Punctuation police

Police badge with writing: "To Serve and Correct: Grammar Police

What’s with the hyphen?

Attending the School for the Gifted did have its benefits. I graduated with a good grasp of English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Learning a few other languages (French and Hebrew), albeit poorly, helped too: how else would I know what a subjunctive verb is? I actually achieved 94% in a university-level course called The Hebrew Verb. Boy could I parse my verbs!

When I undertook this blog, I even reread the gripping Strunk and White classic, The Elements of Style. I know my parts of speech and how to construct a sentence. I think I usually select the correct verb tense, and my nouns and verbs agree. I can even tell you what the object of a preposition is. I dangle a participle every so often but who doesn’t?

My spelling isn’t bad and I punctuate fairly well. I may capitalize words liberally at times, but I’m hoping you’ll forgive me that. Sometimes I end a sentence with a preposition even though I know I shouldn’t. I am especially proud of my mastery of the semi-colon, at least according to Strunk and White.

As a lesbo, of course I’m an expert in homonyms. I can help you with “their” and “there” and “they’re” (notice I haven’t made any of those plural by adding ‘s). So, I say, of a group of women undergoing chemo but shedding their wigs today in solidarity: they’re the ones who left their hair over there.

Am I sounding a little too hot on myself? I don’t mean to.

Man wearing shirt with caption: {mentally correcting your grammar]

I swear I didn’t add the hyphen.

My grammatical prowess has its downsides, too. J. has often called me the Grammar Police, but I think “Punctuation Police” is more accurate. For example, Jelly and I walk by the Wheatleys’ house a few streets over every so often. I only know the Wheatleys live there because of their outdoor sign, “The Wheatley’s”. I often want to deface the sign by scratching out the misplaced apostrophe, but I’ve restrained myself. That possessive apostrophe would be legitimate only if the house were an Olde English Manor, and the sign writer just forgot to add “Garden” or some such modified noun.

That’s why I need you to know that when a hyphen precedes one of my picture captions, as it often does, I HAVE NOT PUT IT THERE. Hyphens do not belong before capitalized sentences with periods. We all know that. These dashes create a first impression that I am punctuation illiterate. In fact, Wordpress insists on randomly adding hyphens to my image captions. They appear mysteriously when I post, to my dismay, and, despite my best efforts to eliminate them, they are there to stay. Would you have noticed had I not told you?

With too much time on my hands now, I obsess over such matters when I tire of worrying about my health. You have likely already picked up my tendency to ruminate obsessively about trivialities just by following my blog. And I understand there are effective treatments for ruminators like me. Don’t go the drug route, though; come see me and I’ll help you. Really, I can.

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