• Gary Seigel

Let's Learn from Buzzfeed

It’s back to school for Gary as I’ve been preparing for a series of workshops I’ll be giving this fall on grammar and proofreading. After a long, hot summer, I better catch up on any new changes in contemporary usage.

My source? A book written by Emmy J. Favilla, the Buzzfeed copy chief. I’m assuming she knows her stuff.

For example, she says we should never use the word Tweeter. Twitter user is preferred, and only an old retiree who’s just turning off the TMC channel would talk like this. Also, the verb is tweet and it has no capital 't.' The noun Tweet has a capital ’T.’ I am so relieved to get a explanation for this. So you tweet a Tweet. And Retweet is preferred over RT. Listen up, Trump!

She makes fun of grandparents for saying things like, “I called up the Uber” (what’s wrong with that?) or telling people to go to instead of just saying “Go to Amazon.” Fortunately, I'm quite safe with this practice.Still, as wonderful as this book is, it shamefully ridicules old people who are not versed in the new technological vocabulary. I mean, did you know 'gram means to Instagram?

The point she’s making is in order to form an “electrifying relationship with your reader," you not only must know the new vocabulary, but you must know what rules have changed. You can't depend on the grammar taught by our teachers from 1989. How about the teachers from 1959?

I'm just going to share two grammar rules with you that have changed slightly. I'll save many others for future posts.

1. You should use the serial comma. She calls it the cilantro of punctuation marks. It’s used for clarity. "Why spend time worrying about the arrangement of nouns when the serial comma is around?" Here's her example: "On the breakfast menu, we have chocolate chip pancakes, avocado toast and steak and eggs." Without the comma, it sounds like the steak comes with the avocado. Those of us who were taught to leave the comma out in --red, white and blue -- I think we're still safe.

2. I actually saved this for last. Her book is called "a world without whom” - no caps. On the cover, an edit line is drawn through the word 'whom.' Yes, the word is disappearing and most people don't realize you substitute 'him' for whom and 'he' for who in order to figure out correct usage. I love hearing people use these two words correctly, so I'm including it in my seminar. And I suppose if I want to hear much more of the King's English, I may need to seek other sources. Some relief, by the way, is in sight. The new Downton Abbey movie comes out September 20.

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