Denise McDonald Dorman

Why Denise Dorman is So Anal About Grammar…

In Life Observations on September 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I‘m in this hyper-private mastermind group, so I can’t say much under threat of my own demise, but one of my favorite cohorts just offered up this beauty, fresh off of Twitter:

Grammar is Important. Capitalization is the difference between “Helping your Uncle Jack off a horse” and “helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

That was sheer brilliance. That might be in one of my favorite books, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” Yep. I’m the dork who bought that book.

Witness Jeff Deck, and a couple of his college friends, who have spent the last year traveling around the United States fixing grammatically incorrect signs from Hoboken to Hot Springs. I am their biggest fan. While my BFFs lie in bed at night fantasizing about True Blood hotties like Joe Manganiello, I lie in bed fantasizing about making my mark on the world’s typos with a giant Sharpie. Even restaurant menus cannot escape my eagle eye for Parmasan v. Parmesan and Riesling v. Reisling. Musicians listen to a concert and hear that one wrong note that we mere mortals cannot identify. That’s how I read…everything.

I once dated someone who sent me romantic poetry via email. Since he had never done anything like this before, I was puzzled by the email and simply had no idea of its context or social cue. It was truly my adult Asperger’s moment. I emailed it back with grammatical corrections, only to be mortified that this love poem was written solely for me. D’oh! (That was the first of many nails in the coffin for that relationship.)

I once patronized a local dry cleaner, owned and operated by a lovely Asian couple for whom English was a second language. I really liked them, especially since the owner went to NIU–my alma mater–for graphic design. I was infuriated one day when I discovered they had paid hard-earned money for a giant sign on their front window, 3 feet x 6 feet, announcing: “Snirts: 75 cents.” I walked right in, past the line of astonished patrons, grabbed the marker off of their counter, and went to town, turning “Snirts” into “Shirts.” I was too busy fulfilling my fantasy, no, make that my destiny, to notice that I might be perceived by the wildly curious line of suits and middle-aged moms as, say, eccentric. I was merely correcting an unspeakable, giant bowl of WRONG and helping out some friends.

You could say I’m a little over the top when it comes to grammar and punctuation. When fresh college grads send me their resumes, I always point out, gently, that my last name is Dorman, not Doorman, and “perhaps if you’re pointing out your attention to detail, that typo might come under your purview.” Do you think that’s a little too harsh? Not me! I enjoy deflowering the “I’m-too-precious-to-criticize” bubble surrounding today’s Gen Zs. My biggest pet peeve? When people use “it’s” instead of “its.” That one sends me nonlinear.

Now I’ll share my own gaffe, but I refuse to own it. My well-intentioned spell check on my iPhone was the culprit for this big boner. I have a client named Idit for whom I have enormous respect and admiration. I flew in to Jersey to meet with her. I sent her a message and hit the send button a nanosecond too quickly – with the salutation of “Dear Idiot.” For me and my personal brand of grammatical exceptionalism, that moment was as deflating as a Pulitzer Prize winner getting busted for plagiarism. Idit was too polite to acknowledge it, but I’ll admit, her projects have benefited from “The Big Boner Discount” ever since.

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  1. Hey I like it:-) and it is Riesling.

  2. It is very sad to see how far this has gone downhill. I work in a medical business where documentation is everything. I have co-workers that enter notes into patient files that have phrases such as “This dude”, “Oh, man you wouldn’t believe…” and so on. Once these notes are in the file, that’s it, they cannot be edited.

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