Old Enough to be Out-of-Date

Notes:  I ended up with another bad infection last week and didn't get my scans done. I went to the hospital via ambulance, but I wasn't septic so didn't have to be admitted.

Also, my poem "Compartmentalization" appeared in the new issue of confetti.
I curate The Handy, Uncapped Pen. Each year, I work with a variety of disabled and neurodivergent creatives to prepare their work for the blog... most of them writers. I enjoy finding a piece that makes me wish I would've created it. 

As I edit and format my way through the two open submission periods, I often find myself questioning everything I know about grammar. My mind was in a stutter years ago when I realized you only need one space after a sentence (though people read faster with an extra space). I'm pretty stuck in my ways.

Earlier this spring, I edited a knockout essay. It had semicolons to separate items in a list, something I'd never seen done before; I researched it and vowed to keep that little trick in mind. Then, there was the fact that the writer wouldn't put a comma after a conjunction if it started a sentence—something I always did! And it was correct; I've been doing it incorrectly for years. 

The writer had to point me to a grammar rule she used when it comes to putting quote marks outside a period if the quote starts halfway through a sentence. Even though I saw it, my mind still disagrees with the rule. To me, the period rests outside the quotes. I let her use whatever rule she wanted.

I've never thought about taking a grammar refresher course, but these past few months make me wonder. Have you ever found out something you believed about writing was untrue? 


  1. FYI, sometimes you're not wrong, just out of date. Two spaces after a period worked find with a typewriter. It became problematic when computers allowed us to switch to proportional fonts, which is when that rule started going out of style (pardon the pun).

    As to periods inside/outside quotation marks: inside is American English, outside is British English, unless the period is actually a part of the quote (same with other punctuation). I've adopted the latter because it's more clear where the punctuation came from (the original quote or the author) although I find a lot of editors switch it back to American style.

    1. Just when I think I know something about grammar for good, it changes. I know language evolves, and it keeps me on my toes that way, but as an editor I need to know exactly where the rules apply when... and I thought I did. Most of the time, I just leave it the writer's choice as grammar can also be a part of style.

  2. Great poem! Really punched me at the end (I mean that in a good way). As for grammar, I'll defer to Joan Didion who said, "Grammar is a piano I play by ear."

    1. I used to put in my punctuation where I naturally pause reading my sentences. So I understand Joan's perspective.

      Thank you for your compliment on my poem!