Grammar Police Need Not Report for Duty

Grammar police badge

It’s definitely related to the crowd that I run with. First, I majored in English, next Technical Communication. And then, I had the nerve to follow that up with various careers related to communication. As a result, I’ve developed a sometimes persnickety, but always joyfully opinionated circle of friends. However, there are an inordinate number of people on my Facebook Newsfeed who complain about bad grammar. And I need it to stop.

I can relate to your  almost physical reaction to bad grammar, but can you GET OVER IT already!?

I used to be much better at grammar, spelling and punctuation. I rarely misspelled similar sounding words (their instead of there, etc.). My spelling was on point and every punctuation mark resided in the sentence exactly where it was supposed to. Now, I find that it’s not so perfect anymore. It bothers me somewhat, but I got things to do [sic]. I propose that there are legitimate reasons when the grammar police need to sit their arses down. I submit these examples for consideration.

The offender is communicating too much, too quickly or their mutli-tasking has gotten out of hand. You’re not living that life and can’t relate? How are things back in ’94? Between six email addresses (and that’s not even counting the “dating” email address), three blogs, social media, text messaging and business-related communication, I’m churning out more content than ever. Most of us are! With the sheer number of words, some mistakes are going to creep in.

I am rather dumbfounded when people complain that no one communicates anymore and that our society is forgetting how to talk to each other. It begs the question, what society are they living in? I interact with more people than ever! Even before leaving my bed in the morning, I’ve already communicated with at least 10 people (and I’m not talking about bed partners). By the time I’ve walked the dog and had Starbucks, that number has climbed to easily 30 people. Add in a workout or a stop at the dog run and I’ve interacted with more people than I had in my first pre-school. I don’t believe that back in the day, people talked to 30 people over the course of their entire day. Yes, social media is making us communicate differently. It’s called evolution. Please come along with us lest you be turned into a fossil fuel.

The offender is, good god, human and made a mistake. Personally, I have given up striving for perfection in things that, in the end, don’t really matter. I suspect that anyone who’s ever worked for me is calling a party foul right now. You might even be flashing back to an episode where I asked you to redo something or got mad because of a mistake. Maybe I even made you miss your furniture delivery or dinner with friends or a yoga class due to extra work. I know, I know, I’m meticulous and expect everyone else to be, too. But that’s for work. I think you should do whatever it takes to provide polished and high-quality communication that maintains your professional brand. 

An email to a friend — I’m not going to labor over it. They are a friend, afterall. They know what I meant to type and they certainly noticed the 3 AM timestamp on the email.

The offender was typing on a mobile device. I find that I’m not as accurate when using my iPad, iPhone or blackberry (may it rest in peace). These devices allow us to do everything on-the-go, which is beyond lovely. Yet between autocorrect, fumbling fingers, wet nails from a fresh manicure, the small screen and unpredictable apps, chances are, mistakes are going to slip in.

The offender is using slang. “You don’t know who the ef I is? [sic]” “Where you at? [sic],”  “Where they do that at? [sic]” — and similar phrases are all perfectly understandable and exempt from grammar rules. What’s more, using these phrases doesn’t automatically make the person stupid. It does put them in the running though.

Bringing Sassy Black Back

Have you noticed that commercials these days are featuring more than their share of sassy-talking black women? It’s like there’s a Willona School of Acting that’s churning out the neck-swiveling, hmmmm-mmmm-talking, frying, cleaning, broad-hipped, asexual black woman to save the day. Pair her with an idiot husband, some silent children or a clueless salesperson and you’ve got a commercial.

There’s the Pine Sol lady. She’s been at it a long time and at least she has natural hair and is not a caricature. But that line, “That’s the power of Pine Sol, baby.” Ugh. And now, I’m pretty sure I spotted her in another brand’s commercial, this time joined by a gum-smacking friend.

Then we’ve got the Popeye’s fried chicken lady – Annie the Chicken Queen. She, by far, irks me the most. That terribly done fake accent. The shilling of fried food –chicken no less. The sweet tea and Leroy, the husband she yells at when convenient. There’s even a parody of Ms. Annie.

Swiffer got in on the act with a sassy mama saying, “Imma find out” and sashaying out of the room after the line “Are you a cool mom?” Momtrocious.

Then, there’s the deluge of Wal-Mart commercials with sistas out there saving money at America’s most tasteless store.

I realize I’m seeing targeted ads based on what I’m watching (Damn you Housewives of Atlanta!). Kind of like the Saturday nights I decide to stay in and all the ads have those abused pets that make me cry and then I salivate over the pizza and ice cream commercials until the Weight Watchers commercials and guilt show up.

When it comes to commercials, there are few alternatives, I realize. I acknowledge that it’s a good thing to have diversity on television. Yet, in general, all women are stereotyped in commercials (and all men are characterized as clueless –you all should be mad, too!).

