"Pick something you know how to do, you can do well, and that you can make money doing."

Probably the first words of advice that still regularly ring in my head are those from a friend of mine given to me over thirty years ago.

It was a version of the graphic above, but my friend's version was (in answer to my complaining about not knowing what I wanted to do after we graduated from high school):

"Do something that you know how to do, that you do well (hopefully), and that you can make money doing it!"

So I became a U.S. Navy Journalist and messed around with that for 20-odd years.

Rating badge for 'Navy Journalist' (they no longer exist)

I write how I talk.  Or so I've been told.  And I'm pretty sure I like it that way.

A Facebook acquaintance objected to how I worded one of 3 choices on a poll I presented to a group in which we are both members:

"John, words matter - pick better ones."

She didn't like the 1st option:  "Do you use 'anything that writes,' based upon the occasion (pencils, charcoal for sketching, a pen of some sort for other stuff, etc.)?

So I suggested a rewritten version:

"Do you use any natural or man-made object used for or created with the intent of written communication or creative expression, including, but not limited to any one type of such item?  (Those who prefer to use a fountain pen or a charcoal stick or a rollerball pen, ballpoint pen, colored or regular pencil or any other such utensil selected for its unique relevency and appropriateness to the task at hand on any specific occasion as the situation calls for" would check this option.)

Fortunately, she thought that was funny (it could have gone south!).

I am also very fortunate to be able to be in touch with my 12th-grade English/Literature teacher (from 1980something).  After I recently expressed my lack of interest in "The Oxford comma," he opined:

"Sacrilege, John.  I thought you wiser.  Remember that good folks do not judge others on the basis of race, color, creed or gender, but they do judge them on the basis of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.  I hope that you never become tired of other conventions like run-on sentences, periods and capital letters."

I replied:

"I *do* love my run-on sentences which can often be SO much fun but also misinterpreted if they're not built correctly because people don't always 'get it' ... see what I did there? But, as we sail into 2019, I will be sticking to my guns and not using the Oxford comma if and when opportunities arise to make that decision while writing because I don't like it, it doesn't 'read like I speak' and it's a point of contention which often starts fun conversations like this one. :)

"As you are likely well aware, my long-valued mentor and friend, I've always been a bit of a rogue when it comes to rules that I don't like - and this last portion of my reply (after the hyphen about 10 or 11 words back, depending on how you count) is strictly here to give a lil more *oomph* to the bit about run-on sentences. I'm also not quite sure about hyphenated words, so I usually create those when, where and how I choose. :)

You were right all those years ago: "Mediocrity is boring."

I received an e-mail from him just this evening that was so personally motivating ... I'm not sure as of yet whether or not I will ever share it with anyone ... but I will say this:

Regardless of what I thought in high school, he likes what I write.  Even if I am a smartass about it a lot of the time.  I guess when you're over 50 it's sometimes called "witty."

Moral of the story:

"Go with what you know."  (Something another person told me that I've never forgotten.)



ike said...

When I read the comments on your Oxford comma post on FB, I noticed something but I didn't mention it.
Now that I see it reproduced here, I'm curious whether you noticed. In Mr. Cokefair's "Sacrilege..." paragraph, he used the Oxford comma twice but failed to do so in his last phrase.
Not sure if it was an intentional gibe or a rather ironic slip-up, but I found it amusing.

John Em said...

J.P. is funny like that. He was testing you. :)

Unknown said...

The omitted comma WAS intentional to show that confusion can occur without the good ole Oxford thingy. Others commas, I will admit, are even more important. Is it "Let's eat Gandpa," or is it "Let's eat, grandpa?

ike said...

I was hoping that it was intentional; it looked like something I would do. :)

John Em said...

You and the 'Unknown Oxford Comma Guy' have a lot in common - including an appreciation of wine.