Tag Archives: writing

practice proper grammar.

11 Aug

I’ve come to a fork in the road with writing You’re A Grown Man and I’m not entirely sure what direction to go.  You see, I get a lot of crap, criticism, and helpful advice from people who say my grammar is “sorta off”.  And you know what? They’re right.  In fact, and I don’t want you to miss the irony, I just spelled grammar, “grammer”, before spell check got me.  Truthfully, it’s incredibly frustrating.

So the decision before me is this: Do I continue to write Grown Man or do I simply fess up to the fact that I’m not a professional writer and leave my witty observations of modern masculinity for phone calls with my brother and trying to make my friends laugh?  Really, I’m not sure yet.  But what I do know is that this struggle is a teachable moment and one that all of us can learn from.  Let us now summon the spirit of Tony Robbins and allow the healing to begin…

You’re a Grown Man, proper grammar is important.

Oh yes, we love just writing in a train of thought, don’t we?  “Hay mom, just wanted too let you know that you’re cookies were sooooo good, all my frat brothers loved them.  Your now there favorite mom!” Do you see what happened there? A kind letter to your mom makes you come off as terribly inept even though you’re saying something wonderful, albeit monstrously lame, but still wonderful.

Source: LIFE Magazine

Grammar (and its BFF, spelling) is essentially the visual expression of who we are.  More than watches, suits, eye-contact or anything else, our written word communicates with great accuracy and efficiency the kind of men we are (or appear to be).  When we use the wrong to, too, and two, people assume that we’re a)not paying attention to detail and being lazy, b)not educated enough to know the difference, or c) both a and b.  All it takes is a sentence in an email, using the wrong you’re/your/Eeyore, to drop the perception of your intelligence down a notch.  This, Grown Men, is why it’s important to mind your p’s and q’s – because you want what you’re writing to speak louder than how you’re writing it.

But Grown Man, I really suck at this stuff!  What should I do?  Also, I hate your blog and hope you stop writing it!

First of all, no you don’t.  Second of all, here are some ways I’ve found helpful in improving grammar:

-Study: In my own writing, I’ve found that my common mistakes often come from some sort of mental block that I need to work on overcoming.  It’s not that I don’t know that there’s a difference between the theirs/yours/and too’s of this world, it’s that I just can’t seem to utilize them properly.  The best comparison I can draw is to (nailed it!) someone who’s bad at directions.  It’s really not their fault that ye ole’ brain doesn’t own North, South, East, and West like it should. Grammar, for many of us, is the same way.  However, those of us who aren’t default editors need to make a life long study of the rules that so vex us.

There are a number of resources that you can study.  One of my favorites is a tiny book called “The Elements of Style” – it’s really helpful.  Another good resource is called the Internet, be careful though – there’s weird stuff on that thing.

-Read: There’s no better way to see how the language is supposed to be crafted than by playing apprentice to the teachers.  Reading books will subconsciously teach you and consciously entertain you.   Plus, you should be reading books anyhow.

-Ask for help: Many people who’ve emailed me have typically tried to soften the “you’re stupid” blow with something like, “…but don’t worry about it, when you get a book deal they’ll give you an editor.”  And, while it’s insane that a book would be written when, clearly, everyone can just get my content for free on this blog, it’s equally nuts to me that I would wait until then to get good help.  Being teachable is important and, in the end, will make you a better person.  I’ve got my trusted team of advisers, you should get yours.

-Check your work: Then, check it again.  There’s no excuse for laziness.

That’s it for today, Grown Men.  If you promise to try, I’ll promise to try.  Together, we can collectively look a little less dumb, well, at least less dumb in the written word arena.  And now, let me leave you with a quote from an actual email I received…

It is my belief that every Grown Man should have an almost perfect command of their first language (I say almost perfect because there is always a small margin of creative licence with language and I am not one to begrudge a man a clever or particularly poignant remark even if it does break with traditional grammar). If failing this, however, they should at least know the difference between “too” and “to” and “you’re” and “your” etc – common little mistakes that a Grown Man (who should certainly count himself a ‘cut above the rest’) should never be making.

Ouch – but true.

finish your letters like an adult.

23 Jul

Dear Grown Men,

Today, I’m going to be educating you on two finer points of writing that have been both butchered and forgotten among today’s gentlemen. First, I’m going to talk about how to write a proper closing. Second, I’m going to force you to stop using the P.S. For the remainder of this post, every time I say the world letter, I’m also referring to emails – because the rules for email are the same as the rules for letters.

gut groan man, i dont capitalize, right in full sentences, or even read my emails before i send them 🙂

I know you don’t – and it makes you look uneducated. The rules for a proper letter are ALWAYS in play when writing an email. Back to the post.

The closing of a letter is the spot right above your name where you say, essentially, see ya later. The actual term for this part of a letter is called the valediction, which, I’m pretty sure teachers knew wouldn’t fly with 5th grader vocabulary and switched it to the much easier closing. In any event, the closing is my favorite part of the letter.