On that front, Cascade entertains us with an ad with a woman at another sister’s house about to get into an argument about filthy dishes. The Cascade Kitchen Counselor shows up just in time. Seriously? Cascade is trying to perpetuate that women judge our worthiness over our housecleaning skills? Young women know that our value isn’t placed on sparkling windows or dishes. Especially when that task can be so easily outsourced. Instead, we judge each other’s shoes, child-rearing skills, husbands/wives/boyfriends/girlfriends, vacations and careers. What’s next, they’ll suggest that women want vacuums for Christmas?

Hmmmm mmmmm.

The Verdict Six Months In: Love it or Hate it?

When I left my job in May, the thought cloud afloat above my head was chock full of ideas. The plan: start my own business and continue as an employee communication consultant. My dream scenario was to work remotely. Naturally, this would require getting some regular clients but once those good relationships were established, I’d pack my Goyard tote with my laptop, eyeliner and some flats and go explore the world. It’s a good thing I’m not a psychic because I would be the Dionne Warwick variety.

SO what’s the verdict?

I’ve started not one, but two businesses! I’m eager to talk about the second one but until that trademark application has been accepted, let’s just say that it involves fashion. And the Internet.

SO what’s the verdict?

I’m not good at bookkeeping, never balanced a checkbook (how is this necessary when you can look online everyday?) and generally get bored with details. Did you know as a small business you have to CHASE the money people owe you? They’re often not in any hurry to pay.

I blame Montessori school for this handicap. I spent my first years of school writing stories and readers. Except for the time we had a lesson on hygiene and I was inspired to spend a whole afternoon taking out the 30 tiny braids my grandmother had cornrowed the day before so that I could use the little plastic comb. Just like the other kids. Yes, I looked crazy once I released those braids. Yes, even Bane from Batman wouldn’t have been safe at pickup that afternoon.  And yes, a third of the teeth on that little comb didn’t survive one swipe through my hair. Bottomline, Montessori didn’t make me do math, which dribbles down into it being difficult for me to keep track of who owes me what.

SO what’s the verdict?

I’m flipping between ecstasy and terror. One minute I’m reveling on an especially good writing session. Then the COBRA bill arrives and I freak out wondering how I will pay it and what I’ll do once I’m no longer eligible.

That’s the life of the self-employed. It’s risky and unpredictable. Two things that are SO not me. If you think you can’t do something, don’t underestimate yourself!

When I went to an alumni weekend for the MLT minority leadership program, I felt like a fraud. My nametag wasn’t emblazoned with the name of a well-known company. The title “Principal” was dropped from my repertoire. Plus, I had no corporate sponsor, and had paid my own way.

I wondered how I would share the big change with the executive coach I’d worked with two years ago. I sat in front of him with the same pitiful look I gave my mom that time I’d eaten a whole box of girl scout cookies while she was at work.

I expected him to be surprised or to ask why I would jump off the corporate ladder. His reaction: “You’re an ENTP, I’m not at all surprised.” He was referring to my Meyers-Briggs personality type. Apparently we do well as entrepreneurs.

I told him I was disappointed in myself. I wasn’t a sales junkie and was nowhere near meeting my self-imposed sales goal. I’m happy with my life, but what happened to my business drive?

He looked at me with the expression I give to a cab driver who asks me how to get to the Midtown Tunnel. After two hours with him, I understood that I’d just re-placed that drive — changed its place. And instead of being Lasik-focused on work, I’d now spread that drive out over all parts of my life. The ambition is still there! I’m relieved.

Yet, I can’t say if I’m on the road that’s less travelled because I can’t clearly see the road ahead of me.

SO what’s the verdict? LOVE IT!


Go ahead, stare your dreams right in the face. If I can handle it, I KNOW you can.

On Losing the Age Complex

I have a legendary age complex which means that, clearly, I hate birthdays. The first time I cried on my birthday was when I turned 10. The injustice of being double-digits was just too much to take. 13 wasn’t much better and at 18, I had a total meltdown.

Obviously 30 was a big deal (which seems so ridiculous now). I planned a trip to Northern California to distract myself into being happy. Between the beautiful views, constant wine drinking and debauchery that my friend Michelle and I always got into, I thought I was going to avoid falling apart. On the morning of my birthday, we were driving to a winery in Napa Valley when I spontaneously started speaking incoherently and spouting tears like a Peanuts character. This wasn’t drunk waterworks, but it sure looked and sounded like it.

One reason I have this age complex is because my birthday is in October. This meant that I was always one of the oldest classmates. Turning 16 was the only time being the oldest came in handy. That year, I was one of the first to get my driver’s license — well, second to Geri Stolar whose birthday is in September.

Being the oldest kid in my immediate family is a contributing factor to this complex. So much older that I don’t want to mention how much. Let’s just say that my brother, sister and I never share the same decade.

And finally, I have a really young mom. In fact, we discovered last year that we were using the exact same age when we lied about our age (clearly, she must trend UP now that she’s a grandma).

