The waning days of the year are a time of reflection, a time of renewal, a time for making yourself promises you'll likely break before Valentine's Day so you can resolve again to keep them the following year.
But, hey, while we're still in that promise-making mode to ourselves, how about a little self-improvement in the way we communicate?
1. Stop flipping people off, especially at the dinner table. That's not exactly the kind of communication I am driving at, but it's good advice if you want to stay in the will.
2. Keep it simple. Why pack on suffixes when the root word will do?
Reader Joseph Opitz of Assumption writes: "No one will dispute that suffixes add versatility to the language. They can change a noun to a verb or an adjective, an adjective to an adverb, etc. It seems that lately, however, adding suffixes has just become an exercise in making longer, more intellectual and jargonicious sounding words. (See how easy it is?) I recently heard a business type use the word 'organizationality.' I gleaned another example from a TV commercial using business people talking over lunch about the use of technology, I think. Without warning the term 'customerization' floats into the conversation. I don't even know what that word means, but it sounds painful. I would not want to be customerized without consulting my doctor, or at least a licensed tattoo artist."
Hey, Joe, who's the comedian here?
3. At the stroke of midnight Monday, I hope you sang "Auld Lang Syne," not "Old Lang Syne." The former is Scottish for "good old times." The latter is how Dan Fogelberg spelled it in "Same Old Lang Syne," his syrupy ode to a chance encounter with an old flame at a Peoria convenience store.
You should not spell it as Dan did, though I do appreciate his double meaning.
4. I'm a little late to the party here, but Tim Allen ruined Christmas. The movie "The Santa Clause" altered how normal humans spell "Claus," apparently for generations.
I recently typed 30 letters to Santa. No, they were not lists of demands from me. I transcribed letters from classrooms of second-graders. Many of them spelled it "Santa Clause." Lest you desire a lump of coal in your stocking next Christmas, remember that.
5. Until Elon Musk perfects time travel at the consumer level, you will not have to plan for the past. So there is no need to "plan ahead" or "plan for the future." Just plan.
6. Steve Perry sang "Any Way You Want It." It was not titled "Anyway You Want It" or "Anyways You Want It."
"Anyway" is an adverb meaning regardless. In "any way," "any" modifies "way." It means in any manner or any method.
Saying "anyways" isn't a felony, but this nonstandard use just bugs me. As does "anywho."
7. It isn't all right to write "alright." It isn't a word.
I already wrote about the difference between "already" (something that occurred in the past) and "all ready" (prepared). But just because a compound word can be split into two does not mean a similar-sounding word can.
Happy new year and, as always, write carefully!
• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of Paddock Publications, owners of the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, with Grammar Moses in the subject line and include your hometown. You can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.