Grammatical Bugaboos #1

“In The Process Of…”

I hate this phrase with a passion generally saved for whatever team opposed mine in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Especially if that team beat mine (am torn about announcing the rabidity of my fandom for a specific college team since many people love ‘em and many people hate ‘em, and that’s not really my point here).

Anyway, back to my original point. Saying that one is “in the process of” something makes me crazy.

When I hear this come out of someone’s mouth, it’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard with the clanging of a cracked bell, the screeching of brakes being applied unexpectedly, and the howling and yowling of an angry cat fighting with a loud dog all at the same time and my brain cringes.

You’re not “in the process of” applying for benefits. You’ve either turned in an application or you haven’t.

You’re not “in the process of” getting your GED. You’re either getting your GED or you’re not.

You’re not “in the process of” signing up for counseling. You’ve either signed up or you haven’t.

Even more amazing these days…. “I’m in the process of applying for a job.” No. You’re not. You’ve applied or you haven’t. You’ve checked the want ads or you haven’t. You’ve had an interview or you haven’t (or you’ve scheduled one or you haven’t.) If you want to be more inclusive of all of your efforts, then the correct phrase would be “I’m looking for a job.” This sentence is also a question, asking the listener to suggest any leads that they have, which qualifies as a current activity…you’re having a conversation with someone that tells them you’re looking and that you’re open to leads. It’s networking (part of the job search efforts), which happens even when the conversation is about something else. “I’m in the process of looking for a job,” however, makes it sound like you’re searching invisible want ads while you’re talking. This doesn’t exactly help one look for a job; it makes them sound like they are hallucinating.

Let’s not even talk about the people who will tell you that they are “in the process of” getting pregnant. I keep wanting to tell them that unless they are engaging in sex right in front of me, they’re not really “in the process” of getting pregnant at the time that they tell me that they are “in the process of” doing so. There’s a part of me, however, that doesn’t want to make this comment for fear that they would take it as a suggestion…there are just some people that you don’t want to watch do this…and some places where it would be REALLY inappropriate. And no offense, but would you seriously tell someone that you were “in the process” of this in the midst of, well, the process? I’d think it would be fairly self-explanatory to anyone as to what you were, ahem, doing, without telling someone what you were “in the process of” doing.

And that’s true of anything they’re “in the process of”. Unless I’ve interrupted the GED class, or you’re actually filling out the application as we speak, you’re not “in the process of” doing anything.

Why does this phrase drive me nuts? Well, it’s probably a result of the number of hearings I’ve sat through where people want to put a good light on anything positive that they can. That’s not cynical on my part…it’s true that people in court want to make themselves look as good as possible, and it doesn’t matter what kind of a hearing it is, (I’ve heard this phrase in juvenile court, in custody hearings, in foreclosure hearings, in criminal cases, in civil matters, and even in traffic cases), people want their efforts to sound as good as possible. And those efforts might be genuine. They might really be trying all of the things they claim to be “in the process of” doing. They’re just not doing them at the time that they’re claiming to be “in the process of” doing them; they’re in court at the time.

Also, it doesn’t sound genuine. It sounds like someone puffing up a resume to get a job they’re not qualified for. And it’s grammatically incorrect.

Big pet peeve here.

In other words, let’s just strike it from our vocabulary. Unless you’re actually in the midst of the “process” at the time you’re using the phrase, it’s wrong.

Now, I’m not trying to start a fight. I’m not trying to be the grammar Nazi here. I am, however, going to post a few phrases, sentence structures, and other things that make me crazy as a listener and as a reader.

Do you have any phrases, words, sentence structures, or other communication quirks that make you crazy? Share them here.

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The Easiest Mood Cure in the World

So I was cranky when I got home from work last night.

It wasn’t that I’d had a bad day. Far from it. It had been a strange day, with oddball cases in court, but for the most part, the day had run on schedule.

But it was hot. And I don’t just mean shorts and a t-shirt hot. I mean humid and hot, as if I was breathing soup instead of air. I grumbled into the house about having to go out later and water all my flowerbeds and gardens, checked on the goldfish in the pond, and went inside to deal with Velcro-kitty.

The cat was GLUED to me. For some reason, beyond my understanding at the time, she was absolutely wigging out. And she wanted to sit rightthere, attached like Velcro to my hip, as I tried to check my email.

We’ve been in need of rain for quite some time. It’s so hot that plants are getting scorched in the sun.

I decided that I was going to sit down, pay the fuzzy minion some attention, have an adult beverage, and relax, to shake off the cranky-pants mood I was in.

