But while I have fond memories of my first correct semicolon, and how proud my father was by my em dash-filled essays, not every grammatical run-in is quite so pleasant. Ever since the beginning of my copy editing class, I have gotten angrier and angrier at elementary grammar. It's gotten to the point where if I'm reading something mediocre, I have to stop and take a moment to breathe, or books will start flying and I'll be screaming bloody murder.
There are a few points of grammar that I have particular qualms with, the first being parentheses. I am a strong believer that in a college essay IN TEXT CITATIONS ARE THE ONLY PLACES I SHOULD SEE PARENTHESES. Parentheses that don't serve this purpose make me sick--they're lazy. Why not just walk around with a sign on your forehead that reads "hey, btw, I forgot to add this piece of information, so I'm just gonna stick it in here, among some other unsuspecting words"?? The worst part about parentheses is that when used in this horrifyingly elementary manner, they usually contain information that no one cares about. For instance, if I see "I was talking with Tina (who is my best friend), and she told me that the meeting was on Tuesday," is my life better for knowing that Tina was your best friend? Ignoring the fact that there are so many ways to edit this sentence for length, let's look at the context of this parenthetical statement. Would the meeting be on Wednesday if Tina was not your best friend? Would you not talk to anyone about meetings? No? Okay good, get rid of the parentheses and nobody gets hurt.
The only thing that could infuriate me more than parentheses is passive voice. Passive voice is akin to riding on a roller coaster until you throw up, rather than just riding it once and having a nice time with your friend Tina. The only reason to use this infuriating style is if you're trying to avoid blame. And really, rather than trying to say "the cookies were eaten," why don't you get off your word processor and tell your dad you messed up and ate the cookies, and everything will be fine.
I understand that to the untrained eye, passive voice seems sophisticated and fancy, and that all the job offers will leap out at you if you say "the work was accomplished by utilizing the knowledge that was given to me," but really it just makes you seem like a pretentious asshat who doesn't know about this lovely little word called "I."
Speaking of pretentious asshats who utilize things, I cannot stand the word "utilize." While my other English major friend and I have gotten into plenty of debates about this, I still stand by my belief that you can use just about anything that you utilize. The word utilize is like that obnoxious kid in class that yells out all the answers and smells like parental pressure. In 99.999999% of all cases in which I see this dastardly word, I don't think "smart person." I think "lalalala I know how to use a thesaurus, go me!"
Oh well. If someone flashes a series of em dashes at me, I'll forget everything and become the cheerful English major again. Or something.