We have jobs!

Now, don’t get too excited for us.  They’re not long term, and they’re certainly not journalist positions.  But it is joyous news.  Starting today, Dash and I will be working at Northeastern University for the next month or so as writing coaches for a program called Foundation Year.

The job is a lot of fun, since we get to help students perfect their writing skills.  We explain things like structure and essay format, thesis statements, citation—you name it.  We’ve been hired to these positions because theoretically we’re good writers and we have some teaching experience.  We know our way around an essay, and we can provide helpful guidance, pass on our knowledge of the English language and how to set it down effectively on a page.  Northeastern might be right, but here’s what they don’t know: grammar confounds us.

I can’t speak for Dash, but I was never taught grammar in school.  We used to do some sentence revisions on the board in the first five minutes of my fourth grade English class, but aside from that grammar was relegated to the Schoolhouse Rock dvds.  I know how to write things correctly, but it’s mostly from intuition and not from a painstakingly acquired knowledge base.

For those of you out there like me who thought grammar was for little kids, prepare to have your minds blown.  You thought that writing was basically just making sentences out of words, right?  WRONG—there are rules here.  It turns out there are things in the grammar realm called clauses.  They have subjects and verbs, and are not related to Santa.  There are also things called phrases, but no one really knows what those are.  But here’s the kicker: conjunctive adverbs.  It sounds like a disease, and it’s not far off.  These are words like “nevertheless” and “moreover”—the ones that are just a bunch of smaller words smashed together into a word that sort of means “also.”  Here’s an example of one being used correctly (I hope), according to strict grammar rules:

Grammar sucks; furthermore, who needs it?

My first reaction upon learning conjunctive adverb rules was an overwhelming sense of nausea.  That is way too much unnecessary punctuation.  My second reaction was to come up with useless, mocking opposites of these words, like “alwaysthemore” or “lessunder.”  That’s just a few of them.

My third and final reaction was to surrender to the existence of complex grammar.  Learning the ins and outs of the English language will make me a better writer and a better teacher of writing.  But I’ll confess to one small fear: that if I do learn how grammar works, I’ll lose a fraction of the childlike wonder I feel when I read or write something really great.  When you know how a magic trick is done, it’s not that impressive anymore.  (Oh, it’s just two ladies curled up in two separate boxes—he didn’t really cut her in half with that huge saw.)  I’m afraid I’ll start looking behind the curtain, analyzing the subjects and clauses and phrases and whether they’re relative or dependent or independent, and I’ll miss how cool the trick was.

I guess my goal is to become a magician who believes in magic.

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