7 grammar mistakes that should be decriminalised (so that we can ride our bike more)

By Craig Richards, the Free Rider, 8 November

The most frequent reason I hear for people not riding their bike is, ‘I just don’t have enough time.’


The other day as I was riding home I had a brainwave. A plan to save everyone who works in an office type job 30 minutes a day that they could then spend riding their bike.

I warn you: you could find it disturbing. But please stay calm and read me out. The plan involves simplifying the pedantic grammar rules. I’m sure some of your eyes are twitching already.


It’s usually insulting to refer to someone as a hard line rule enforcer. But sadly many chests would swell with pride if you pinned a badge on it saying Grammar Gestapo or Punctuation Police or Spelling Stormtrooper. I wonder how many dinner time conversations go like this:

How was your day?

Well you wont believe what happened! I was proof reading Freds work and their were  mistakes all through it.


(stop twitching like Chief Inspector Dreyfus: its just a couple of little errors!)

I’d like to think people take pleasure in making a citizen’s punctuation arrest because they want to save their colleagues from being judged by vicious Grammar Gangs. Unfortunately, I fear it’s more to do with making them feel superior.

Now ask yourself this question: so what if you know a bunch of rules made up by some random for an unknown reason?

Now imagine all the time we’d save if we didn’t have to spend ages making sure our written work follows a confusing web of arbitrary rules or pointing out where someone else’s doesn’t? This is valuable time we could spend on something much more enjoyable…like going for a pedal!

I know there’s many who think good grammar is the bed rock of civilised society. The following selection of lists from googling common grammar mistakes shows how keen people are to be the fountain of all grammar knowledge:

25 of the most common grammatical errors

20 common grammar mistakes

5 most common grammatical errors

14 common grammatical mistakes in English

10 common grammar mistakes even smart people make

The 30 most common grammar mistakes (and how to avoid them)

15 grammar goofs that make you look silly

Why there are so many different numbers of common mistakes is a mystery as is whether the mistakes are ‘grammatical’ or ‘grammar’.

But consider this, some of the most influencial songs would never have become hits if the opening lines followed the rules of grammar. Why? Because the corrected opening lines suck big time. Here’s just 3 examples.

1. Me and many other love birds would’ve had to choose another wedding song if Billy Joel’s Mum had given Just the way you are the red pen treatment:

Awesome lyrics:      Don’t go changin’, to try and please me.

Sucky correction:     Don’t change to try and please me.


2. Lots of Aussies would not have a karaoke go to song if Michael Hutchence critical friend had given Never tear us apart the once over:

Awesome lyrics:      Don’t ask me, what you know is true.

Sucky correction:    Don’t ask me what’s true.


3. Millions of drunks would have nothing to scream out just before closing time if Jon Bon Jovi’s English teacher had corrected Livin’ on a prayer:

Awesome lyrics:      Tommy used to work on the docks.

Sucky correction::   Tommy worked at the docks.


Not yet convinced that grammar isn’t the key to life, well consider this statement:

           Ive cured canser, solved world piece and eradicated green house gas emisions.

If as I suspect 56% of the population would ignore the news and get out the red pen surely our priorities are misplaced and its time to end the grammar madness.

And now you’re almost on board, here’s comes the killer blow.


If we relax the rules, there’s much less chance of permanent disfigurement when tattoo artists make a slip of the needle.

So now your eye has stopped twitching and your mind is open, it’s time to reveal the big idea: the 7 simplified grammar rules we should live by.

  1. No more apostrophes: who cares if a words shortened, we know what it means. Also, its not vital to know who owns something in a sentence; whos going to steal it?
  2. Unite there, their and they’re into thair: it’ll cut down the thinking and given thair contains hair it’s a tribute to the rockin dos of the music legends up above.
  3. Merge affect and effect into iffect: most of the time effect is a noun and affect is a verb but sometimes that reverses. Well that’s not clear so lets give the kiwis a thrill and change it to iffect.
  4. Get rid of the three terrible 2s: having three ways to spell a word is a pain in the pants so lets just go with the number 2. Actually while I’m on a roll lets just get rid of all words that sound the same with more than one spelling.
  5. Simplify the pause punctuation: colons (:), semi-colons (;), dashes (–) goodbye to you. A full stop for a big breath and a comma for a small breath is all we need.
  6. Ditch capital letters: the start of a sentence is simple but the whole proper name thing gets pretty funky. is it Upper West Primary School or Upper West primary school? who cares. and it’s a pain typing in capitals anyway. in the bin with CAPITALS I SAY.
  7. farewell to silent letters: what’s all that about? glenn with two n’s, starting write with a w. stupid and easily dispatched.

sure itll take a bit to get used to riting this way but thairs a significant iffect 2 take in2 account.

report riting will be much quicker and proof reading will be easy. thairll be no judging others and no judging of us for something that really doesnt matter.

and the best thing is that for 30 minutes each day thousands of folks will have time to do something that really matters instead…hop on thair bike and enjoy life.

For seal3.png

ride and rite free!


You think you’re better than me?

