Unpack Your Adjectives (Or Throw Commas Like Confetti)

Pairs Well With…”ABC” by The Jackson 5

Unpack your adjectives…or get the hell out of my class!”  At least, that’s what my grammar teacher, “Sherm”, used to tell me.  I never fully understood what “unpacking” them meant, or who had the time to do such a thing.  Where the hell am I supposed to put them anyway? Sherm would get so, so mad when I debated and rebelled against the laws of grammar because, like history, you can’t change them.  Says who?  Some of this crap didn’t make sense to me then, still doesn’t now, and let’s be honest, probably never will.  Conjunction junction is never going to be my function. If I learned anything from the movie Clueless, everything is negotiable.

Sherm reminded me very much of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada: dignified, classy and an all-business bizzo.  Despite my attempts to arm wrestle her rules of grammar, I always got the very dismissive “That’s all.”


Sherm would be shocked as hell if she knew I was writing these days.   Based on how often I was ejected from her class, or given the silent treatment with a “leave my class” look and a head nod to the door, I’m pretty sure writing was the last thing she’d have me pegged for Sometimes, she would just use the word “out” and I took my cue.  My song and dance numbers to Grammar Rock were unamusing to her.  Sherm was a tough cookie.

After years of losing endless debates about what sounds right and what a sentence should look like, I’ve caved to the long-lived rules of grammar, but with more of a modern day twist if you will.  You want punctuation? You want more commas?  Fine.  Well, you know what? Be careful what you ask for…

And so it goes, I will use commas like confetti! 

A little razzle-dazzle here, a bit of razzmatazz there.  Commas will become the sentence’s throw pillows, sitting there and looking pretty.  So, when in doubt, throw in a comma.  Whoever hated a bit of grammatical extra sparkle, right?

Here are the most practical reasons to use commas like confetti:

  • If you don’t, someone else will
  • Why not?  They make sentences prettier
  • Because no one really knows how, or where, a semi-colon goes, so commas are a good default
  • Commas are intended as a slight pause, and everyone needs a good break once in a while
  • Exclamation points, the “raising the roof of grammar”, are already overused!!!
  • Vanna, I’d like a buy a comma.  Duh.
  • Commas are like the third wheel, always interjecting where they aren’t wanted unless, of course, you use enough of them
  • Because. You. CAN.

Now, I stumbled across a site as I was researching the rules of English grammar.  After reading the overly long and exhausting list, there lies this disclaimer:

Rules of English grammar can be hard to understand, but not impossible. By following English grammar rules you will be proficient in writing and speech. Just stick to the basics, don’t try to fake your way through things.

First of all, there are three things wrong here:

  1. If they have to advise not to fake your way, well, #problemalready
  2. I can’t buy into grammar rules served up from a .htm site and is too lazy to put an “l” on the end to make it a .html. Like double punctuation at the end of a sentence, it’s just not right!!
  3. The site clearly calls out that “grammar can be hard to understand.”  This leads me to believe that there are others out there who are just as clueless about their native language and feel creatively confined by Webster, Oxford and the rest of the posse.

See, I never declared to be a good writer; I stated I would be an authentic writer.  I’m going for progress over perfection.  Hey, if you can’t poke fun at yourself and your weaknesses, lighten up – or throw commas like confetti.

Dictionary, Shmictionary

8 Responses to “Unpack Your Adjectives (Or Throw Commas Like Confetti)”

  1. Relish

    This is great! Being a non-native, English punctuation is sometimes confusing for me. Finally, I took a punctuation class on Coursera last year and it was useful. But my real life saver is Grammarly, I use it all the time 🙂

  2. lgwhite67

    As an ex-English teacher, I shouldn’t like this post … but I love it! While the rules of punctuation are necessary … imagine writing without them or rather reading without them … I’ve always believed that the message is the important part. Writers should write … editors should edit!

    • Pairs Well With...

      I appreciate the compliment! I agree that grammar is necessary, but can certainly be fun as well. I enjoy writing with character to let my personality shine through. I was slightly worried that I may offend writers (or teachers) but I’m more envious than anything of those who can write with grammatical perfection.

  3. cracTpot

    Love this! I am always struggling with comma’s and semi colons and dot, dot, dot’s because to me, humour is all about timing and unless I record all my posts as audio books I’m forced to rely on the above. Seriously, it takes me around 17 tries to get my answering machine message set, so audio versions of my blog are not in my future so bring on the dot, dot, dots!


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