Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quick tip No. 13

Just avoid using the third person on your facebook status.

*disclaimer: this is going to be a long post about grammar
*nuther disclaimer: this only mildly irritates me enough to write a blog post about it. If you're guilty of changing voice in your status updates (and I may very well be as well), we can still be friends. This is just a quick tip. And I'm not your grammar police, even if I DID get a badge for it in 7th grade English.

The problem with changing voice in facebook statuses stems from the olden days of facebook, when your status automatically defaulted to "So-and-so is..." and you put your text after that, and the text appeared right after your name. Folks, the automatic and forced "is" is gone now. There's no reason to use the passive verb, and no reason to think you need to default to third person.

The biggest problem here is that people don't understand that they have started in a passive, third person voice, so as their sentence progresses, they switch to the more common and comfortable first person.

Here's an example. THIS IS WRONG:
Sally Schnawz
is really excited about my nose job surgery! I love it!

First, take a look at your facebook news feed and notice that facebook has now put the text under your name. That way, we all get that the next bit of text is from you, and Facebook is not forcing you to start a sentence with your name anymore! Secondly, when you update similarly to the example above, it sounds like you are saying that a third party person with your name (Sally) is excited for you, and you love that she is excited for you. What you really tried to say is that you, Sally, are excited about and love your nose job. So you should just say that. THIS IS RIGHT:
Sally Schnawz
I am really excited about my nose job surgery! I love it!
Don't get it yet? here are a couple actual examples from people with whom I am friends on facebook, complete with an explanation of what English tells us they said, my understanding of what they tried to say, an example of what they should have said had they really wanted to continue in the third person, and and example in first person. I make learning fun!

Helen Hungrypants
really wants Cafe Rio for lunch... wish it wasn't far away! I have a free meal!
  • What it really means: Person A knows someone named Helen. Helen wants Cafe Rio. Person A wants to use his or her free meal card to satiate Helen's desires for a salad, loaded with more than the daily allotment of calories for the average person. And a soda. Because free meals come with a soda.
  • What Helen tried to say: Helen, herself, is craving Cafe Rio and wants to use her free meal card to get something for lunch, but Cafe Rio is far away. Shucks.
  • Third person example: Helen Hungrypants really wants Cafe Rio for lunch and wishes it wasn't far away! She has a free meal!
  • First person example: I really want Cafe Rio for lunch. I wish it wasn't far away; I have a free meal!
Theresa Therapist
Thinks I am going to like this semester. Love my play therapy class & hope I can learn a lot in my marriage & family therapy class!
  • What it really means: Person A knows someone named Theresa. Theresa thinks Person A is going to like school this semester. Person A loves Play Therapy and is looking forward to Marriage and Family Therapy. The rest of us aren't sure why Theresa has anything to say about Person A's class schedule.
  • What Theresa tried to say: Theresa, herself, thinks she is going to like the semester and wants to give some key examples to demonstrate why.
  • Third person example: Theresa Therapist thinks she is going to like this semester. She loves her play therapy class and hopes she can learn a lot in her marriage and family therapy class!
  • First person example: I am going to like this semester. I love my Play Therapy class and I hope I can learn a lot in my Marriage and Family Therapy class! Also, I need to take a basic grammar class as soon as possible!
There are countless additional examples. As you can see from the given third person examples, third person doesn't quite flow because no one talks that way (except maybe The Jimmy). Just stick to talking in the first person, because you're naturally going to flow that way anyway. It'll save us all the trouble of struggling to figure out what you're really talking about.


Bonny said...

You put into words something that has been bothering me for a long time. Nice job. Also, very witty!

Cassidy said...

I love your choice of names for your hypothetical people!

Katey said...

This just made me laugh lots!!!

I am very aware of this third person grammar fail and I pay attention to what needs to be said to make my accurate third person status updates. "I" doesn't return in the follow up sentence folks...it's not that difficult. Mostly those days are over now that facebook doesn't force me to refer to myself in the third person. I still do it on occasion but again, with accuracy! My biggest desire for accuracy is due to having friends like you and Bonny who, while both of you love me, will notice my mistakes and I like to avoid that if I can. (And even know I'm worrying about my comma placement in that last sentence!)

P.S. I love that we are both friends with Theresa Therapist! ;)

Chelsea said...

I also want to add that it has been AT LEAST over a year since FB stopped the third person thing. And that even when it was there, I still did not use it because I hate it when people talk in third person. In high school, when people tried it-thinking they were cute- I would say, "Stop talking in third person, or I will smack all three of you!" :)