3 Grammar Rules I Cannot Adhere to (and yes, I ended this with a preposition – see point #2)

Photo by Jesse Wojdylo

Photo by Jesse Wojdylo

There is no doubt that I have had many visits from the grammar police over the years. Most times I am guilty because of an oversight or error. Then there are other times when I just don’t agree with some of the rules as they apply to language and the way we communicate today.   The following grammar rules are the ones I violate the most often, and here’s why.

1.  Single space after a period
I suppose this is more of a punctuation rule. Nonetheless, I don’t stick to it, mainly because I am physically unable to. I’m told the double-spacing rule was originally made for the typewriter in order to mimic the style used by traditional typesetters. But as my friend, Charlene, likes to point out often, the double space rule is dead. I guess I’m just in denial. No matter how hard I try, it’s a reflex for me to type two spaces. After all, I did learn to type on a typewriter in typing class (when it was called that and not ‘keyboarding’). As to why this post seems to be only single-spaced, I believe WordPress automatically adjusted it.


2. Ending a sentence with a proposition

I think this rule was created by a bunch of tea-drinking British linguists from centuries gone by – back when the written and spoken words were much more formal. In any formal writing I do I try to abide by this rule if it doesn’t sound too unnatural, but in everyday emails and conversations, I don’t worry about it. Again, no one talks like that anymore. For instance:

Scenario 1 – my way

“Good morning, Stacey.”
“Good morning, Clovis.”
“You sure are in a hurry. Where are you running to?”
“I am. I have another meeting to go to.” (I stub my toe on a box in the kitchen) “Oww, I just stubbed my toe.”
“Oh no, what did you stub it on?”
“This dumb box.”

That’s typical conversational American English, no? Here’s the same interaction going by the rule:

Scenario 2 – By the rule

“Good morning, Stacey.”
“Good morning, Clovis.”
“You sure are in a hurry. To where are you running?
“I am. I have another meeting to attend. (I stub my toe on a box in the kitchen) “Oww, I just stubbed my toe.”
“Oh no, on what did you stub your toe?”
“A box, alright? Stop sounding like such a snob, Clovis!!”

My case is rested.

3.  Never write a one-sentence paragraph
Oh poppycock. Sometimes using just one sentence is needed to underscore a point. I occasionally use it – even in an occasional news release (gasp!) – For emphasis. There’s no point in writing another sentence just because there should be two, and especially if it only detracts from the point being made in the first sentence. Novelists do it all the time. I don’t have a specific example from the book itself, but I’m sure Colleen McCullough used this technique in her risqué and tantalizing novel, The Thorn Birds, which I read many, many years ago.

Are there grammar rules that you don’t follow or that you disagree with? What are they?

Ronald McDonald’s mid-life crisis seems to have snowballed

Have you seen McDonald’s new mascot, Happy? The fast food giant unveiled him yesterday. I can only describe Happy as off-putting in a way that any big-toothed French fry carton cartoon/child-eating Ogre hybrid might be. Happy doesn’t look so much happy as he does crazed and, let me just say it: unstable. I wonder who was in the focus group for this thing – Dracula, a Tasmanian Devil and Sponge Bob Square Pants?

McDonald's newest mascot, Happy

McDonald’s newest mascot, Happy

What is happening at McDonald’s? Not even a month ago it unveiled a “new” and “updated” Ronald McDonald.   Ronald, the ‘face’ of McDonald’s since 1963, was apparently exhibiting symptoms of a defeated and washed-up mascot.   Sure he had his painted on smile as usual, but he was feeling antiquated and outdated – even irrelevant.

The folks at McDonald’s were worried about Ronald. He had become a shut in, gained weight from ordering Domino’s and wearing down the digits on the TV remote. Most alarming was that he had been noticeably distancing himself from his best friends, The Hamburglar and Gremlin.

To get Ronald out of the dumps, the folks at McDonald’s didn’t spring for expensive therapy sessions, or a trip to the island of misfit mascots to understand Ronald’s true significance and meaning to the brand in this day in age. Nope, they did not.   As creepy as a clown in clashing-colored dungarees, size 24 shoes and a red afro can be, Ronald only received some superficial “updates” to his wardrobe.

The McDonald’s folks hired a snazzy Broadway fashion designer who did indeed “update” Ronald’s look – updated him from 1963 to 1983 that is.

So what’s new about Ronald? Let’s start with Ronald’s casual wear – his trademark jumpsuit was traded in for a more comfortable and practical 2-piece ensemble vest and hybrid of sweat pants and parachute pants. I believe the term now is cargo pants.

The “new,” updated Ronald McDonald

Ronald’s new business casual look (for when he’s trotting the world as a global ambassador) consists of a red blazer and yellow slacks that make him look like an overly-friendly and flamboyant headmaster from one of Britain’s elite public schools.

At the end of the day, Ronald is just as awkward and silly to me as he’s ever been.