The closing is your final opportunity to convey the tone of the letter and respectfully leave the conversation. Here are some rules for the closing:

1- No more than four words. The real beauty of the closing is getting someone to feel something with perfectly chosen words. As the cliché goes, less is more.

2- You must always have a closing. I don’t know how we lost this, but it’s not okay to end with simply your name. And, while I fear I may have been guilty of this, it’s got to end. There is no reason not to give someone even a trite good-bye. Your letter might be a full on rant to the manager of Fatty Mart for not allowing you to buy full cases of beef jerky at a discount. But that poor manager still deserves, at least, a meager amount of appreciation for reading your insanity.

3- Be appropriate with your valediction. For instance, I have a few of them that I use for specific occasions:

Default (always works): Kind regards,
Writing to a friend: Peace and good things,
Responding to someone who’s mad at me: Respectfully,
Someone I don’t know: Sincerely,

4- The closing is a fantastic time to be funny and bring back a joke from earlier in the letter. For these, I like the Arrested Development style jokes that you have to really be paying attention to in order to get. Here me say this though, you may not be funny – and that’s okay! Just know when to say when, less you make a fool of yourself. I’ll end this post with an example.

That’s all for the closing, now I’m going to blow your mind with this next point. The P.S. must die.

Here’s why the postscript exists. Back in the day, when gentlemen wrote with pens or, further back, when they wrote with a quill, they would spend a great deal of time crafting the document. However, as is naturally the case, they might forget something and be faced with the quandary of going back and rewriting for a half hour, or simply make a generally accepted concession and tack on a P.S. The P.S. was a tremendously helpful tool and is still a great option for those of us who are hand writing a note.

Did you catch that? Hand writing a note. Today, a vast majority of our letters are typed and there’s simply no need for us to tack on P.S. because we forgot something. All we have to do is scroll up, revise, and move forward. The modern day postscript has become a way for us to not think and just tack on light-bulbs that turned on after we finished our stream of consciousness rant. For real, nothing typed may have a postscript – it’s lazy.

And, as a side note, P.P.S., P.P.P.S and the like are literally never acceptable. Even if you’re freaking chiseling that note into granite, you’ve got to start over.

That’s all for today. Have a tremendous weekend.

Forever Fatty Mart,
GM

P.S. It was an easy joke.
P.S.S. For real, you can never use this.

write thank you notes.

18 Jun

I’ve noticed a new fad in weddings – the kitschy little thank you card.  Assuming you brought a gift to the wedding, which you should have, somewhere between a week (boring honeymoon) and a year later, you’ll receive mail with the freshly printed “Mr. and Mrs. Generic American Couple” affixed to the top left corner.  Undoubtedly, the front of the card will be a picture of them, at the beach, with the words “thank you” written in the sand – so clever.  Then, you’ll open it and read through a kindhearted newlyweds best attempt to connect the fondue set you gave them with your friendship.  It really is a valiant effort.

The wedding thank you’s have become my favorite part of the wedding because: a) every couple in the world thinks they’re being so funny and clever, yet they’re all doing the SAME THING and b) It feels great to be thanked – even if it’s on a super-staged photograph with that crappy black and white with only the red roses highlighted kind of picture.

Gentlemen, most of you don’t say thank you, let alone write a note.  And while I feel I’m putting the cart before the horse by not addressing your apparent lack of gratitude, I think that starting with writing one card a month will get you in the right mindset.  Another Grown Man friend of mine says, “Get yourself there physically, your mind and heart will follow.”  Let’s talk about how to start the process.

First, get yourself a small pack of stationary or quarter sheets of ruled paper and envelopes.  Listen to me, you don’t want to begin a good habit of writing thank you notes on full sheets of paper – it’ll derail the process.  You’re not John Adams writing to Thomas Jefferson about philosophy and politics, you’re a dude who’s trying to get into a good habit – keep the paper small so you don’t have to write a ton.

Second, decide who you’re going to write to.  Obviously, you should send a note to people when they give you something (it is obvious, right?).  However, I propose that you consider writing notes to others who aren’t expecting it.  Let’s say you went out with a buddy last night and he treated you to some top-shelf brew.  Wouldn’t that be worth a quick thanks?  C’mon, it’s beer! Free beer!  Listen, you absolutely must write thank yous for gifts and such – no questions asked.  But think of how you would feel if you got a note from a friend saying, “You totally saved the day last week when you let me borrow your truck – thanks a ton!  Also, sorry I wrecked it.”

Finally, email is the lazy mans way of writing a note – but it’s still kinda acceptable.  An email thank you is like a free dinner at Outback Steakhouse.  At first, it’s exciting, but then you realize that it lacks preparation, substance, and gratification.  However, an email thank you is better than no thank you.  Just know that my judgment will be upon you as you click send.

Grown Men, go write a note to somebody.  You’ll feel good about yourself, they’ll feel good about you, and you’ll be the classiest fella on the block – for once.

Until Monday…thank you.

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