A Woman After The Curmudgeon’s Heart

And no, for once it’s not Mrs. Curmudgeon.

It all began when Yvonne Mason, a retired English teacher, wrote a letter to the president about the Florida school shooting in February.

Mrs. Mason was NOT happy with the letter she received in response, but it wasn’t the substance of the letter that bothered her.

It was the writing.

USA Today tells the story.

In 17 years of teaching English composition in South Carolina public schools, Yvonne Mason had seen these blunders many times before.

 Redundancies. Faulty capitalization. Lack of clarity and specificity.

 But Mason wasn’t grading a student paper. She was reading a letter she received from President Donald Trump.

 “I have never, ever, received a letter with this many silly mistakes,” Mason said.

 The former Mauldin High School teacher promptly did what she had done thousands of times before: She corrected the writing and returned it, this one going back to the White House.


“When you get letters from the highest level of government, you expect them to be at least mechanically correct,” Mason said.

 She dinged the Trump letter particularly for repeatedly capitalizing “nation,” “federal,” “president” and “state,” turning these common nouns into proper nouns.

 Using her signature purple ink — since harsh red ink is discouraged by some educators these days [Note:  The Curmudgeon ALWAYS uses red ink when he edits] — Mason identified 11 instances of faulty capitalization in Trump’s letter.

 ‘Federal’ is capitalized only when used as part of a proper noun, e.g. the name of an agency,” Mason wrote.

 She resisted the idea of attaching a grade to the letter.

 “If it had been written in middle school, I’d give it a C or C-plus,” she said. “If it had been written in high school, I’d give it a D.”

And this:

“When I taught school for 17 years, I taught my kids in English that the way you present yourself in writing says a lot about who you are, about what you care about, about whether or not you care to get it right.”


Mason’s comments also draw attention to redundant expressions and overuse of the pronoun “I” in Trump’s letter. And there’s a dangling modifier to boot.

 “It’s stylistically appalling,” she said.

 Mason, an advocate of “clear, precise writing,” directs Trump to the government website plainlanguage.gov, dedicated to encouraging federal officials to write with clarity and specificity.

 “Part of the idea of clear, precise writing is abiding by grammatical and mechanical standards so everyone can be on the same page,” Mason said. “Otherwise, you’re going to be misunderstood.”

Imagine that:  someone as curmudgeonly about this kind of thing as The Curmudgeon!

Watch out, Mrs. Curmudgeon:  there may be “another woman.”


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  • Barbara Snyder  On June 5, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    What’s really sad is that Donald didn’t write this. Perhaps the person who actually wrote the letter will learn from her corrections. Keep up the good work!

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 5, 2018 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks. I think the teacher knew the president didn’t write the letter, but she agrees that someone writing things on behalf of the president needs to do a better job. It’s the curse of the ghost writer: all day every day at work I write for other people, we’ve had clients for more than 10 years who have no idea who I am, but I’ve got to make sure that my co-workers and our clients look good before the people to whom we’re writing. It’s a lot of pressure!

      • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On June 5, 2018 at 10:51 pm

        I’m happy to see a comment from Barbara; I had not seen her in awhile!

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On June 5, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    A while. Oy.

    • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 5, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      Dam audocorrect!

    • Barbara Snyder  On June 6, 2018 at 11:32 am

      LOL I have not stopped reading. I have to remember that bloggers need to hear from the fans. Enjoy you too, Peaches.

      • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 6, 2018 at 11:44 am

        Just so you know, Barbara: Peaches contacted me privately about a month ago and said she hadn’t noticed your name in a while and was worried about you. So it looks like readers of blogs have fans, too!

      • Barbara Snyder  On June 6, 2018 at 4:53 pm


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