Proper English This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Welcome, friends! Turn the pages of this year's catalog and you'll find thousands of ... items to make life more entertaining, more productive, easier, safer, and enjoyable ..." I close the cover of this recently mailed, book-long ad and softly chuckle to myself. Not only is "life" overdone with adjectives but, to properly finish off the parallel structure the company president was striving for, "enjoyable" should be "more enjoyable." But this is a small mistake, I think to myself - the readers get the idea. I flip through the morning paper - national crises, world conflicts, community achievements - and come across this:

"They're cute, they're frisky, they're newborns and, so far, they're also nameless. They are our snow leopard cubs (two males, one female) and here's how you can help name them - and win the prizes that go to the winners ..." I do a double take and again I laugh, this time out loud. " ...Win the prizes that go to the winners?" Who else would get them - the losers? Time for some good wholesome English language, I think as I shake my head. Time to read the William Safire article that Mr. Napolitano had assigned a couple of days back ...

"The survival of mankind, and of the earth which sustains all of us, are in serious jeopardy ..." Mr. Safire finishes his piece with this "blooper" from another ad - he mentions small points (mankind/humankind and which/that), but he focuses on the awful subject-verb agreement. With his characteristic wit, he explains, but I feel something more ominous, more foreboding, behind the clever comments.

In a little less than 15 minutes, I have seen three clear examples of bad writing - writing that crept past the copy editor but didn't slip by this scholar. If editors can't edit, how can writers write well and readers read good writing? Most of the time, we carp about the "deteriorating fabric of our society," pointing the finger of guilt at the public schools, the students who attend them, and the teachers who instruct them while, all this time, clear "bloopers" pop up on the front page of the morning news (okay, maybe not the front page, but they're in there). How can columnists cavil about conduct in an American class of English students when those same English students can carp about columns?

Maybe my life is so lacking in entertainment, productivity, ease, safety, and enjoyment that I have to be concerned about such details. Maybe I should back off and let someone else win the title of "being the one who spoke" (which, of course, should go to the winner). Besides, what do high school seniors know anyway? All we know is that the survival of communication depends on us, not on the parallel construction of the president of Radio Shack. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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