Monthly Archives: September 2011

Dear People Who Think Tights are a Proper Replacement for Pants

Dear People Who Think Tights are a Proper Replacement for Pants,

They’re not. They’re just…not.


Dear Users of Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs

Dear Users of Nouns, Pronouns and Verbs,

I would like to make the bold request that you be more precise when speaking/singing/writing.  Using ambiguous nouns and verbs makes it difficult for the reader to decipher what you intend to communicate.  Ambiguity can also result in entrapment or even death, as this letter will no doubt prove.

My first example is something that happened to me today.  I was exploring my school campus, looking for a place to read alone, when I found a really great balcony.  The door leading to the balcony had several signs on it, and I read each one.  Scrawled in some messy penmanship on one of the signs was the statement:

Door will lock after closing.

I thought about this for a moment.  Did the author intend to communicate that the door would lock after the building closed or after the door closed? I went with the former, assuming that, had the writer meant the latter, they would have written something like, “Door will lock when it closes,” or “This door locks from the outside,” or even “Prop the door open by any means if you don’t want to be stuck on a balcony for the rest of your life.”

I soon discovered my mistake and was forced to call a school admin to let me back in the building.  This incident could have been avoided if the wording on the sign had been more specific.

The next example is a very serious one indeed.  You may be familiar with the band The Postal Service.  The opening line of their song “Clark Gable” is:

I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London Underground
When it struck me

What struck you, Postal Service Lead Singer Guy? To what does this “it” refer? Because, to be honest, every time I hear this song, I imagine you standing on the rails, waiting and thinking deep thoughts.  And then I imagine an underground train rushing out of nowhere, hitting, and killing you. (As a side note, I do realize that that intention of the writer is clarified one line later.  However, as a result of the construction of the song, I still feel that the pronoun used here is ambiguous.)

These examples clearly illustrate just how important it is to use clear language.  If you don’t, you may end up in serious danger…or, at least, the subjects of whatever you’re writing, may end up in serious danger.  Either way, it’s something to pay close attention to.

I hope that this letter persuades you to be more careful and specific in your word usage.



Dear Corporate America

Dear Corporate America,

I am incredibly irritated with you and I blame you for my food allergies.

No, really, Corporate America. I consider you a direct cause of my food allergies.

The year was 1987, and my mother was a professional who just happened to have a baby. She did everything by the book and, as a new mother, was incredibly health-conscious. For the first several years of my life, the only “cookies” I knew were flavored rice cakes. I ate fruit and veggies and had a balanced diet that anyone would approve of. My mother did a really good job of ensuring my health.

However, because she had to work in order to ensure that health, I was fed milk-based formula as an infant. She had no idea at the time, but very early exposure to various foods can actually cause allergies to appear later in life. I believe this has happened to me.

I have been doing quite a bit of research regarding various skin ailments that I’ve suffered in life. The one cause that keeps popping up again and again is a milk allergy. This is a bit disconcerting as a large chunk of my diet consists of yogurt, cheese (so many cheeses…) and butter (through brownies and cookies).  I’m not happy about being forced to give these things up, but I must verify this alleged allergy.

Where did this allergy come from? Well, probably you, Corporate America. See, if my mother had been able to stay home with me and breastfeed, I probably wouldn’t be in this mess of elimination diets and a cheese-less existence. I might be able to look at ice cream without eczema flaring up. I might even be able to eat pizza.

Ultimately, I don’t blame my mother; she did what she thought was right at the time.  I don’t blame doctors; they never listen to blame, anyway.   I don’t blame cows or goats or dairy farmers.  And, though conspiracy theories are always fun, I don’t blame formula and soy milk manufacturers.  I blame you.  Corporate America, if you had just let my mother stay home and be a mother for awhile, I might not have these skin problems.  As it stands, I’m itchy and calcium-deficient and whiny.  Oh-so whiny.

I don’t expect you to fix this problem.  Unless you have a time machine, in which case, I expect you to fix this problem 24 years, 1 month and 3 days ago.

Thank you for listening.  Now that that’s off of my chest, I’ll cease whining about not eating dairy.