is well; if it’s going on about a “husbands promotion,” the writer had better be advertising for mail order spouses, and if it’s a “husbands’ promotion,” the regular PD will be by to check out the bigamy allegations. Play it safe and use those little marks to show possession.
While it is not strictly their jurisdiction, the Bureau of Missing Punctuations also cautions writers this Christmas against overusing the question mark. Everything is not a question, even if it has “you know” at the end of it. Avoid creating a question for emphasis, since this leads to things like, “And then, Horace shot the bear??” Recipients of this kind of thing often have to spend their holidays lying down, listening to soft music.
Finally, the Grammar Police want to remind everyone that while good grammar might not make up for bad brains, it will at least disguise them until you can make a getaway. Keep those holiday communications coherent and well-punctuated, and stay safe out there!