Sunday, 28 September 2014

I Misplace An Apostrophe

Yesterday I misplaced my car for 40 minutes and was awarded a parking ticket.

I decided straightaway not to be annoyed with  myself.  I remember all too clearly my mother standing weeping in the gloom of an upper level of a multistory car park at Heathrow Airport having received a parking fine.  Money was very tight, and the £10 was needed for many other purposes.  So whilst I could have thought of approximately 1,000 better ways to spend £35, I decided to think of saving £35 instead.  I even considered, as a longer-term strategy, adding a category to my monthly budgets for 'Fines Resulting From Breaches Of The Rules'.  If it goes unspent, I could use it for books, or shoes, or earrings, or a bottle of mellow red, or towards motorcycle training.

Today, however, I misplaced an apostrophe in an email sent to over 100 people.  I'm finding it hard to reconcile myself to this mistake exposing, as it does, the hypocrisy of my intolerance of punctuation errors in my students' work.  My reputation for this stance is such that one of my tutees recently sent me message which read: Saw this and thought of you. It included a picture of this quotation:  "I don't judge people on race, creed, colour or gender.  I judge people based on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure".

I've marked my student's work for three years now and, in addition to discussing many ethical issues, we've enjoyed friendly banter about the use of pronouns, semicolons and hyphens.  Of course, every time he's questioned my judgement he's been wrong.   He is about to graduate - I'm delighted about this.  It's entirely his achievement (he is uncommonly good at using apostrophes) but the satisfaction of seeing a student start and then complete a degree is considerable.

I'm sure the pleasure that this student feels in his success will be increased by his enjoyment of my latest mistake.

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