Want My Advice? Of Course You Don’t!

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I was recently given some unsolicited advice about grammar by a well-meaning person who only had my best interests at heart. Don’t you love well-meaning people who only have your best interests at heart? They make this great big blue world go round.

In case you can’t see the bile leaking off your computer screen, I’m being sarcastic.

Now I’m all for opinions. You can’t read three paragraphs of this blog without tripping over a veritable landmine of opinion. If I’m writing about it I have something to say, and if you’re reading it…well, I’ve managed not to piss you off yet.

Advice? Bit of a different story. As I’ve said here before, there are about four people in the world I trust enough to take their advice. Maybe three. All right two. And when I want said advice, I like to think I am humble enough to ask for it. Having advice volunteered to me is akin, in my mind, to someone showing up at my doorstep unannounced, inviting themselves in, commenting on what a mess the place is and asking, “What’s for dinner?” I’ll feed you because I’m polite that way, but I ain’t gonna be “overjoyed by your presence”.

If you’re a particularly perspicacious reader, you might notice that I used two instances of quotation marks in the previous paragraph, but left the punctuation mark INSIDE one and OUTSIDE of the other. The lovely, generous, well-meaning pain in the ass—I mean “advice giver”–helpfully (annoyingly) suggested (told me in no uncertain terms) that the punctuation mark is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS included INSIDE the quotation marks, so it is written, so shall it be, Amen.

I’m a bit of a grammar Nazi myself, but I think I would rather chew razor blades than correct someone unsolicited (unless they’re being a real jerk.) That aside, I know the damn rule and I think it’s stupid. Here’s a self-deprecating and hopefully disarming way to illustrate what I mean:

Joel said, “Brian, when you sing you have wandering pitch.”

Joel told me I have what is called in the music business “wandering pitch”.

To me, the period belongs in the first set of quotation marks but doesn’t in the second. That’s just the way I see it, right or wrong. I like the subtle discernment between the two thoughts and I like how “wandering pitch” looks separated from the punctuation mark. Like a red light on a deserted road at 2am, I choose to slow down and carefully breeze through without stopping. Unless you’re a cop, what does anyone care?

Ah, but there are people out there who are the WORLD’S policemen. They have their lives so incredibly together that they have a whole steaming pile of life expertise to share, and dammit they’re a-gonna spread it! They will make you less fat, more successful, less of a doormat, more self-aware, less married, more industrious, more, less, less, more, more or less, if only you heed their warnings, listen intently to every word they say and let them move you around their personal chessboard like a freakin’ pawn!

All right, the poor woman was just trying to help me, she wasn’t trying to become Vladamir Lenin to my Soviet Union. But you know what? I still can’t help but resent it, because I didn’t ask for it. I recently published an ebook and I sent it out to a bunch of people for free in exchange for an honest review. In that case, all bets are off. I solicited these opinions and now, good or bad, I have to be ready to listen. If someone hates the book and says so in the review I am completely cool with that. I’m willing to accept their opinion.

But I invited them to dinner, they didn’t just pop in. If I ask you over and neglect to clean the place before you come, you have every reason to comment on the housekeeping. If I promise you a good meal and serve Pop Tarts with applesauce on the side, feel free to call everyone you know and tell them what an awful host I am. If I asked your opinion, the result is on me. If I didn’t, volunteering your advice will not be, as they say in the life business, “looked upon kindly” PERIOD

(Full disclosure: I SO want to put another period after PERIOD. It’s literally hurting me not to. And yes, I know I ended that last sentence with a damn preposition!)

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  1. That’s funny. I was just going to write a quotation with the period inside and outside the quotation marks. Lol, some people just can’t shut up. How can you truly enjoy reading something if you’re looking to correct?

    • You know, if something is obvious I always correct it in my mind (my English degree kicking in), but I can’t bring myself to be obnoxious about correcting unless someone asks me.

  2. As it should be. On facebook I read and see punctuation, wrong use of words, spelling and grammar that make me cringe, but who am I to judge? As long as I can understand what they are saying, who cares? I’m sure I do things that other people can do so much better than myself. People need to lighten up.

  3. So does having a button at the bottom of the page that says “COMMENT” (or is that COMMENT) on it that got put there not by you but by the blogging program you’re using constitute a request for an opinion? And, I’m a Nazi about that punctuation and quote rule because I was always a good little boy in English class, and Steven just hates me for it because it makes no sense to him either.

  4. Well, I, for one, cannot stand by and watch the English language get murdered!!! And yes, I used multiple exclamation points!!! If our generation had to suffer through all of that “dangling participle” nonsense, then the next should also suffer. This is the joy of growing older.

    —Note: the above is intended to be written in “sarcastic font”, but it is no longer available on my computer. I used it all up.

  5. Ha and ha! The funny thing, John and nerakslim, is that I am that grammar Nazi too! It DOES bother me when I see it on Facebook. But there’s no way to correct it without being a nosy know-it-all. If the poster was one of my kids, he/she would be getting my “advice” all day long and twice on Sundays. But I’ve found that the most annoying advice to receive and the touchiest to give is the unsolicited variety.

    And John, your opinion, good or bad, is always welcome here!

    • kae
    • May 19th, 2013

    Hi, Brian! I’m a grammar Nazi myself, but I try not to be part of the Schutzstaffel. K xxx

  6. ha!! funny. I too am a grammar nazi, although someone called me a Grammar Diva, which I think is much lovelier and Im using that instead. I dont correct people directly, but I do randomly post on my page the correct way to spell definitely, which seems to be the most misspelled word on the internet. … … Following you now… ~ sherri http://www.nounnecessarynoises.com

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