The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—

–  Emily Dickinson

The brain is a fascinating place.

I before E except after C or when sounding like A, as in neighbor or weigh.

When speaking about family members, use a capital letter if the word is standing in as the person’s name (making them a proper noun). Otherwise, don’t capitalize; they’re common nouns.

E.g. My dad gave me the keys only after I gave him my phone.
Before he would give me the keys, Dad insisted I hand over my phone.

That rule is true of Earth/earth, too.
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
The astronauts landed safely back on Earth.

Yesterday I lost my keys. Between coming back from the grocery store Sunday and trying to leave for work Monday, they walked away. For all my backtracking, all my mental imaging, all my checking every location twice, they simply weren’t there. I could. not. remember. where I’d left them. (They were in the car. Duh.)

But oh, would you like to know a bunch of random grammar, punctuation, and usage rules that I have memorized and could recite in my sleep? I’m here to please.

The plural of editor in chief is editors in chief. Same with mothers in law. Or secretaries of state.

Two independent clauses must be joined by either a comma + a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) or by a semicolon. Alternately, they can be separated into two sentences.

A sentence containing a dependent clause followed by an independent one needs a comma to separate them. Switch the clause order and the comma is no longer necessary.

To correctly spell the word separate every time, remember that if you write seperate, you’re committing an error.

My short-term memory is abysmal. In the time it takes me to travel from the kitchen to my room, I’ve forgotten why I needed to go there. What time does the concert start? Let’s check the website. Oh right, 7:30. Better put that in my calendar. Okay, so concert…September 23…Wait…what did the webpage say? Sigh. You need a copy of last night’s homework, dear student? You’d better remind me again in thirty seconds because that’s how long it’ll take me to walk to my desk and forget.

The smell of the basement office my dad worked in when I was in elementary school and the taste of the water from the drinking fountain there? I can pull it up at the drop of a hat. The name of the restaurant we ate at in Seattle this April? Not a chance. My childhood best friend’s birthday? October 17. How old am I? …Twenty-sev-six.

When dealing with where punctuation goes in relation to quotation marks, follow these simple rules.

  1. Dashes, semicolons, and colons always go outside the quotation mark. E.g. My favorite song is “Don’t Stop Believing”; it always pumps me up.
  2. Question marks and exclamation points go inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quotation (E.g. “Who’s on first?” he asked.) They go outside the quotation marks if they are not part of what’s being quoted. (E.g. Have you ever heard the song “Say My Name”?)

  3. Other than rules 1 and 2, punctuation goes inside the quotation mark. Like, always.

Parentheses work differently. If the words inside your parentheses form a complete sentence, the end punctuation goes inside the parenthesis. If the parenthetical information is just an addendum that isn’t a full sentence, the punctuation goes outside.

E.g. Harry pretended to tip the Felix Felicis potion into Ron’s pumpkin juice (and received a withering look from Hermione).
As Harry tipped the potion into Ron’s cup, Hermione shot him a withering glance. (Cheating was against the rules, of course, and Hermione dearly loved rules.)

Research suggests that the brain can hold 2.5 petabytes (2.5 million gigabytes) of information. That’s three hundred years of television. The brain has about one billion neurons, and each connects to one thousand other neurons. That’s three trillion connections. Babies can remember sounds they heard in the womb. The brain can process a visual image in 13 milliseconds. Yet I can’t seem to harness this boundless power to write philosophy or remember what aisle the canned fruit is in or listen closely to enough to remember someone’s prayer request.

Wider than the sky, deeper than the sea, fearfully and wonderfully made and full of mystery. Capable of detailed memory, empathic emotion, rote cruelty, creeping doubt, and guileless faith. The weight of God.

Abby Zwart
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.

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