Winning haiku adds a little spice to National Grammar Day

March 3, 2015 By Mark Allen Contests and Awards

Adriana Cloud offered a 17-syllable grammar lesson for her winning entry in the American Copy Editors Society National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest. Recalling Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, she implored us:

Let us not
to the marriage of two clauses
admit a comma splice.

Cloud (@adicloud) is a Boston-based writer of prose and poetry and an editor. “I do things to words,” her website explains.

The comma splice that Cloud wrote about is a comma inserted between independent clauses that should stand alone: “I’m celebrating National Grammar Day, we’re making grammartinis.” In English, we’d normally make that two sentences or join it with a conjunction or semicolon.

Exceptions (there are always exceptions) to the rule against comma splices include cases when the clauses are very short or when there is a clear contrast between two ideas. Literature provides many examples of splicing for effect. But in most cases, they are best avoided.

Cloud said her work has been published in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Noble Gas Quarterly, and others. She has read Harry Potter in three languages.

“I’m working on a freelance copy editing project right now and the author has a lot of comma splices, so they’ve been on my mind,” Cloud said. “And Shakespeare and I share a birthday, so I thought he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed a few words from him.”

For her winning haiku, best among about 180 entries, Cloud earns a one-year membership in the American Copy Editors Society with all the benefits that come with it; a pass for one ACES day-long editing workshop; a copy of “Things That Make Us [Sic]” by National Grammar Day founder Martha Brockenbrough; a copy of “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Copy Queen,” by judge Mary Norris; and a choice of exciting products from organizer Mark Allen’s little-used (and now defunct) CafePress site.

The second-place haiku was penned by Pam Nelson, who writes the Grammar Guide blog (hosted by ACES), and celebrates her birthday on National Grammar Day:

Oh, if I were not
in a rare subjunctive mood,
I would wish I were.

The subjunctive mood is a verb tense dealing with what is imagined or hypothetical. It’s often overlooked and is becoming more rare, but “if I were” remains more common in edited text than “if I was.”

Nelson (@grammarguide) is a copy editor of magazines and newsletters for the American Institute of CPAs in Durham, N.C., and she has been a member of ACES since the organization’s founding in 1997.

The third-place haiku, written by Allison Chopin, dealt with love:

Indefinite, yes.
Reciprocal? Possessive?
s love  or pronouns

Chopin (@allisonchopin) is a digital copy editor at the the New York Daily News. She also writes young adult fiction and poetry. Chopin said that in high school, she was known as “O Grammarous One” by her friends.

Fourth-place this year went to perennial winner Tom Freeman (@SnoozeInBrief).

Show us on this doll
Where the copy editor
Punctuated you

Freeman, a copy editor for a charity in London, England, also won fourth-place last year, second-place in 2013, and an honorable mention in 2012.

The fifth-place haiku is by medical editor Daniel Sosnoski (@mededitor):

Elephant attuned,
The pronoun is objective,
Horton hears a ‘whom’.

The judges selected 10 more haiku for honorable mention:

Amy Payne @amympayne

“i” before “e” and
Forgive my outburst.

Adriana Cloud @adicloud

So much depends on
a modifier dangling
besides the wrong noun.

Jan Lane @twitlessjan

It’s a little girl!
With a single contraction,
Her whole world expands.

Nehaly Shah @nms077

Lyrics and grammar:
Often incompatible,
But both beautiful.

Stan Carey @StanCarey

Languages change like
People change: slowly, non-stop,

M. Mehan @MTMehanPublic

we punctuate but
never pause to realize
we mark how we. breathe

Rhiannon Root @rhiannonroot

Exclamation point,
Like hot sauce you are spicy
Best used sparingly

Allison N. Chopin @allisonchopin

(Nothing lonelier
than a parenthetical
opened but not closed

Megan Paolone @meganpaolone

Who or whom?
Direct objects cause problems;
you’ll figure it out.

James Harbeck @sesquiotic

Language is a dance,
a mating dance for two minds.
Keep it passionate.

Lisa Cherrett @LCherrett

All haiku poets
must love the singular ‘they’
‘he or she’ wastes syll-…

The fabulous and hardworking judges this year were:

• David Brindley (@wordies), managing editor of National Geographic magazine and a member of the ACES board.

• Martha Brockenbrough (@mbrockenbrough), founder of National Grammar Day and the author of “Things That Make Us (Sic)” and the novel “The Game of Love and Death.”

• Nancy Friedman (@fritinancy), name developer and brand consultant, blogger at Fritinancy and Strong Language, columnist at the Visual Thesaurus.

• Mary Norris (@MaryNorrisTNY), a copy editor at The New Yorker for upward of 30 years; her first book, “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Copy Queen,” comes out on April 6.

• Merl Reagle, crossword-puzzle constructor syndicated in more than 50 Sunday newspapers and featured in the film “Wordplay” and on an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Here is a list of all the entries this year from Storify:


Here is a running tally of entrants into the 2015 National Grammar Day Haiku Contest. Deadline for entry is noon EST March 3, with our expert panel of judges selecting the winning haiku (plural) on March 4, National Grammar Day. 

Haiku Day Tweet Winner

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