Football players who get their bell rung have to pass a concussion test before they are allowed to play again. It’s a difficult test with both a verbal and math component. They also must write an essay on ‘Why in the world would I want to go out there and get my bell rung again when it’s already cracked and one more pull on the rope could permanently dislodge my clapper?’
What if, in real life (something like the one we’re living right now) writers had to pass a test every time they got pulled over for writing a bad sentence. If they fail, they lose their writer’s license. If they refuse to take the test they are suspended in thought like a pineapple chunk in a bowl of raspberry Jello.
By “bad sentence” I don’t mean one that uses disgusting swear words, as in “You stinking piece of digested jackalope.”
And I don’t mean cursing as in “You will grow horns and the dilemmas will hunt you down and give you the choice of having incurable irritable bowel syndrome or having an incurable irritable brother-in-law who is also your incompetent urologist who, every year at the Thanksgiving dinner table asks you in a loud voice ‘How’s traffic in the Holland Tunnel?’ Buwaahaaahaaahaaa.”
No, I mean bad as in wanton sentence abuse, like “Opened the door, did Larry, and to off he thus wently.” (The guy who wrote that sentence was given ten years in a hard fruit salad.)
The test would include questions like:
1. How many commas am I holding up?
c) Buckle my shoe
d) Could you change the font to Britannic Bold?
e) I’ll put twenty bucks on seven.
2. If I am unsure where to place a comma in a sentence I should…
a) Place no comma before its time.
b) Divide the sentence in half and put a comma smack dab i,n the middle even if that means in the middle of a word.
c) Excuse me. Can’t you see I’m having a hard time understanding the meaning of life?
d) Call a friendly copy editor (aka: comma-kaze) and endure a 60 minute lecture on the joys of punctuation.
e) Wait until dark and then make a break for it.
3. The purpose of grammar is to make sentences…
a) Sing and dance.
b) Sing, but not dance (maybe some discreet toe tapping)
c) Slow dance and get lucky.
d) As lively as Saturday night in North Korea.
e) Sit there like a toad stool without its toad.
4. Upper case letters should never be used…
a) On the last letter of a sentencE.
b) While chewing.
c) Without a written note from a doctor of optometry.
d) With vengeance on your mind and in your heart.
e) When a capital letter is called for.
5. What is wrong with this sentence: Driving down a back road last night a banjo player jumped in front of my car and played Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and then a bear, who had twice told the guy to play “Far Far Away,” stomped into the road and ate him.
a) The banjo player’s participle was a-dangle.
b) The banjo player did not have a lick of sense (Get it? LICK of sense?)
c) The stupid banjo player should have crossed at the “Bluegrass musician crossing.”
d) There are so many things wrong with this sentence that I weep for humanity.
e) Cool, this reminds me of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.”
6. What is the correct spelling of the word igalixpoo?
c) Sorry, sister, I’m not prepared.
d) What? Is that a real word? This is a joke, right?
7. When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right, you should…*
a) Call a licensed copy editor
b) Call the Grammar Lady in Lockport, N.Y.
c) Call James Taylor for the next line
d) Take a five-minute break and snarf the last two Klondike bars in the fridge
e) Get the igalixpoo out of your house
*A tip of my O’s cap to Sweet Baby James Taylor and “You Need a Friend.”
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2014, all rights reserved.