Have you seen this photo all over your Facebook news feed?
I agree with the sentiment, but not the sign.
This sign violates what we in the grammar world call parallelism. Which has nothing to do with geometry.
When you write a sentence that contains a list, remember that the verb you pick at the beginning of the sentence applies to each item in the list. You should be able to read the beginning of the sentence and add each list item individually to make complete sentences. If it works, then your list is parallel.
So, for this sign, the independent sentences would be:
- Having an athlete that is coachable is a direct reflection of your parenting.
- Having an athlete that is respectful is a direct reflection of your parenting.
- Having an athlete that is a great teammate is a direct reflection of your parenting.
- Having an athlete that is mentally tough is a direct reflection of your parenting.
- Having an athlete that is resilient is a direct reflection of your parenting.
So far so good. Everything to this point has come together to make coherent sentences. Yay for parallelism! But the last item in the list is a fail:
- Having an athlete that is tries their best is a direct reflection of your parenting.
Not only is this not parallel, the subject and pronoun don't agree in number. "An athlete" is singular, while "their" is plural.
So before you go taping up signs around your hockey rink, check for parallelism. Your Facebook friends who will invariably see it spamming their news feeds will thank you.
I started my editing career in 8th grade. As a 13-year-old, I began correcting my friends' papers before they turned them in to Mrs. Adams, the most dreaded English teacher in my middle school. From that time to this, my trusty purple rollerball pen and I have been inseparable.
Many people have asked me, especially in the early stages of my "career" (i.e., high school and college), how I got so good at editing. They posited that I must be "a born editor," with some innate capability they lack.
This is just not true. While I was born with an irrepressible love for language, my editing skills were developed, not bestowed.
I am a good editor because I read. I read and read and read. I spent my formative years building a library of YA fiction in my bedroom, stocked with well-written works that had been professionally edited. Years and years of internalizing writing done right ingrained in me lessons of English usage and grammar that I didn't even know I was learning. I developed a gut sense for when something was right and when it was wrong. So as a teen, I edited by intuition.
When I went off to college, I discovered that there are people in the world who actually sit around thinking about the grammar and structure of English, all day, every day. As a job. And I don't mean editors. I mean English linguists. I discovered that, instead of "going to school," I could sit in a room with an expert on linguistic research and learn how to use his proprietary database to find out exactly when and how words came into our English vocabulary. I could have my research thesis reviewed by a forensic linguist who serves as an expert witness to the courts in cases that deal with the subtleties of language. I could spend class periods debating punctuation and be tested on diagramming sentences. In short, I found heaven.
I fell in love with the CMOS. Required reading it may have been, but that does not cheapen our relationship. I learned that there are rules that explain and support the gut instincts I relied on in my early years. I could (and did) cite chapter and verse to argue my editorial choices to my peers.
So I got a BA in English Language and a minor in Editing, and I enjoyed every second (except for that class on Old English). But with every year that separates me from that blissful time, I forget a little more of what I learned. I still reference Chicago regularly, but I can no longer cite a rule number from memory. I don't have professors challenging my choices and requiring me to think in new directions about language and writing.
So how do I keep my skills sharp? I read. I read a book a week, and sometimes more.
I also write. As with any skill, practice is paramount. But how can an editor practice her skills without spending time reading poorly-written drivel? She writes.
Nothing exercises the core skills of an editor like expressing complex concepts through the written word. When you write, you are forced to edit yourself. If you create an impassioned blog post, you have the opportunity to assess the flow and structure of the argument. You can rearrange sentences and paragraphs and ideas until the logic locks into place. If you jot down a journal entry about your weekend, you may run into trouble reporting exactly who said what when you try to quote Dave quoting Sally repeating her favorite quote. You'll have to either figure out how to nest the punctuation correctly or find a simpler way to articulate the idea (both are essential editing tools).
An editor learns by doing. So if you want to become an editor, read until the "right" and "wrong" of writing becomes a feeling in your bones. Write to give yourself real-world opportunities to look up how to do something properly and to revise to make your content better.
If anyone gave me the "gift of editing," it was my mother. She made me a reader. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of Saturday afternoons spent propped up on a pile of pillows on my parents' bed, taking turns reading chapters out loud with my mother. The little girl clutching the dog-eared copy of Ella Enchanted has grown up to be a professional editor clutching a Kindle (and that same paperback of her favorite book).
If my TV is on, there's a good chance I'm watching the Food Network. What can I say? I'm a touch addicted to cooking competition shows.
I recently watched a special called Outrageous Wedding Cakes, showcasing over-the-top gorgeous (and sinfully expensive) confections. While all the cakes they featured were mind blowing, my favorite has to be the chandelier cake.
That's right, chandelier! They built the cake "upside down" and lowered it from the ceiling using a winch.
Unfortunately, our friends at Food Network didn't hire an editor who knew the difference between a winch and a wench. I was delighted to see the show's explanation of the chandelier cake's mechanism.
Why was I delighted? Because their little diagram indicates that there is a busty barmaid lurking under that sheet, desperately clinging to the ceiling.
Thank you, Food Network, for creating my favorite mental picture of the week.
I saw this ode to quotation marks on FailBlog. As a lover of good hygene, I find the idea of employees "washing their hands" particularly unsettling. Which of these photo fails is your favorite?
Whenever I have to wait in a waiting room, like at a doctor's office or even the DMV, I kill time by checking out the decor, especially the kitschy motivational messages crafted into posters, glass etchings, and painted signs. I imagine that they reflect the taste of the receptionist or business owner, and I like to infer what that individual wants me to think about their office by the sayings they choose to hang in my line of sight as I wait my turn on an uncomfortable chair.
Yesterday, two such signs stood out to me as I waited to see a new doctor. One read "Live life every day." The other said "Everyday is a gift."
I don't know about you, but my gut reaction was to walk out of the office and find a new doctor. Why?
Because one sign spelled the phrase every day correctly, and the other didn't. I can understand that not everyone knows that everyday has a different meaning than every day, but the inconsistency was almost too much for me. Can't the doctor be either consistently correct or consistently incorrect? That inattention to detail made me wary. Who wants a sloppy doctor? Not me. I expect an everyday doctor to be competent every day.
Everyday is an adjective. Think of everyday clothes (the type of clothes you usually wear each day, as opposed to a swimming suit or painting clothes or your team's jersey (But if you do wear your team's jersey every day, I won't judge. Go Cowboys!)). Toyota used the song "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone in its commercials in the 90s. Sing it with me!—"I love everyday people!" Toyota's ad told us that the brand embraced the common man, and, more importantly, that the advertisers wanted all the regular car-buying Joes out there to come buy a Toyota. You get the picture. Everyday = adjective.
Every day is an adverbial phrase or a noun phrase. You go to work every day. Every day this week has felt like Monday. I crave cheesecake every day. You can replace every with each and get the same meaning. (But eachday is not a word, obviously, so no one mixes that up.) So every day as a noun or adverbial phrase is a two-word unit. Every day. Boom.
So now you know. If you are in charge of decorating a waiting room for a doctor or a lawyer or a beekeeper or whoever, and you want your customers and clients to know that every day is a gift, you are now empowered to buy the right sign.
And if you feel like appeasing my sweet tooth, know that everyday cheesecake won't cut it. It's Cheesecake Factory or nothing.