Thursday, March 4, 2010

Get it Right!

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This week's Booking Through Thursday asks about grammar:

In honor of National Grammar Day … it IS “March Fourth” after all … do you have any grammar books? Punctuation? Writing guidelines? Style books?

More importantly, have you read them?

How do you feel about grammar in general? Important? Vital? Unnecessary? Fussy?

I put myself in the fussy category when it comes to grammar and punctuation. When I file a legal brief or send a demand letter, I want what I sign to be perfect.  When I edit someone else's legal writing, I am ruthless with the red pen. This fussiness carries over to my blog posts and book reviews.

I recognize the influence that brought me to this point: a high school English teacher who made us diagram sentences; a year as the Editor of my college paper; a very short time trying to write free-lance feature stories for our local paper, with my reporter-husband editing over my shoulder; law review; and three bar exams.  Add on 17 years of legal writing, and you can understand my obsession.

There are a couple of grammar and punctuation books on my shelves, including Strunk and White's The Elements of Style; Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss (reviewed here), and my old copy of The Harvard Blue Book, although I think it is too outdated to be of much use.

Don't even get me started on text messages . . .


  1. From a professional stand point, I can understand the need for grammar perfection, but not so much in everyday issues.Here's mine.

  2. Yes, yes, I can understand your obsession (and I feel your pain). I'm in the same fussy category, and I still diagram sentences now and then - I think of it as fun mental exercise!

  3. The Strunk & White is my go-to grammar handbook. I love it. I think because my favorite writing prof in college referenced it incessantly.

  4. I do need to obtain a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. My answer is located here:

  5. Lori -- Thanks for the link! I am trying to be more informal in my blog and other personal writing, but it is hard to break out of "lawyer mode"!

    Joy -- I can't say as I've actually diagrammed a sentence since 10th grade, although there are some in Dance to the Music of Time that tempted me -- so many clauses!

    Baley -- When writing this post, I saw that there is a nice 50th anniversary edition. Now I want it to replace my tattered copy from college.

    Jennifer -- Eats is a fun read for the punctuation-obsessed. Thanks for the link.

  6. I am with you 100%. Great answer.

  7. There was a time in my life when I had to ask myself if I could date women who didn't have grammar. And the answer was no.

  8. I wish I was as fussy as that - there's nothing worse than seeing a legal document you have sent off come back with errors all through it, but I am guilty of it :-)

  9. I´m fussy when it comes to grammar, but English is not my first language so I´m sure I make lots of mistakes. Maybe I´ll try Eats, Shoots and Leaves :)

  10. I'm also pretty hard-core about good grammar. I'm always happy when people take a stand on that. :)

  11. Marie -- Thanks!

    Michael -- That made me laugh. But I think I'm with you there. I would always be correcting grammar mistakes -- at least in my head. Not conducive to romance.

    Becky -- No matter how fussy I am, there is always some typo or screw up in any brief. I have to work to be very Zen about it.

    ifyoucanreadthis -- I'd have to cut myself a lot of slack on grammar in a second language! Eats, Shoots and Leaves is good, but limited to punctuation -- British punctuation.

    SocrMom -- I only wish I could take my red pen to the grammatically incorrect signs posted in public places, like the post office and courthouse. ;-)

  12. I am fussy with grammar and punctuation as well but I find that, with advent of emails all day long, I have become less stringent. Not sure that is a good thing . . .

  13. Booksync -- Email is a tricky area when it comes to grammar and punctuation. It is easy to slip into casual email habits.

    But these days, I find that a lot of legal correspondence that we used to do only in formal letters is done by email -- we even get email letters from judges about active cases, which would never have happened even a few years ago.

    Because most of my email is business-related and just as formal as a real letter, all my email tends to stick with formal grammar and punctuation. So I send some pretty stuffy email to friends. :) (I do love emoticons, though! As long as I keep them out of my lawyer email.)

  14. I'm mostly fussy about grammar in my writing. If I don't see the point of a rule, I'll let it slide though.

    Texting. Don't get me started. I don't care for it anyway, but especially not when I have to break out a code book.


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