When the Royal Order of Adjectives issued its decree, the caste system was cast: the Determiner came first, for pronouns were all the rage; then Quantity, for one needed to see how many of these nouns he/she/they/xe/xem were dealing with: how many persons and/or things were in how many places (or how many things were in how many persons & vice versa); Opinion squeezed in third, for it just had to be heard (but not quite over the numbers); Size mattered but not as much as one’s opinion of it; Age was just a number in May–December romances, in which size trumped mileage; Shape defined one’s lines & curves (& if those lines were super acute or downright obtuse); Color filled in what was in these curves (like coloring books done right); Origin/material was the stuff of what all those lines & colors were made of (for all are more than the shape of their body or the color of their skin); but the Qualifier, closest to the noun it was describing, gave the noun its true identity, showing that the last shall be first & the first shall be last, for as important as pronouns were, they weren’t fully qualified to describe a noun.
On a separate Post-It, the sentence, “Our single sassy 25-years-young hourglass-shaped whitish fleshy female human was making time with the married 50-year-old quarterback-built tannish fleshier male human,” did not tell but certainly showed why it was best to limit oneself to three adjectives for describing one noun.
He was pulp fiction with expletives & explosions, she, Harlequin Christian romance with exaltation & exclamations of everlasting love. They gave their fans what they wanted, & though their work only endured till the next author came around, they made a good side income freelancing for the local newspaper— he, covering the grit & gristle of hard news, & she, the cream & fluff of soft news.
When Comma sailed on a scholarship to Oxford College— in nothing but a pinafore & saddle shoes— having unearthed her earthly purpose at Harvard, she discovered her divine purpose through her thesis on clarity, & thus became the Oxford Comma.
They Couldn’t Take it With Them
When Miss Grammarly & Miss Writerly— 2 spinsters who unraveled yarns & whose punctuation rained on a mathematician’s parade like music notes in a sour serenade— passed on to that great Writing Lab in the sky, they found that their favorite mark, the non-committal Semicolon, had not made it past the mother-of-pearly gates, for when S.C. had reached the end of its life sentence, it hadn’t known whether to pause or stop altogether, & so it chose to continue to haunt English majors & thus remain, the bane of their earthly existence.
Em Dash was as innumerate as En Dash was illiterate, but when they did a DNA test, they realized they were descended from the Hyphen, who separated words & numbers & helped women keep their maiden name while taking their married name, too.
When Lady Apostrophe went to her daily therapy sessions, she became increasingly indignant over Dr. Dew Nothing’s diagnoses: obsessive-possessive disorder, delusions of grandeur— as Lady felt like she was the only thing that held two words together— & a slew of imaginary frenemies whom she addressed (rather poetically). Dr. Nothing— having sent Lady Apostrophe on her way with a 90-day supply of chill pills— preferred Miss Period, who only bothered her once a month & would be gone long before she retired.
When Readerly, Writerly, & Grammarly wandered into a minibar. Readerly entertained herself with reading the menu & Writerly, with making it more interesting, while Grammarly punctuated the pauses in Readerly’s speaking & proofed the edits that Writerly had lovingly made. Different facets of the same person, they made a great team, for were smart enough not to consume anything from the minibar, with its absentee mixologist, overpriced products, & chilly atmosphere.
He was tuxedo English, she, T-shirt, but when he decided to correct her grammar on Facebook, she looked him up & matched his clean words with dirty ones to coax him out of his clothes, only to discover that this stuffed shirt under all that spiffy black-&-white was a T-shirt that didn’t know to separate itself from red.
She wrote fiction when she wanted to forget herself; creative nonfiction when she wanted to remember herself; but when she wanted to just be herself, she wrote poetry.
As a writer, she didn’t let people live rent-free in her head, but instead, evicted them to the page & gave them their just desserts, which were anything but just or sweet.
When Sticky Fingers Sal & Pickpocket Pearl were strolling out of Curl Up & Dye, Sal, distracted by a Grammar Nazi on strike, slipped & fell into a plot hole. Pearl, always quick with her hands, reached into the man’s pocket & stole the ultimate weapon— his dangling modifier. She held it down for Sal who, even after her rescue, just wouldn’t let go of it.
He was a tautogram, she, an anagram. They were socially-awkward individuals, for he got his tongue all twisted, just as she was all mixed up.
He was White Wine, chilled to perfection; she was Red Wine, perfect as she was. Then along came Pink Champagne, all fancy & bubbly in her flute & saying to Red & White that they were mere lunch & dinner accompaniments, whereas she was the star of holidays & weddings. But then she met Beer, who was enjoyed out of the tap, the bottle, & the can, & she realized that his fans would enjoy him from any vessel.
The Fanboys— a passel of 7 devils— had given the Comma Queen of Oxford conjunctivitis with their incessant need for attention, so much so, that she chose to sacrifice her life for the Semicolon.
When the Writing Lab decided to give performance art a shot by putting on a play, it was fraught with errors: The sentences ran on too long & there were too many commas— all the while semicolons wandered around, unsure of their placement. The villain was a dangling modifier, which was a problem, as no one knew what it was; by the time the audience figured it out, the story had been killed.
He was Times New Roman, feeling superior with his flair at every end; she was Arial, feeling equally so with her minimalistic look. When Comic Sans came along, crossing their lines & bleeding into their text, they collaborated with Calibri & sought to kick this whimsical little upstart off the Typography Team.
Her poetic license had no expiration date, for she went around putting line breaks where she thought they should be, inserting the Oxford comma wherever she went, omitting needless words, adverbs, & clichés, for just as brevity was literary minimalism, clarity was literary purity.
When she brainstormed, her fingers were like lightning across the keyboard, her words like thunder as she hammered away at a clump of words to create a viable human-interest story.
It was reading, writing, & arithmetic in grammar school, academics, arts, & athletics in college. Sara Lee Storey excelled in the arts, writing about the academics, & editing the words of those who wrote about athletics.
Every morning, Miss English stood before her mirror, curled her apostrophes & quotation marks, which made her look quite smart, ensured her conjunctions coordinated, & that her tittles defied just the right amount of gravity. When she broke down on the information superhighway & moseyed into the skiddy comments section of Reddit, she learned the language of the emoticon & that for those who talked too much, punctuation & misspellings didn’t matter.
Through her typewriter, the introvert known as Elizabeth von Baron became known as Dear Libby, so that as she became established in the spirit, her shyness, in the flesh, disintegrated.
She scribbled on the walls, a pre-literate graffiti, a magenta crayon being her tool of choice. She drew her stories on the carbon paper her mother brought home, each picture numbering 1000 words. She wrote her stories in black-&-white composition notebooks— stories that rewrote her history— so that she became the worst sort of unreliable narrator, for she plagiarized from no one’s life, not even her own.
Sometimes she just wanted to say, “No capitalization, No punctuation, No service,” or that the use of the words “thing” and “stuff” & the overuse of “very” and “really” qualified as “enough was enough.” She was a 1000-piece puzzle who lost a piece every time she read an essay that sought to answer the question, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” So, she learned to start from scratch— just as she had learned to bake— for as much as she learned the Why (even though she already knew the How), she also learned that patience was a learned virtue— & that it was easier to do than teach.