Thursday, August 12, 2010

We Are a Fortune 500 Company, Not a Lemonade Stand

Sue: What are you majoring in?
Joel: Russian literature and Slavic languages.
Sue: Oh wow, that's pretty interesting. What career track is that?
Joel: Cabby, hot dog vendor, marijuana delivery guy. The world is my oyster.

English majors have the ability to be real jerks. We snicker about other people's terrible grammar. We yell at the TV about journalistic integrity when CNN launches into their 15th hour of coverage of Lindsay Lohan's jail sentence. We raise our eyebrows if you declare that your favorite book is The DaVinci Code, quietly putting you under the the "nice but dim" tab in our mental Rolodex.

The more militant among us carry Sharpies and bottles of White-Out (See: Lynne Truss, The Great Typo Hunt), ready to correct any public apostrophe mistakes or dangling modifiers, free of charge. These people are dicks.

But we're all members of what Garrison Keillor calls P.O.E.M--the professional organization of English majors-- and I'm here to say that you ought to cut us little slack. See, snarkily correcting other people's grammar is really all we've got. This is what we're good at: reading, writing, talking, forming arguments and yes, grammar. Once upon a time, people who could read and write were valued, because literacy was a specialized skill. (I like to fantasize about this a lot, because that was also a time when blindingly pale skin was considered attractive. They would have made me the fricking queen.) Now, obviously it's a good thing that most modern people can read and write...except that they can't. Or they can, but not well. That's where we come in.

It honestly mystifies me why all businesses don't have an English major on retainer the way they have a lawyer. If your website or correspondence has "its/it's" confusion, or, worse "they're/their/there" confusion, you and your company look sloppy and unprofessional. Hire an English major and have her proofread that shit. I'm not sure if the problem is that people just don't give a shit about the way the present themselves in writing, or if they think they're doing it correctly, or if they just think that the rules of grammar are really just fluid suggestions.

Whatever the problem is, no one listens to us. Which brings me to my big idea: a company that contracts out members of P.O.E.M. to make business owners and their employees seem intelligent in writing. It's not a PR company, because PR people have to be diplomatic. We will be a company of nasty, mean sons of bitches. (And we're not going to be just a bunch of grubby Starbucks-and-Macbook-toting English majors. Women will have to wear skirt suits and heels, and guys will have to dress like Joseph Gordon Levitt in Inception.We will carry briefcases.) Hire us, and we'll make sure that every semi-colon is used correctly, fix subject-pronoun agreement problems and comma splices, and make sure that every last godforsaken apostrophe is used properly. As a free service, we will also correct use of Clip Art or Comic Sans.

Suggestions for a company name and tagline are welcome. Come on, you know you want to work for me.


  1. I love and live everything about this post.

  2. I want to do this so bad. Especially the dress-like-Joseph-Gordon-Levitt-in-Inception part.

  3. True story: I was criminally threatened recently over a grammar joke I only thought about making.

    Also, the company can be called "Comman Sense". Tagline: "Yeah, we know that's not how you spell 'common'. It's a fucking pun, you dick. Do you want our help or not?"

  4. @tk that pretty much encapsulates the mission statement of my company.