If McDonald’s really wanted to “update” Ronald as opposed to writing him out of the script, here are some of my armchair quarterback recommendations: choppy side-swept bangs and slight facial hair, cool-looking glasses, a trilby hat, beat up guitar and a yoga mat. Oh, and definitely toss the giant red shoes.

As for Happy, let’s see how he pans out. Hopefully he’s just creepy to us adults and not to our Happy-Meal-eating kids.

What do you think of the “new” Ronald and Happy? Are there other mascots you think need to be refreshed?

Any PR is better than none, right? Wrong.

There’s been some controversy over an event that happened over the weekend. A professional golfer, Alastair Forsyth of Scotland, was playing in the Madeira Islands Open when his caddy suddenly collapsed on the fairway of the ninth hole which was Forsyth’s final hole of the event.

Caddies react to the sudden death of a fellow caddy who died on the fairway during a tournament.

Caddies react to the sudden death of a fellow caddy who died on the fairway during a tournament.

Frantic efforts were made on the course to resuscitate the 52-year old caddy, Ian MacGregor, but unfortunately he was pronounced dead at the scene from an apparent heart attack. MacGregor was well-loved among the caddies, and they, along with other players and fans, were stunned over what had happened.

What happens next is a bit bizarre.   For one, the tournament officials didn’t call the tournament right then and there. But what appears to be even more disturbing is that Forsyth decided to keep playing.

Yes, Forsyth’s caddy literally dropped dead on the final hole of the tournament and he felt it best to play through. Bad decision? Well, it would have seemed completely understandable for him to drop out of the tournament and give a heartfelt speech about the tragic loss of his dear friend and caddy. In doing so he would surely lose the tournament, but he would have gained much sympathy and respect from fans and the media for his noble gesture.

Instead he’s received much notoriety.  His fans, the media and people around the world are portraying him as callous and heartless.

Oh, and he didn’t win the tournament.

What do you think about it?

5 Pearls of wisdom from my little Italian-American mother

Mom and me - Florence

Mom and me in Florence

This weekend is Mother’s Day in the U.S., so I thought it would only be appropriate to share some of the wisdom and truths from my mom that have profoundly shaped me both personally and professionally. I owe so much to her (and my dad too, of course).

Mom grew up in Cleveland in an Italian neighborhood on the city’s East side. Like many Italian-American moms I know, she is warm, affectionate and extremely loyal. She’s also equally as tough, having weathered many of life’s storms. As with many folks her age, it’s clear that her heritage as well as living during the tail end of the Great Depression and World War II were instrumental in developing her great character.

My mom is the most cheerful person I know. She has always been that way.   She appreciates life and her loved ones, and rarely belies that persona (only in the direst of circumstances). She’s also the most caring and loving individual I have ever met.   While she might tell you she doesn’t have a sense of humor, I think she’s hilariously funny, more lately in her newfound bluntness, which is one of the privileges that comes with age.

Throughout my life – in good times and in bad ones – I’ve always looked to her for guidance and advice. At this point in my life I am ready to admit that yes, my mother is always right. I had some doubt in my youth, sure – but doggone it, when I really examine things; she’s got a ‘being right’ slugging percentage of 3 point something (for you non baseball fans, that’s pretty dang great as 4.0 is perfect).

Some of the following pearls of wisdom from mom continue to resonate with me in every aspect of my life:

1.  Good manners really do make a difference
Of course I’ve mastered those tried and true manners like putting a napkin in my lap and keeping my elbows off the table. My mother always made sure I wrote my thank you notes – as a kid just a few sentences – and that I understood this gesture to be a truly sincere and appreciative way to demonstrate one’s gratitude.   Saying please, thank you and wishing someone to have a nice day have also always stayed with me. Trust me, it makes a big difference.

2.  I can do it.
I don’t believe I have or have ever had a greater champion than my mother. Whether I was starting out with violin lessons, making the varsity softball team or getting national coverage on the Today show for one of my clients.   She’s never wavered, even if she secretly thought I couldn’t do something. I think part of the feeling for me that I can do something is that I really believe my mom thinks there’s nothing I can’t do. Of course it’s not true, but how great is it to have my own Stuart Smalley?

3.  Brush your hair so it doesn’t look stringy
What can I say, I have fine hair and when I wear it long, I can easily look like one of those poor urchins hiding behind the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Future at the end of A Christmas Carol. Mom’s got my back!

4.  Be financially independent
There was never any doubt when I was young that I would attend college. My parents went for a little while but never finished.   My mother was a stay at home mom, and like other women in her generation, she depended on my father for money. She didn’t want that for me. She always made sure to instill in me strength in myself to be financially self-reliant and independent.   Thanks, Mom!

5.  If you lose something, just ask St. Anthony to help you find it
Saint Anthony (the patron saint of lost things) must really be sick and tired of me losing my keys in my purse.   I find he’s progressed with the times and can even help find lost files on the computer as well. For the most part, he always comes through. Except in the case of my 14th birthday present, a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt shorts which I never received because my mother forgot where she hid them. I am still waiting.

And so it appears that mom does always know best. I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful moms out there!