This year’s birthday rolled around this past weekend, and for once, I didn’t have to fight back tears. Sure, I felt the standard “I wish I would have…” and “I can’t believe I’m so old,” but no quivering lips every time I glanced at the calendar and no tears and no need for a rocking chair for self-soothing.

I’ve LOST all of that this year — and more:

  • I lost my workaholic ways and gained time for things that are more meaningful to me.
  • I lost my excuses and gained new strength, endurance and flexibility from spending time in the gym.
  • I lost my solitary focus and gained time to spend with my friends and to make new friends.
  • I lost the thought that I needed to be tied to a company in order to be successful and have stability and that I owed it to myself to break through the glass ceiling, and in the process gained my own business and a life of instability and the chance to put the ceiling where I want it!
  • I lost being concerned about it being too late to try new things I’ve always wanted to do — like riding a kickscooter and taking ballet and thereby gained joy and creative expression!
  • And check out the photo, I’ve lost some weight and gained a better health and a whole new outlook!

I spent my birthday with friends and found some time to squeeze in half an hour of shopping in the Meatpacking District. From the fitting room, I paid for the outfit, had them snap the tags and wore the outfit right out the store. That’s true birthday girl style.

Stop Leaving Me Voicemails!!!

Voicemail is the most high maintenance form of communication. work. You have to listen to the message. Then copy down or remember information from the message. Then you have to respond to the message. And, you have to call the person back because a text reply would be rude since they went through all the trouble to leave a voicemail.

It’s inconvenient. You can’t listen to a voicemail while you’re on another call. Or, if you’re in an area with no reception (which is most areas if you have AT&T).  Yet, you CAN get texts and email while talking on the phone.

I also find the voicemail chime or blinking red light (for office phones) to be stressful. Maybe because I assume it’ll be a client calling to yell at me. Like Pavlov’s dog, I’ve been trained to think that voicemail equals something is really right or really wrong.

I used to never check voicemails. I ignored them and nothing bad ever happened and I never missed out on anything. That’s a policy I’ve had to revise since I’m now a business owner. So, I’ve implemented some tactics to try to make it more manageable. Like by using Google Voice which transcribes your voicemails so you don’t have to listen to them. The only problem is that Google Voice does a terrible job and sends a totally mangled transcript for messages left by callers with southern or Long Island accents — which appears to be about 50% of my callers.

This complaint about voicemail is not a complete blanket statement though. There are some occasions when voicemails are welcome.  Here’s when it’s great to get a voicemail:

  • For congratulations, birthday wishes and are you OK? I haven’t heard from you in a while messages
  • The, you’re not responding to me any other way, so I’m going to use a voicemail message
  • The I need you or I’m upset voicemail
  • Voicemails from family members  or loved ones who are over age 40. Have you noticed that the only people who still leave voicemails are over 40? That’s just a theory, but my preliminary observations prove me right. Count your voicemails and you’ll probably see it’s either that demographic or strangers.

I have a meeting with my accountant tomorrow morning. It’s at 9 AM. As if that isn’t annoying enough, his assistant called me first thing this morning and left a 58-second voicemail with instructions on where to meet him. I ignored it. At 5 p.m., she sent me an email with the information. I promptly replied and confirmed. Then I dragged the details right into iCal and moved on with my day.

Hate It or Love it? My First 30 Days of Self-Employment

1. HATE IT: Really missing my co-workers. LOVE IT: I’m not missing all of them.

2. LOVE IT: Not setting an alarm. HATE IT: Getting up at 6:30 or 7 AM, anyway.

3. LOVE IT: Shopping at sample sales during non-prime time hours being SO much better. Imagine the La Perla girls actually rooting through the crates to help you look for your size. HATE IT: No clue how much I can spend.

4. HATE IT: Not dressing in my beloved work clothes. (And I’m not much of a casual wear kinda girl.) LOVE IT: Haven’t worn Spanx in a month.

5. HATE IT: Taking public transportation every day. I don’t know why I thought I would save money on that and left it out of the budget. LOVE IT: I always get a seat and am not usually in a hurry.

6. LOVE IT: Spending more time in the apartment that I pay quite a bit to live in. HATE IT: The more time I spend there, the more important it is for it to be clean. Plus, I’m the cleaning lady now. I never thought I’d say I want a smaller apartment.

7. HATE IT: Pining to spend the day in Midtown. LOVE IT: I’m still there for dinner or appointments several days a week and I’ve been able to sit outside and just enjoy instead of rushing from place to place.

8. LOVE IT: Making it to the gym everyday. HATE IT: Vibe is all off during the day. The people are boring and the eye candy not as tasty.

9. HATE IT: Not having anyone to talk to during the day. LOVE IT: Having time to hang out with my friends and actually keeping in touch when I say I will.

10. HATE IT: Really missing the lunchtime food run to Pret, Chipotle, Dishes, Cafe Manhattan, Free Foods, Qdoba, cuban dives and street carts. LOVE IT: I can make a homemade lunch. Who am I kidding? I HATE THAT.