Prudes are often self-appointed grammar nannies, (making sure apostrophes are tucked in the cozy correct spots and participles don’t dangle dangerously.) The Tuesday Prude, however, hated diagramming sentences in school. Maybe it looked too much like math. When it was time to explore the beautiful world of grammar with our home schooled prudlings, we choose a curriculum that didn’t technically require diagramming.
It was a good program and they learned enough not to embarrass me. The closest they came to diagramming was the requirement to pull prepositional phrases from each sentence and label the leftovers: subject, verb, direct object etc.
Occasionally an imperative sentence reared its imperious head:
Shut the door.
Stop strangling your brother.
Rescue that dangling participle.
Where is the subject in the above sentences? We learned that the imperative is addressed to ‘you’.
‘You’ shut the door.
‘You’ stop strangling your brother.
‘You’. . .
You get the picture.
Their job was to label the subject as ‘You is understood’.
It was sort of fun to say. ‘You is understood.’
The fun didn’t stop when my boys finished school. There is a new way to use this rule.
It keeps the world from knowing just what an egomaniac I (aka The Tuesday Prude) am.
One of the first rules a good writer learns: avoid beginning every sentence with the word
Even in a blog, even on a Facebook status, or personal communication—start too many sentences with ‘I’ and readers get the notion that the writer is self-centered.
My readers would be right.
Ever hear the phrase ‘She thinks the world revolves around her’? Try as I will to convince myself that the world actually revolves on a tipsy axis, my id, ego and superego all argue the opposite. In the world of the self-centered I am firmly in the middle.
Narcissism, however, wears thin with readers. As a budding writer I don’t want to alienate readers. They want to believe I am interested in them, and I am. Truly I am, but this nasty little core of me wants to make sure no one bumps me from Centerville. Because no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, deep down in my fascinating self is the idea that everyone else should be captivated with ME.
So I develop strategies to hide my egomania. Look back and you’ll discover the sneaky ways I wrote an entire post about ME without once starting a sentence with ‘I’. And I didn’t even hide behind The Tuesday Prude.
The Tuesday Prude, while a great 3rd person subject to hide behind, doesn’t always address the issues at hand.
All this means that sometimes, unfortunately, it is almost impossible to keep the
I-word anywhere but the engine part of a sentence.
That is where my ‘You is understood’ training comes in handy.
Instead of writing
“I am trying to avoid starting sentences with ‘I’”,
I drop the ‘I’ at the beginning of the sentence and it becomes a friendly, informal
‘Trying to avoid…”
The ‘I’ is understood but it sits modestly out of the reader’s line of vision, understanding that I am really the subject of me but not trumpeting the fact.
It gets easier:
“Loving this organic casserole that just came out of the oven!”
“Going to buy a new pair of jeans in a smaller size!”
“Just enjoying the cutest grandbabies on earth!”
All the above are just underhanded ways of saying:
“Wondering if everyone heard that the earth’s axis shifted? Pretty sure they know who it rotates around now!!”
You are entering the perilous waters of “me-phobia” and don’t get me started! 🙂
It’s a rare soul who doesn’t reside in Centerville. Going to guess there are about seven billion of us, give or take a few. 🙂
Thanks for the grammar lessons, Anita
It is a fine line as a writer. To effectively communicate anything of worth, you must share your own experiences/learning. That, however, will necessarily put you in the ‘I’ position, potentially putting off your readers. AAAHHHHH! How to share from one’s own unique perspective without falling into that self-centered trap? Perhaps I will try your informal, no beginning ‘I’ approach. ‘I’ will let you know how it works! 😉
And then there’s all those weak, passive was-ing constructions. Sigh. Much head shaking.