Tag Archives: nerd

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.

Sincerely,

Chelsea

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Dear Oxford Comma

Dear Oxford Comma,

For much of my life, I have despised you.  In the past, I have felt that I was too good to use you in my writing.  In some ways, I still feel that way.  You look unnecessary and purposeless and I truly loathe you.  You also make sentences look like fragments written by an insane person.  These are the reasons I avoid using you at all costs.  In fact, until recently, I never used you.  I would venture to guess that placing you in my writing only began to occur in the last few months.

I would love to continue to shun you, but unfortunately when I write out a sentence such as “This piece of art is dedicated my brothers, Doritos Nacho Cheese tortilla chips and fluoridated toothpaste,” I am reminded that I must use you to make it clear that my brothers are not, in fact, an MSG-laden snack nor a chemically-infused dental hygiene product.  So I have to wedge you into my sentence to make my point, the result being, “This piece of art is dedicated to my brothers, Doritos Nacho Cheese tortilla chips, and fluoridated toothpaste.”

This is all fine and good. You are useful in instances such as this. However, I still find you cumbersome and downright unnecessary most of the time. But, consistency is important to me, so if I’m going to use you in the above sentence, I feel compelled to use you in less ambiguous sentences as well. This results in sentences such as,  “My favorite hobbies are reading, writing, and muskrat training,” in which your presence is less than welcome.

I honestly just wish you would die, Oxford Comma.  I think removing you from existence would encourage people to use their logical reasoning skills and study more.  I also think that I hate you.  A lot.  I’ve always hated you, and now I hate you even more for forcing me to use you in all listing situations to avoid the accusation of inconsistency.

Please leave, never come back and maybe cease to exist.

And, yes, I will be leaving that sentence as is.

Sincerely,

Chelsea