[This was such a fun English assignment, I thought I'd share...]
When asked about my own writing, and even considering three kinds of grammar, punctuation or mechanics errors that I tend to make, my answer will probably always be punctuation concerns including commas and ellipses, inappropriately using sentence fragments, and shamefully using the word ‘and’ as the first word, not only in a sentence, but a paragraph. *gasp*
My tendency to make punctuation errors, I realize, probably comes from training. Take, for example, punctuating a series. I was taught, oh-so-many years ago, that in a series of items, thoughts, or ideas, there is a comma after the first and second item (for example: hats, scarves, and shoes). However, as I was schooling my own children, their writing instruction had a different view. Interestingly, they were taught that a series should only have a comma after the first item and not after the second (for example: hats, scarves and shoes). After learning that this is a frequent debate among grammarians, I will have to just choose one and be consistent.
Another punctuation faux pas on my part will always be my overbearing use of the ever-popular ellipsis. Who doesn’t love this fascinating and mysterious black sheep of the punctuation personalities. With a simple dot-dot-dot, one can draw a reader into introspective thought without so much as a command or suggestion. Moreover, using this mark correctly denotes text that has been omitted, but begs the question “why?” Unfortunately, the general populace inappropriately uses this punctuation mark as a pause, thus forcing the reader to stall—quite the cliff-hanger. This, however, is incorrect usage. Guilty, I am. But how can one correct this? Quite simply, I will have to save the incorrect usage of ellipses for email, text messages and personal blog posts.
And that brings me to my third most common error, using the word ‘and’ as a sentence starter. What? You can’t do that! Or so I’ve heard. I have also heard a titillating rumor that only the most famous authors can get away with starting sentences with the word ‘and’; and don’t even think about paragraphs. And why not? Isn’t it so much like however, moreover, furthermore, and but? Alright, so it’s another debate, it’s true. (Ah, did you catch another error – the beloved comma splice?) I do try to keep them to a minimum in a piece, but there are times when the so-called flow, or feel, of the writing simply and clearly demands a simple ‘and’ at the beginning of a sentence.
So in the end, how will I cease making known writing errors, even if purposeful? Well, as usual, I will most likely use sarcasm, irony and a healthy smattering of ellipses to make my point so clear that the reader will overlook blatant indulgences such as these. As a wordie and some-day theologian, I think of language as Jesus of Nazareth thought of the sabbath. When asked about keeping the sabbath, he remarked, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath…” (The Book of Mark, chapter 2, KJV). In a similar fashion, it is my opinion that language was made for man and not the reverse. Language, and its usage, will evolve. Perhaps one day the definitions of how we use punctuation, start sentences, and the like will evolve and change to meet my definitions. I’m not losing sleep over it, though.