Grammar queens, unite!

Chrissy Zehrbach, Editor in Chief
Chrissy Zehrbach, Editor in Chief

Chewing loudly. Bad driving. Cracking knuckles. Rudeness. Everybody has their own pet peeves. For me it’s bad grammar.

You know those people who correct you when you say “me and so-and-so” and tell you to say “so-and-so and I”? I’m not going to deny it, that’s me.

To some friends and family members I’m thought of as “the grammar police.” Oh if only that existed!

I’ll admit it, I’m a big dork in this respect, but I’m proud of it. And finally I don’t feel like I’m alone on my crusade.

“Sticklers unite!”

This is the rally cry of Lynne Truss, the British author of the recent best seller “Eats, Shoots & Leaves,” a book about punctuation (not pandas).

I was given the book to read this summer by my neighbor’s mother. At first I thought she was crazy, who would enjoy a book about punctuation? She had said, “you like grammar, you should enjoy this book.”

And she was right – I was hooked from the beginning and found it hard to put it down. As soon as Truss began to talk about the apostrophe that’s missing from the movie title “Two Weeks Notice” (it should be “Two Weeks’ Notice”) I began to relate because for the longest time I had felt that the extra “s” in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” was superfluous because the word already ends in “s”.

And although theories on this usage vary, and I may be wrong, it really does bug me to no end.

Why, if I read this book this summer, am I talking about this now, you ask? Well, I went to Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena last Thursday to hear Lynne Truss speak. She did a reading, answered some questions and shared some stories of her experiences – I was thrilled. Except by the fact that I was one of the few people in the large crowd in attendance who were younger than 35 or 40.

I chatted with Lynne as she signed my book, and I told her I considered myself a stickler. She was excited to hear this, saying she had lost faith in almost everyone under 65. As for the “grammar police” comment, she replied in her thick British accent, “Oh, well they’re just jealous.” I’m not so sure, but I’ll go along with it.

Since “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” I find myself examining all misused punctuation I see. I now not only wish to be a part of the grammar police, I also wish to join the renegade group Truss hopes to form which fixes the “crimes against punctuation.” The tools of the apostrophe war for example, according to Truss, would include, among other things, correction fluid, big pens and stickers cut into apostrophes of various sizes.

Even though I have become a part of the group inclined with the seventh sense that sees dead punctuation, as Truss would say, it is still bad grammar which bugs me the most: the unnecessary preposition people use when they say “where are you at?” or the extra verb in the new phrase “the thing is is that.” Does this not seem wrong to anyone else?

Our society has lost itself in a world of slang and has forgotten, or never learned, simple things like proper verb agreement.

And especially with the increased focus on technology and the Internet, correct grammar and punctuation are being lost. Sometimes I wish I could edit emails and send them back to people.

I think the whole world should enroll in George Keeler’s syntax and grammar class (the class which most people say is hard, but I enjoyed all too much, which may have only succeeded in increasing my intrigue with grammar and sentence structure). Who knows, we might learn a little. I think our society could afford to do so.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Truss Thursday night, “it’s nice we can laugh about it. But we really should cry because there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Although I’m hoping we can – for my sanity and yours.

Chrissy Zehrbach, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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