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Foreword - Pg. xii

xii Foreword According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. --Jerry Seinfeld, SeinLanguage Picture this: You're standing in front of a large conference room full of business associates. You've put on your best new clothes for a special occasion: You're about to present the project you've been working on for six hard months. You know it's a good idea--you've considered it from every angle and you're sure it can't fail--but you're not sure you can sell everybody on it. In fact, you're scared to death of embarrassing yourself. Why? If you're like most people, part of your fear comes from the worry that you might not use good grammar--wait, make that proper grammar--when you start speaking, or that somehow you've messed up the writing in the 60-page report you've just handed out. You don't have a run in your panty hose--you checked--but your infinitives might be split wide open. You can tell that your zipper's not down, but you've got this irrational fear that your participles are dangling. You're a smart dresser, for certain--but are you just plain smart? In a word, yes. You are. The most common myth about grammar is that people who don't use it correctly are somehow less intelligent than those who do. Wrong! Intelligence and grammar are unrelated. Consider Jerry Sein- feld, who is quoted at the start of this foreword. He's an incredibly clever comedian whose jokes are always built around insightful observations of the human condition. Now consider the quote itself. Frankly, if his grammar were a car, they'd be towing it away to the junkyard right about now. It's a lemon for sure--but that doesn't mean Jerry Seinfeld can't parallel park, if you know what I mean. His sentences have a style that's appropriate for his audience--and he's been so successful at it that people have been copying him for years. Have you ever heard the joke about the boy named Cass who was absent for a few days in first grade, missed the lesson about the letter C, then for the next few days kept getting into trouble for signing a cuss word next to the date on his homework papers? This is how many people feel about grammar--that they were absent when their teachers taught the basic rules and have been paying for it ever since. The truth is, you were probably there when your teacher taught grammar. So why didn't you learn the proper rules? Well, honestly, it could be--at least partially--your teacher's fault. If you were like almost every other unfortunate elementary school student, your teacher probably sat in front of the room carefully explaining--in a voice dull enough to make rocks start to fidget-- how to parse sentences, how to conjugate irregular verbs, what past perfect tense means, what a gerund is, etc. Maybe you also got to read from a textbook--oh boy!--full of snappy, interesting sentences about Tom and Sue and Bob's plain brown dog. It was a recipe for failure. Somehow you passed the class, of course, but did you really take anything in? Did you master the English lan- guage? Of course not; nobody could--not in an environment like that. Your teachers were crazy to expect those lesson plans to work. You did your best, under the circumstances--and now it feels impossible to go back and set things straight.