No denying I’m a grammar nerd

Brian Ferry

I consider myself a grammar nerd.

There really wouldn’t be any point in denying it.

It’s not that I’m the best at grammar, nor that I enjoy English’s many stupid quirks.

I have grammar nerd competitions — not arguments — with my grammar nerd wife. I will not call them disagreements because, when figurative push comes to figurative shove, I almost invariably find myself on the losing end of any differences. Then, I am corrected and we agree. She is a better grammar nerd than I.

I get eye rolls from my not-grammar-nerd kids when I try to feed them valuable grammar nerd knowledge.

I have learned to not be grammar nerdy with other people.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I do have some bad habits that aren’t very grammar nerdy– like ending sentences with prepositions, using long dashes when I could use some other punctuation, and starting sentences with conjunctions — that I struggle to break free from.)

But, it’s no big secret.

So, every once in a while, someone makes a concession to my nerdiness and goes out of the way to be grammatically sensitive.

This happened recently in a text conversation about volleyball.

The detailed content of and participants in that conversation is not significant. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the person with whom I was texting is not significant. Have I mentioned that our language is not the best for grammar nerds? Or, if said nerds like a challenge, perhaps it is.

So, the person with whom I was in communication with sent me a sentence. I really appreciate text sentences with real words. This person had all kinds of punctuation in the sentence. I really appreciate text punctuation.

Then, this person asked if it was punctuated correctly.

That is a question that is right up my alley.

Except, the sentence included that most dread punctuation — the semicolon.

To the best of my usually solid grammar skills, the sentence was appropriately punctuated. Semicolons may be used to connect independent clauses in a way that is a little more familiar than with a period. But, my confidence was shaken.

I tried. “I would make it two sentences. I would outlaw semicolon use if I had the power.”

That last bit may have been an exaggeration. I use semicolons. I use them as ‘super-commas’ — separating lists of things that have commas in them. As an example, a list of people whose titles are included after their names would be a good time to use semicolons. They are handy in that way.

I have also heard another usage of semicolon that I find appropriate, if dreadfully inappropriate. Allow me to explain.

A youngster was being told about a medical procedure that a family member would soon undergo. In that operation, a portion of the family member’s colon would be removed.

“Does that mean (family member) will have a semi-colon?”

You have to admit it; sometimes grammar is fun.

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