17 January 2006

Work House Rock

You must have tea and cake with the vicar or--you die!
Eddie Izzard

This is apparently what we need in order to teach people how to write, now that they're out of college and in the real world.

There were plenty of fun songs from Schoolhouse Rock, most of which you've probably forgotten (and feel you are no less for forgetting).

But today, I have a grammatical lesson to share--prompted by a coworker's frustration and a friend's ignorance.

My coworker could not quite understand why Outlook was giving her a "fragment" error for one of her sentences in an e-mail; and I had not intended to say anything, but she started to get antsy about it, so I decided to explain.

To "follow up" something requires no hyphenation; however a "follow-up" of something does. The difference here is verb usage versus noun usage, respectively. I'm sure it will make sense if you think about it long enough ... (though a few short seconds should be plenty for most, and some will understand immediately).

Therefore, if you would like a follow-up [noun], then that's fine; but if you would like to follow up [verb], that's something else.

Here is another example of verb usage, courtesy of my flat-mate: I will follow up with your professor about your project.


My coworker said that she never understood grammar lessons in elementary school. I told her that this was hardly irregular. The only way anyone ever really understands grammar is through constant use (writing and/or reading), so if you're not much of a writer or a reader, it's not going to come easy. Basics might come to you, yes; anything beyond that, not likely. Learning a foreign language also makes you more aware of parts of speech, but I didn't go into that.

And this point of view could be argued against, I understand; but I still feel that those who read and write more than the average are more likely to understand these things (including the inherent importance of proper spelling and correct grammar). If you want to be understood in the world, you had better learn to communicate.

Yes, this is one of my pet peeves towards a majority of science-minded individuals who try to bash me for having an English B.A. Of course, this resentment is not directed at scientists who can write, but those who think they don't need to know how.

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