Some Grammatical Pet Peeves

So, I’m grading papers now, which is not my favorite part of adjunct teaching but is a hazard of the job.  Along the way, there are, of course, grammatical and stylistic mistakes that drive me a little mad.  Here are some:

Too Many Commas: some writers seem to think that an overabundance of commas is a good thing.  While I tend to be a fan of the comma, and use it a lot in my own writing, it’s important to place them in the right spot.

Too Few Commas: complex sentences demand commas.  If you’re writing one, you must set off the introductory dependent clause with a comma in order to cue your reader that the clause is over and the sentence proper is beginning.

Rhetorical Questions: it is, in my humble opinion, lazy writing to begin or end an essay with a list of rhetorical questions.  I’m reading your essay for answers, not questions.

Rhetorical Quote Marks (a.k.a., “scare quotes”): while appropriate for Bennett Brauer, rhetorical quote marks are rarely appropriate in an academic essay.

The Academic “We”: sorry, Scot, I’m not a fan.  We’re not going to explore something in this essay.  You are, and I’m going to read about it.

Get a Deal on One of My Books

Today and tomorrow only (July 14th and 15th):
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Ask, Seek, Knock journeys through the prayers of the Bible and the history of the church and shows how you can use these prayers as your own.

Why Christianity21?

Next fall, Doug and I are hosting a learning party in the Twin Cities for people who love Christ, love Christianity, and are interested in the future. The two of us have been given the microphone a lot in the past decade, and we began our event company with the express intent of giving the mic to others.

Our first few events have spotlighted one or two presenters, but for Christianity21, we wanted to follow the excellent example of TED Talks and give some of the most provocative and innovative voices in the faith 21 minutes each to communicate their passion. Some will give straight talks, others will use various media, still others will present 7 minutes each day, building their presentation throughout the event.

As you can see on the website, the presentations run the gamut of topics from theology to grassroots organizing to consumerism to ecclesiology to parenting. Although all of the voices are women, the topics are as broad as any Christian conference I’ve ever seen.

At our events, there is no “green room.” In other words, the presenters (whom we are calling “Voices”) won’t be hiding away when they’re not onstage. They, along with other Christian leaders, activists, publishers, and the like, will be mixing it up with everyone else. We hope/plan to build a true community at this gathering.

As I mentioned, all of the Voices are women. That’s not a gimmick, nor is it an affirmative action decision. Instead, it’s our attempt to catalyze a chemistry at an event that’s never been achieved before. It’s an attempt to do something different. (If you’re a guy (or a woman) who feels uncomfortable about that, probably all the more reason that you should be there!) And, as well as their presentations, all 21 of these Voices will be in a pulpit somewhere in the Twin Cities that Sunday morning, so you’ll get another chance to hear one or two of them.

We also thought it’s high time that speaker/authors like me, Doug, Joe Myers, Shane Claiborne, Peter Rollins and others should be sitting behind the registration table, handing out nametags. And that’s just where you’ll find us.

We’ve done everything we can to keep this event affordable. As you can imagine, flying in 21 speakers and paying their expenses does add up, but we’re working hard to raise sponsorship money to subsidize that. We’ve worked out a great deal on a hotel/breakfast combo, and we’re committed to keeping the registration at our events under $200.

So, if this sounds interesting to you, if you’re intrigued about the way the Christianity will be changing in coming days, if you’re keen to hear women get the mic for a few days, then consider joining us, October 9-11, for Christianity21.

Whence Religion Coverage in the News?

The Dallas Morning News pioneered the Sunday “Religion” section in daily newspapers, launching it in 1994. They were quickly emulated by newspapers around the country, including my hometown newspaper, the StarTribune, which established a more politically-correct sounding “Faith and Values” section on Saturday.

As someone — like over half of Americans — who takes religion seriously, I’ve enjoyed that section. About three times a month, there was an original story by the local religion beat reporter, and once-a-month they picked up a story off the wires. There was also the “Notes” section with newsbriefs about religion stories local, national, and international, plus a Faith and Values Calendar that displayed concerts and lectures around the Twin Cities. They even ran the occasional column. In all, it gave those of us interested in religion an nice weekly sense of what was going on around the metro area.

The DMN killed the religion section a few years ago, relegating it to a noteworthy blog. That blog has thrived, on the good graces and during the free time of its authors…until now. Yesterday, Get Religion reported (via Rod) that the DMN has reassigned its two excellent religion reporters, Sam Hodges and Jeffrey Weiss, to cover suburban issues.


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