I have a confession to make. It's not what you're thinking.
I'm an honest person. I pay my taxes. I don't tell lies. Well, most of the time, anyway. I mean, I pay my taxes all the time, but the other day I did tell my dinner host I was full when in truth I wanted a third piece of pie. It was lemon meringue. My favorite.
So I told a social lie. I told her I was full to save her the awkwardness of watching a guest make himself uncomfortable from overeating. I was thinking of her.
No, my confession has to do with writing. It's awkward because I'm supposed to know what I'm doing. You know, being a columnist and having a Ph.D. and all.
You may be thinking I misused a semicolon by placing it between a dependent clause and a main clause, as in "Although the leaves are falling; the temperature feels like it's late summer." But remember: I'm an English major. I know semicolons. The semicolon is used between things of equal value. It both separates and connects. It's more than a comma but less than a period, a mark worthy of our respect and attention. I'm not about to misuse one.
And surely you don't think I would forget an apostrophe in a possessive form, as in "Susans purse was hot pink" or "My old English sheepdogs leash still hangs by the back door." Please. I can form possessives in my sleep, even tricky ones involving irregular plurals, such as "one company's clients and two companies' troubles," and subtle references to time, such as "one week's vacation" and "a hard day's night," where the possessive form is more a matter of grammatical relationship than physical ownership. Possession does not challenge me.
I even can offer helpful advice when some grammar books tell you to form the possessive of words ending in an "s" sound by adding an apostrophe + "s," as in "Wilbers's column," and other grammar books tell you to add just the apostrophe, as in "Wilbers' column."
My advice: Spell it the way you pronounce it. If you would pronounce it with two "s" sounds, spell it "Wilbers's column." If you would say it with one "s" sound, spell it "Wilbers' column." You have to admit, that's good advice. It makes sense. It's simple.
And please don't accuse me of not knowing the difference between "it's" the contraction and "its" the possessive form of the pronoun. I mean, come on.
No, it wasn't any of those errors, but mine was just as basic and humiliating. I ... I dangled a modifier. There. I said it.
I wrote, "After years of studying language, their sentences flow as though they were created without effort" when I should have written, "After years of studying language, they write sentences that flow ...." The sentences didn't do the studying; the writers did the studying.
I'm so embarrassed. Maybe you'll hear from me next week; maybe you won't.