Help! Help! I’m Bein’ Repressed!

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Stephanie “Baker” Lenz

When I was a senior in high school, a friend and I found the box of programs for our speech team end-of-year banquet. On the plain backs of each one, we drew very small anarchy symbols. Not on any whim but because we had both abided by the rules for years and wanted one final dig at the establishment.

I’ve never bent or broken rules on a whim and I find that I’m far more selective about the rules I break as I pass over to the other side of thirty. These days, the more I look around me, the more rules I see being broken. Not rules that oppress, silence or harm but simple rules extrapolated from common courtesy and common sense.

It’s people of all ages, colors, sizes and sexes. It’s suburbanites jumping the line for movie tickets. It’s teenagers doing a dine-and-dash. It’s a businessman with three carry-on items. It’s a Canadian entering the Miss Racine (Wisconsin) pageant. It’s Michigan’s “fab five” accepting money from boosters while playing college basketball.

It has also seeped into the writing world.

Until recently I belonged to an e-group that was meant for religious debate. A new member posted her profile to the group making a statement that she capitalized the name of her religion not because it was correct but because not doing was tantamount to “oppression.” Subposted to that was a message from the group leader that she doesn’t capitalize certain words involving religion or what one would “normally capitalize.”

Well if you know me, you know I wouldn’t be able to sit on my hands. I’m by no means a grammar freak or comma-kazi but the rules of grammar are not subject to our whims. While researching for my subpost, I found several URLs that backed my statement. Some of the best included:

Then the original poster refuted the idea of capitalizing just because it’s right and got up on her oppression soapbox again. So I knew it wasn’t really about The Chicago Manual of Styleat least not for her. For me, I learned a great deal from the experience, the main of which being that I was wary of posting the information.

I never thought I’d be one to champion “the rules” but I’m tired of people taking what they want from convention, standards and practices and disregarding what they don’t like.

Sure, the small things bug me every day—like people in the movie theater talking back at the screen or in a restaurant yelling into a tiny cell phone that doesn’t come anywhere near their mouths—but I’ve drawn the proverbial line in the sand at flaunting the basic rules of writing. It’s one thing to be ignorant; it’s another to know the rules and say, “they don’t suit my purpose.” All this time I’ve thought it was ignorance that I couldn’t abide. I’m learning that it’s selective ignorance that chafes my cheese.


Baker can be reached at baker[at]

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