Every year at this time I become even more of a word nerd, as I gear up for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. And to the girls’ chagrin, I also ramp up my Grammar Police activities. I recently cringed when Margo came home with an English test for me to sign. The only thing marked wrong was this sentence, which the students were to punctuate correctly:
Girls who have red hair are very lucky.
Margo (the redhead), of course, had left it as is. No, according to the teacher. It should be:
Girls, who have red hair, are very lucky.
This is because the rule is to “separate the interrupter with commas.” Never mind that the meaning of the sentence has now changed from “redheaded girls are lucky” to “all girls have red hair and are lucky.” I think the teacher didn’t want to confuse the students with a longer sentence, but the length of the sentence is the point if you’re trying to improve its flow by the use of commas. A simple re-write of the example would have fixed the problem:
Irish girls, who are apt to have red hair and creamy complexions, are very lucky.
Maybe once Margo has graduated in June, I’ll suggest this for next year’s test. That would be after we go through this special session offered by the administration:
“The presentation by the Head of the Upper School will focus on 3 related topics: ERB results, high school acceptances, and exist interviews with parents of graduates…”
I told Margo maybe I should go to see if I’m still alive. This may be a case of Spell Check Run Amok. Which brings me to Margo’s favorite new game of finding pairs of words always used together. Run amok (but “amok” does appear freestanding in crosswords) and wreak havoc (she said I was cheating by bringing up “Cry ‘havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war,” accusing me with “Is that Shakespeare?”) are her current favorites.
And for my parting shot, here is a sign put up by a different set of grammar-challenged educators at the elementary school all my kids attended in nearly consecutive years from 1990 to 2005:
Have they never heard of adverbs? And this is at a school with “Grammar” in its name!