If you’ve ever tried to publish a book, you know the famous R word: rejection. More accurately, agent rejection. You’ve polished and edited your manuscript, which you just know will be an international bestseller, and have written a fantastic query, which you sent off to the right kinds of agents because you did your homework on the genres they represent, and then you waited. And you waited. And you waited. Then finally, one glorious day, you opened the mailbox (e- or real) and there was a letter from one of the agents. Giddily you clicked Open or tore the top of the envelope and extracted the letter. Yay! You couldn’t read fast enough!
That is until you got to the words “no, thank you.” Your shoulders slumped, your heart sank, and you sat stunned that someone would dare say such horrible words about your beloved manuscript. How could they? Don’t they know good writing when they see it?
Welcome to the world of publishing. It’s a cruel civilization, but one that you can conquer if you try hard enough. Just ask Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help. The name or title ring a bell? Even if you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you’re aware of the upcoming movie release. Would you believe she was rejected 60 times? Sixty times! Yet she persevered.
Read her story here. And let it be an encouragement to you when you receive that next “no, thank you” and want to quit. Don’t. Keep going. Your day will come.
Anyone who knows me well can attest to my obsession with proper grammar and punctuation. I’m a stickler. In fact, I’m the mayor of Sticklerville. Welcome to my town. Many of you, my fellow grammarians, could easily sit on the town council, as you share my passion and desire for correctness. Some would call us elitists. Others would label us as snobs. We fit both descriptions — not because we consider ourselves to be “above” everyone else, but because we take language seriously. We care enough to write the very best.
Language evolves to meet the times. It has to. How many people in the modern world still speak King James English, even in England? I occasionally will greet an old friend — usually in church — with “how art thou?” just to be funny (sort of), but I would never do that with someone I just met. Nor would you. One of my pet peeves, however, is the unnecessary evolution of the language. I’m not talking about things that have to change. There are plenty of instances of that. For instance, prior to the invention of the computer, we didn’t have a word describe the new-fangled gadget that would forever change the way we do just about everything, including communicating in writing. So we had to make one up. The next edition of Webster’s had a new word. That was a necessary change in the language because we had a change in technology. What tweaks me are changes that come from plain ol’ laziness or some smarty-pants’ efforts to sound more intellectual.
Along with the computer came a laundry list of new techno gadgets, including devices that allowed computers to operate with other machines. For example, in order for a computer to send data to a printer, the two devices had to be connected through a printer “interface.” That was the official term. The interface consisted of three parts: a circuit board, a rainbow-colored ribbon cable, and a multi-pinned connector that hooked it to the printer. And it was a noun. The computer and printer didn’t interface with each other. They were connected through an interface. But thanks to “business babble” and other corporate syntax corruption, the word “interface” has shoved aside other, more firmly established terms like “communicate” and “talk.” Apparently now those words are so last week. Who knew?
I wish the Language Police had as much implied enforcement power as the Fashion Police. Then celebrities would have to set a better example for the rest of us peons. Can you imagine if People magazine or Entertainment Tonight featured stories of movie stars caught on camera with their dangling participles showing? Gasp!
But instead we’re left trying to serve vigilante justice in a world overrun with grammatical sloths! I’ll cope. I always do. But it won’t be easy — or enjoyable.
What are some modern phrases or words that drive you nuts? What changes in the language irritate you? Please share below. Venting is good for the soul.