Too bad I don’t clean like I edit…

She was not the result of smoking; she was the result of timely fucking.

It always chaps my ass when I’m reading an online exchange that gets heated and someone writes something along the lines of, “Your an idiot.” Please know, it physically pains me to deliberately misspell words. I do make typos sometimes, but when I spot them, I am compelled to correct them immediately. Sometimes, my mistakes are caused by writing incoherently. Usually, when this happens, I’ll come back later and fix it.

When I see that someone has tried to make a plural by using an apostrophe, I get really agitated. The photo posted below was taken at an Italian restaurant in Rostock, Germany. The owner paid money for these little signs that read “steak’s & more”. Since the steak isn’t possessing anything, there’s no need for an apostrophe; the sign should read “steaks & more”. People who presumably went to elementary school make this mistake all the time. I might give the restaurant owner a pass, since he or she probably speaks at least three languages. Still, if you’re going to invest in a sign, especially one with so few words on it, at least make sure there aren’t any typos.

What the hell? Someone paid good money for signs that are wrong. It makes me stabby! I couldn’t bring myself to go into this place, mainly due to the signs.

Here’s another clue– if you just want to make your last name plural, you don’t need an apostrophe. Don’t write “the Brown’s”, unless Brown is possessive. If you simply wish to make the name plural, you write “the Browns.” You’d only write “Brown’s” if Brown was someone’s or something’s name and that person or thing was possessing something, such as “Brown’s bookcase” or “brown’s depth as a color”. But you shouldn’t sign your Christmas cards, “Happy holidays from the Brown’s.” If your name ends in an s, such as Jones, and you want to make it plural, you write “the Joneses”. It’s not “the Jones’s”.

I don’t know why I’m like this. Some people are fastidious about keeping a clean living space. Some people are obsessive about keeping themselves clean. I am hyper-vigilant about spelling, grammar, and word usage. I took grammar as an elective when I was in college. It was a required class for those who planned to become teachers. I had no plans to be a teacher, didn’t enjoy the class much, and didn’t even do particularly well in it. I took it simply because I thought it would be useful, and it was.

In the early 1990s, I didn’t know that I would spend so much time writing. In those days, we didn’t really have the Internet much. Email was in its infancy. I didn’t have an email address until the mid 1990s, and I shared it with several people. I didn’t surf the Web until 1997 or so, when I came home from Armenia. Now I spend hours every day online. It’s surreal, since over half of my life occurred before the Internet was a thing. Now, I find that I am daily confronted by bad writing. In fact, just this morning, I read this on Facebook:

Today — I lost a friend of at least 10 years. She was a neighbor. She was 80 —- and she was the end result of smoking since she was 14.

This was the beginning of a heartfelt post someone wrote about his friend, who’d had multiple health problems and died at the ripe age of 80. I’m sure his message was to warn his still living friends about the dangers of smoking and let them know that he cares. While I’m sure many of his late friend’s health problems could have been avoided if she hadn’t been a heavy smoker from such a young age, I’d like to point out a couple of things.

First, it appears that despite her health issues, his friend did live what most would consider a normal lifespan. They may not have been high quality years, and she might have enjoyed her last years more if she hadn’t been a smoker, but she did live a long time. Secondly, and probably much more importantly, his friend was not “the end result of smoking since she was 14”. She was the end result of two people fucking each other at the right time of the month. Her poor health and subsequent suffering were the end results of smoking since she was 14. Her poor health also affected people who cared about her, which is certainly worth mentioning. I won’t even get into the differences between “affect” and “effect”, which is another area where people get things twisted.

I am fighting the urge to leave a comment for the guy who authored the above sentence, because I realize that his heart was in the right place. I understand what he meant, even though when I read his post, the error jumped out at me like a flashing beacon. I’ve refrained, because I don’t actually know the guy that well. He’s one of Bill’s high school friends. I think he friended me because Bill barely posts on social media and it’s easier to keep up with him via me. It’s just that his post is a perfect example of what happens when people write from the heart and don’t proofread. I also know that people don’t like it when I act like a grammar cop, especially in public. They have a tendency to shoot the messenger.

I’m lucky that Bill doesn’t mind my grammar cop tendencies. He appreciates it when I catch stuff. He says it keeps him from looking like a “fool”. I don’t think he ever looks like a fool. It’s just that when people are too close to something, particularly when they’re writing, they don’t have the perspective of a reader. You know what you mean, but the people who are reading your stuff don’t necessarily. I remember getting into it with a guy I knew in grad school. We were writing a grant proposal and I told him he needed to include a brief explanation about the project for which we were requesting funding. He immediately got annoyed and said, “They should already know about that.”

My response was that the committee would be reading proposals from all kinds of people from many different groups. It’s a lot to ask them to know the details of every program they are considering funding. I think it’s best to make things as easy as possible for them. Explain it to them like they’re six years old, using language that is clear and easy to understand, properly punctuated and spelled, and with all of the necessary details. That means not writing something like “she was the result of smoking since she was fourteen.” Remember, she was not the result of smoking– she was the result of timely fucking! Poor health was the result of smoking. Use a few strategically chosen words to clarify, so you don’t write something that conveys something completely different from what you mean.

Incidentally, I’m also super fastidious when it comes to music. I tend to be a perfectionist when I make recordings, which is why I don’t often listen to anything I do on SingSnap beyond checking to see that the timing is correct. If I did listen to my whole recordings, I’d never do more than one a day. Perceived mistakes make me want to redo something until it’s close to perfect. I don’t keep a recording when my voice cracks or I veer off pitch. I don’t know why I do this with recordings, since I can’t do it with live performances. If my voice cracks when I sing live, oh fucking well…

But… I am not a fastidious housekeeper. I mean, yes, sometimes when I get into a cleaning mode, I can be very fastidious. But cleaning doesn’t come naturally to me and isn’t something I love to do. I have to be in the mood to clean with gusto, and that mood rarely strikes. When it does, I do like to take advantage of it. It’s too bad I don’t clean like I edit.