RE: Whaddaya know? (long)

Subject: RE: Whaddaya know? (long)
From: "Sella Rush" <sellar -at- apptechsys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 18:05:50 -0700

I come from a talented family: my sister's a Tetris whiz and I rarely
compose an ungrammatical sentence. (Family weekends are scary.)

I don't know why I have this awful (or awesome) superpower--maybe it had
something to do with reading non-stop since age 6. I just know that I
caught up on sleep during the grammar sections of high school english.
Consequently, I reached adulthood with no idea what a gerund was, but I used
it correctly and I could spell it. Ah well.

Let's fast forward fifteen years to find me in a tech writing program
attending a class called "Style". There were those words again: gerund,
participle, restrictive clause, blah blah blah. Time for another nap while
half the class freaked out about whether to use which or that. (One of the
great things about my superpower is an absolute confidence that lets me use
sentence fragments for dramatic effect.)

Except I didn't--sleep, that is. I discovered something called style, and I
discovered there's more than one way to talk about skinning a cat. By being
more receptive to learning grammar, I opened whole new vistas of sentence
construction, some of which can be complicated to compose but read quite
clearly. I also developed what Mary Deaton calls a philosophy.

Confession time: five years later, a lot of grammar terminology has fallen
in the ditch, although the sentence constructions have not. The terminology
was tremendously useful when I was learning and would still be useful as
common ground if I was working with an editor currently. The last comment
I'd want to hear from an editor is "it just sounds better that way...."

Confession part 2: I have never in my life known what "pluperfect" meant,
and "future pluperfect conjunctive" defeats me completely. I just check out
the three style/grammar books used in my tech writing certificate program,
and none of them mentions past imperfect, let alone pluperfect. I find it
difficult to mourn the omission.


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