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Letter from Al

November 24, 2010

I got a letter forwarded from Washington, from Senator Al Franken. The letter, which is dated October 26, 2010, says:

“Dear Karin,

“Congratulations on being sworn-in as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine and representing our country through your community service. Your dedication to improving the world is a testament to your leadership and recognition of your duty to contribute back to your community.

“The contributions that you are making will leave a lasting impact on these parts of the world that need it most. I’m thrilled to see Minnesotan’s [sic] who are committed to working hard and reaching out to those who are less fortunate. My friend, Senator Paul Wellstone, always said “the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard” and I believe that you embody exactly what Paul was saying.

“Your commitment to public service is inspiring and I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.

“Sincerely,

Al Franken

United States Senator”

I have to admit that the first thought in my mind was “I cannot believe that they sent out a letter with such a grammatical error.” I appreciate the sentiment of the letter, I really do, though I do not believe that Senator Franken ever actually SAW the letter, or knew that it was sent – that is what his staff is there to do. Nonetheless, it was nice to receive, as sometimes we who are working in Peace Corps can forget that there are people out there who appreciate the work we do. I wonder if I were to write to Senator Franken, whether he would respond, and ask me how my service is going? Hmm…tempting to try and see what happens. Especially when my close-of-service time nears and I will be job searching.

Now, back to that grammatical error. It is a pet peeve of mine, the misplaced apostrophe. Unfortunately, it is also increasingly, and maddeningly, common, both this, and other, glaring errors in grammar. But the misplaced apostrophe…that is the worst for me. There is a simple rule that I learned in grammar school regarding the use of an apostrophe – an apostrophe is used to indicate possession or to make a conjunction. Period. The ONLY time it is not used to indicate possession is in the case of “it’s” where it forms the conjunction of “it is”. How is this a difficult rule to understand and apply? For years, I have seen the apostrophe popping up when people form plural words. WHY? Just add an “s” to make a plural (or an “es” in some cases). 

Maybe I am a grammar nut because I have an undergraduate degree in Journalism, which means that I see grammar mistakes everywhere, and they drive me crazy. We are getting so lazy with the English language that it is sad. I mean, it is bad enough that we recognize non-words like “irregardless” and “de-thaw”, but why are we accepting this misuse of the apostrophe, when the rule regarding such use is pretty simple? 

In reality, there are 12 rules for using an apostrophe, but they are all related to possession and contractions. I found these rules, which I remember because I grew up learning them but cannot necessarily just write them all out, at a great link called GrammarBook.com. It is a great site to bookmark if you need assistance with grammar questions.

I will stop my rant before I start making people mad at me!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi permalink
    November 24, 2010 5:34 am

    Either I don’t know how to spell your country correctly or he doesn’t. Now I am curious. And I hate when people write “I should of…” and say “I could care less”. 🙂

  2. Jami permalink
    November 24, 2010 7:55 am

    I’m with you on this one, Karin.

  3. November 24, 2010 8:29 am

    Heidi – that was a typo, which I corrected. Adding another one, “I’ll try and” instead of the correct “I’ll try to”. I could go on, but the misplaced apostrophe is the worst.

  4. Mom permalink
    November 24, 2010 9:00 am

    Well, I see “Congratulations” spelled wrong, also. Besides, I myself sent a letter to Mr. Franken on a Soc. Sec. issue I was having and have yet to receive an acknowledgement of that letter, other than a brochure his staff sent me in the mail. No response otherwise. Of course, I also copied the President of our country on that letter and never received a response as well. So much for representation in a “democracy.” We are, after all, only taxpayers.

  5. November 24, 2010 9:02 am

    Gee, I guess I need a proofreader. Those are TYPOS. Sheesh. Guess I should not have even done this post.

  6. Heidi permalink
    November 24, 2010 9:45 am

    Well I thought you had copied this letter and pasted it… : )

  7. Ken Finsaas permalink
    November 24, 2010 10:59 am

    Karin —

    I think you raise some interesting and intriguing questions! For starter, though, let me say that my primary emotion (in writing this note) is terror that I will add to the list of errors and mistakes demonstrated in your example letter from Senator Franken above! I hope you will forgive any mistakes I make here!

    Now, on to my comment. A question I wrestle with is the relative value of a soon-forgotten thoughtful gesture or a token letter of congratulations from a stranger (e.e. an official in some capacity like Sen. Franken, writing to someone he has never met). Is the gesture meaningful? Or does it actually amplify the recipient’s sense of remoteness, eliminating the possible benefits he intended?

    I don’t know….

    • November 25, 2010 12:57 am

      Ken – Thanks so much for the comment! Although I focused more on the grammatical error of the letter (the other items pointed out were my typos, as I was reading the letter while typing and like an idiot, did not proofread), I also wrestle with the same question you raise. As I mentioned, I honestly do not think Senator Franken is aware of my existence, and that it is the job of his staff to send out letter such as this one. Had the signature been anything but computer generated, or made by a staff member, I may have believed that he actually saw the letter before signing it. Although it is nice to get the proverbial “attaboy” or pat on the back, it is somewhat empty because I know it was more part of doing business than actually recognizing my efforts.

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