And then it began to pour down rain outside, sheeting against the front windows, thunder booming and echoing outside. No wonder the cat was freaking out. She’s terrified of loud storms, and had known it was coming. It rained and poured and there was lightening and thunder.

And then I realized I’d forgotten to get the mail. Luckily, the mailbox is on my front porch, which has a roof over it, so I could step outside and get the mail and take a minute or so to watch the storm without getting wet.

And then I saw it. It was a package I’d been waiting for. It was my author copies of the anthology coming out this Friday. It was the first time I’d seen my own fiction in print, the first time I’d seen my name as a byline under a title of one of my own stories, the very first paid publication credit I’ve gotten.

I started grinning. It hasn’t stopped yet, twenty hours later.

(Yup, that’s my hand. I couldn’t figure out another way of taking the picture without terrible glare from the overhead ceiling fan.)

There is nothing on this earth that jollies one out of a bad mood faster than seeing your own name in print for the first time.

And I’m still smiling.

(FYI, it is available for pre-order on Amazon now, and the release date is THIS FRIDAY!!)

RIP Allan W. Eckert

I’ve loved books for years.

When I was a kid, though, there was a bit of a disconnect. For some reason, I thought of writers as famous people and not people with normal lives. I thought they’d all live like rock stars and in glamorous towns and houses with all the books anyone could ever want, and that they would all live in New York or Hollywood and wait for movies to be made of their books. (hey, I was eight; give me some leeway here-I don’t think I was too much past believing in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.)

Then I learned that there was a renowned book author living not ten miles from where I grew up. He’d been nominated for seven separate Pulitzers. And he wrote A LOT. Big door-stopper sized books, and a bunch of them, mainly dealing with nature, Ohio and Midwest history, and Native American history. As I grew up, I learned that more people knew his name than I realized.

But he lived in Bellefontaine, Ohio. In my neck of the woods. Nothing wrong with Bellefontaine. Like a lot of small Ohio towns, though, it’s cute, not glamorous. It’s small, not glitzy. And it was home, not some exotic locale with palm fronds and beach fronts.

That didn’t really burst the bubble of venerating authors in my heart of hearts. Instead, it lit a fire under me. If this guy from Bellefontaine could be a well-known author, why couldn’t a girl who grew up in West Liberty, just ten miles away? It made the dream of writing more accessible, more realistic. Hey, I realized, it is possible for me, this small town girl from the Midwest, to write and be successful at it. 

Still working on the success part. But the writing, oh, I’m doing that.

He’s not the only writer in the area. Far from it. But he was the first one I’d heard of that was successful enough to count in my eight-year-old brain as a “Writer” and one who was known for being a writer. Probably that was influenced because my dad and my uncles read his books voraciously and I saw them lying around all the time. I read one of his books, years ago, as a teenager. (The Frontiersmen, and I remember being fascinated by the history in it, and how it all related to real life places that I’d seen and been to and heard of).

Now don’t be thinking that I’m talking down about Ohio, about the Midwest, or about my hometown or the surrounding area. I’m not. I am saying that when I was a kid, for some reason, I had a belief that writers just didn’t live here, weren’t from around here, and didn’t come from here. Mr. Eckert’s success blew that belief right out of the water.

So, when the word came today that Allan Eckert died in his sleep last night at the age of 80, I couldn’t help but remember the unknowing, silent encouragement that he’d given to me as a writer. I’ve never met the man. But I wish his family well, and I will be thinking of them as they work through the condolences and good-byes and services. And it’s hard not to say a small prayer of thank-you for this man, for providing an example to me that being a writer wasn’t wishing on a star that could never come in…much like any other goal in life, it’s something anyone can aspire to as long as they work for it, they sacrifice for it, and they are willing to put the time in to learn. It’s a goal that doesn’t matter where you live or who you are, because it’s not about any of that. It’s about the writing. I can live with that. And I can do that.

For more information, please click on the following links.

http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/springfield-news/blue-jacket-author-allan-w-eckert-dies-1203153.html

http://www.allaneck.com/index.html

Official Pub Date

For those who don’t know, my short story, “Poltergeist on Aisle Fourteen” is being published this summer in an anthology entitled MYSTERY TIMES TEN 2011.

I just got word that the official publication date is July 22, 2011.

It’s already showing up on Goodreads here.

It will show up on Amazon in the next week or so for pre-order, and will also be available through the Barnes and Noble website.

More news as I get it!