Giving up on grammatical nitpicks

AP recently decided to give up the fight on the correct usage of “hopefully,” and I didn’t really care. I’m lenient with my red pen and I never crossed out a “hopefully” at the beginning of a sentence and replaced it with “one hopes.” I have major respect for modern usage because I’m hip.

Still, my suggested edits occasionally defy what “looks better” to people that aren’t self-styled grammarians. What seems nitpicky to them feels monumental to me, and getting overruled on a suggestion as straightforward and set in stone as 2 + 2 can sting. No one wants to put their name on something they know is wrong, but now and then surrender is the only answer.

So on the off chance that AP or Chicago or Merriam-Webster is taking requests, I have some other fights that I’d like them to give up on so I don’t have to argue with people anymore. These are little ones, barely noticeable.

No one would even have to know.

Uranus, Neptune, Internet

Everyone remembers where they were when it was declared that e-mail had shed its hyphen and become the slimmer, sexier email. (I actually don’t remember who made this happen—AP? Whoever it was, I agree with them.) I want to see the same acceptance of modern usage happen for email’s older sister, Internet, who yearns to become internet. It will mean I can no longer pretend that the Internet is a proper noun because it is technically another planet, but I can deal with that. I don’t feel like I need to make arguments for it, because it’s only a matter of time before this request becomes law, but in case you want to read more, there is actually a Wikipedia article on internet capitalization conventions.


Following a verb with a colon is verboten. At least, that’s how I learned it. Trying to pin down the source of this rule has been difficult, but finding a style guide that has a verb-colon combo in it has been even more difficult.

I most frequently see colons placed after verbs when introducing a vertical list. As far as I can tell, the powers that be don’t want you playing with colons that way.

So every time you do something this—

My top three mood ruiners are:
  • shoe and/or bra shopping,
  • people chewing with their mouths open,
  • and rodents of any size.

—you’re actually doing it wrong. I know it looks right. I know it feels right. I also know it probably isn’t right, but I’m tired of correcting you. 


I break this rule daily and knowingly, like a renegade. My love for concise copy is how I justify using “they” instead of “he or she,” “their” instead of “his or her,” and so on.

I have a special kinship with whoever it was that wrote the entry on the singular “they” in the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. Their (see what I did there?) annoyance is palpable. They call the common solutions for avoiding using “they” as a generic pronoun “awkward,” “ridiculous,” and “stilted,” so I know I’m not alone in this debate.

Reworking sentences to avoid “his or her” by revising clauses or using the imperative mood used to be a fun puzzle, but I grow weary of these acrobatics. Until we have a widely-used genderless pronoun for these situations, let’s make wrong right.


In general, English speakers can accept that things aren’t written how they sound, but for some reason everyone tries to compensate for how weird-slash-awesome our language is by mixing up cardinal and ordinal numbers in dates. It’s not June 1st, 2012—it’s June 1, 2012. You still pronounce the latter one “June first,” you just don’t write it that way. You just don’t.

You can, however, write 1st of June.

I don’t want to see this rule change. I like this rule. So I’m proposing an impossible compromise. We can keep “st” and “rd” and “th” attached to our days of the month, but only if we start writing dates the British way. Day first, no exceptions. 1st June 2012. 01/06/12. If you think about it, it makes more sense than how we’re currently rolling.

War is not art

First trip to the Lighthouse