Archive for May, 2014

Settling down in my new Kentucky home

By Randy Patrick
Saturday, May 3, 2014
When he can’t settle on a subject, Larry Dale Keeling, an editorial writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, writes “this and that” columns.

That’s what this is.

I’m writing on a Friday morning, and it’s shaping up to be a busy day before the Derby. I’m working on an investigative story, the second installment of a feature series and another story. And, because the editor is out of the office, I’m doing the copy editing.

Oh, and we’ve got a Relay for Life fundraiser going on here at the office.

So this week’s column is going to be a hodge-podge of notes about things that have been on my mind lately. This and that.

———

When I came to Bardstown in the summer of 2012, I didn’t know how long I’d be staying. But now that I’m getting close to two years, I’ve decided it’s time to get more involved.

Recently, I was elected to two boards — those of the Nelson County Community Clinic and My New Kentucky Home Habitat for Humanity.

Health care for the uninsured and disadvantaged has been a concern of mine for more than 30 years, so I was pleased to be asked to serve on the board of Nelson County’s free clinic, which is staffed and led by some of the most caring professionals in our community.

Last Friday, I had fun being a bartender (the first time in my life) for the clinic’s annual Dinner and Art Auction at St. Gregory Catholic Church. I worked with Dr. Darren Patrick (a distant relative), Andy Meredith and Dale Johnson, a former patient of the clinic who volunteers every year as a way of giving back.

The same week I joined the clinic’s board, I was elected to serve on the Habitat board. That’s a special honor because Habitat for Humanity has been one of my life’s passions. I have a long history with the interfaith charity. I started out working blitz builds in Lexington in 1991 and 1992, and played a small part in starting the Habitat affiliate in Richmond and Berea.

I served briefly on the board of that affiliate after it merged with the one in my hometown to form Habitat for Humanity of Madison and Clark Counties, and was a board member of the Jessamine County affiliate for several years.

I’ve also done short-term missions with the charity’s Global Village project, in Veracruz, Mexico; Belfast, Northern Ireland; London, England; and Gulfport, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina. In Mississippi, six of us from Apostles Anglican Church in Lexington slept with 70 to 80 others in a circus tent and worked with the families whose homes we were rebuilding.

My New Kentucky Home Habitat for Humanity builds houses in three counties — Nelson, Marion and Washington — and this year’s build is in Bardstown.

I’m impressed by what I’ve seen from this group and excited about the opportunities before us. More on that later.

———

In my Easter column, I wrote about the Rev. Andrew White, pastor of St. George’s Anglican Church in Iraq. He spoke at my church during Lent, and I bought and read his memoir, “The Vicar of Baghdad.” It’s an inspiring story about Christian discipleship. I like Father Andrew’s motto: “Don’t take care; take risks.”

Last week, AP reported that this British priest, peacemaker and prayer warrior is being honored with the William Wilberforce Award by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

The award is given in honor of the British statesman who led the fight to abolish the slave trade throughout the empire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His life is chronicled in the beautiful biopic, “Amazing Grace.” It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen where everyone in the theater stood up and applauded at the end.

Father Andrew is an heir to Wilberforce’s tradition of dogged service to the last, the least and the lost. The honor couldn’t be more well-deserved.

Write it right

As a rule, you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but come on.

Sometimes you have to break the rules.

That’s one of the best bits of advice I got from Dr. Libby Fraas, who taught feature writing at Eastern Kentucky University when I was a journalism student there in the early 1980s: Know the rules, and know when to break them.

This reminds me of a story about one of the great wordsmiths, Winston Churchill. When an overzealous editor changed one of Sir Winston’s sentences because it ended in a preposition, the cantankerous old genius scrawled in the margin: “This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

While it’s sometimes permissible to break rules, rules are there for a reason. Unfortunately, the rules of grammar and punctuation have fallen by the wayside.

Writing is like architecture. You can build a magnificent mansion with elegant columns, stained glass windows and ornate woodwork, but if you don’t get the foundation and framing right, it’s going to fall down. Likewise, you can write an article that has a good story line and creative flourishes, but if your sentence structure is weak, it will collapse and your readers will groan.

In my career as a journalist, my work has always involved editing — that is, reading and correcting the work of other writers. In addition to being a reporter and copy editor for The Kentucky Standard, I’ve been asked to be a writing coach.

Recently, I put together a guide for my coworkers, and I thought I’d share some of it with you.

The most frequent mistake I see is not separating clauses with commas before the conjunctions. For example: “Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.”

You don’t place a comma before the first “and” because the subject is still Jack. You must place one before the second “and” because it’s a new clause with Jill as the subject.

It makes a difference whether you write “Let’s eat, Grandma!” or “Let’s eat Grandma!”

Punctuation saves lives.

As my EKU faculty adviser, the late, great Carol Wright, used to remind us in her droll manner: Your girlfriend my cheat on you, your mother may disown you, and your friends may forget you (or something like that), but one thing you can count on is that the comma always goes inside the quotation marks.

The second most common error I come across is using plural pronouns to reflect singular nouns. It is wrong to say, “A person must mind their grammar.” The noun “person” is singular, and “their” is plural. They don’t go together. Say instead, “his grammar” or “her grammar.” Or just make it all plural: “People must mind their grammar.”

Misplaced modifiers are regular blunders. For example: “Being a wooden puppet, Geppetto was surprised that Pinocchio could walk and talk.” But Geppetto isn’t the puppet, is he?

Finally, using the wrong word or the right word in the wrong way is too familiar. For example, “somewhat” is an adverb, and “something” is a noun. I am something of a book lover, and I somewhat like books of historical fiction. See the difference?

“Comprise” is always a verb. Individuals may comprise a group, or a group may be composed of individuals, but a group is never “comprised of” individuals. Some disagree with this because it’s common usage, but editors I respect say you don’t change something because everybody does it.

Well, maybe after centuries, you can. Language does evolve, but glacially.

To say, “I want to share a couple things” is wrong. It’s a couple of things. The word is synonymous with “pair.” You wouldn’t say, “I need a new pair shoes.” Keep the “of.”

And though most reporters get it wrong, “couple” is almost always plural. “The couple live in New Haven,” not “lives in New Haven.”

Here’s one more: A banker can service a loan, a mechanic can service your car, a bull can service a cow, but a businessman should never “service” his customers — unless his business is prostitution.

The right word is “serve.” “Service” is, with rare exceptions, a noun, not a verb.

Let’s hope this little lesson has served you well.

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