By the Free Rider, Craig Richards, 21 October 2016

One of the most unfunny things I ever did was research what makes something funny. I learnt about a thing called superiority theory. It explains why we laugh when someone does something silly.

oxy-moronYou really shouldn’t laugh at this poor Oxymoron – or that awful pun.

The laughter comes because we wouldn’t do something that stupid. So we feel good because someone else is inferior. Pretty horrible isn’t it.

The human desire to compete with each other is deeply ingrained. There’s lots of organised activities, such as racing, where we can find out who is better instantly. Other times we organise our own activity and challenge someone to prove they’re better.


Although the challenge didnt work out so well for the super competitive Izzy Mandelbaum.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88M9-rBXubA

But often superiority isn’t proven by a contest. We’re so keen to find out who’s better we judge based on characteristics that often a person has little control over. A classic example is where you’re from.

I have the privilege of spending a fair bit of time trying to get people from around Australia to unite in a quest to transform Australia into a nation of bike riders. It’s a simple theory: with strength in numbers we’ll achieve more. But many days it’s an uphill climb, ‘We’ve got this, please go back to Melbourne.’

I’m not sure whether I’m lower in the pecking order when I’m seen as a mainlander, eastern stater or southerner? Yes it’s true, I was born and live in the State of Victoria. But other than being able to cope with the weather changing all the time, what does that prove about me?

Melb weather.png

The place of origin judgement is just as strong intrastate as interstate. Many years ago I worked in a prestigious law firm. When the big bosses found out which Melbourne suburb I lived in they said in disbelief, ‘That’s north of the Yarra isn’t it?’ I imagine the recruitment team’s eyebrows took months to grow back after the blast they got for letting me through the mahogany double doors.


The good news is place of origin judgements are not just an Australian thing. I went to New Zealand on hols recently. I naively thought the ANZAC spirit meant I’d be treated as a local. I came home with my ears ringing about Aussies stealing the pavlova from the Kiwis. Guess our great nation was built by convicts who stole a loaf of bread so we’d have no qualms about nicking a pav.


Does putting kiwi fruit on a Pavlova strengthen the New Zealanders’ claim? I’m not so sure when the kiwi fruit came from China.

When you do some deep dive desktop research (which I think means googling and not just looking at WikiPedia) into pavlova history, it all seems a little murky. It may not be an ANZAC invention: the Germans or Americans may be responsible. Anyway, I think the more interesting question is why would anyone name a messy pile of meringue, cream and fruit in honour of a Russian ballerina famous for impersonating a dying swan?

It was comforting to learn the Kiwis go just as hard at their own as they do at Aussies. There seemed great delight in calling people from Auckland Jafas.


No not the awesome warriors from another planet in Stargate or the roll down the aisle lolly (which is another thing New Zealanders say Aussies stole) but an acronym for – Just Another – something rude beginning with F – Aucklander.

Now here comes the plea for the week: rather than ranking a person based on their place of origin, take a few minutes to find their special qualities.

Of course their special qualities may have been shaped by where they come from. But remember you could get it wrong if you assumed everyone from the same place is the same. Such as if you assumed all warriors from another planet are determined (look into those eyes), everyone from the other side of the river is uncivilised and everyone who does something silly is sillier than you.

Ride Free!



If you judge a book by its cover

By the Free Rider Craig Richards, 6 October 2016

In October every year I think about a miracle. Because that’s the anniversary of meeting my wife. We met in Manhattan, well at the Stage 1 disco at the Manhattan Hotel in Ringwood…Melbourne… Australia.


This current photo doesn’t reflect how the Manhattan Hotel looked back in the 1980s… they’ve spruced the place up a lot since then.

For some reason, when our eyes met on the revolving dance floor she smiled at me while her friend scowled. Then came the most captivating conversation of my life and 30 years plus tax later…

So why did one woman judge me worthwhile while another looked at me like I should be sent to an island with others suffering the same affliction? There’s a theory that the first time you meet someone they’ll make up their mind about you after 7 seconds.

Of course this is a whole 2 seconds more than the 5 second rule that applies to food that’s dropped on the floor being safe to eat.


It’s worth knowing that a Nobel Prize winning study found out that the 5 second rule only applies when the floor is clean. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/5-second-rule-rules-sometimes-

But here’s the shock: the reality is we spend a lot less than 7 seconds sizing up a person. In fact, it’s quite a lot less: it’s 1/10th of a second according to some more research.

We continue to judge so quickly even though we often get it wrong. I remember taking an important client to the AFL Grand Final way back in 2004. As we made it to the seats I was worried to see we were sitting next to some Port Power fans. Tatts, multiple earrings, sleeveless jumpers and spikey mullet hairdos.  Behind us were business men in suits.

Well during the day the Port fans behaved impeccably. They ate sandwiches bought from home wrapped in grease proof paper. They cheered their team to victory. They never abused a single umpiring decision.

The suits behind us swore, spilled beer on us and were generally obnoxious. I’m ashamed to say my split second radar was way off. I’d fallen for the classic mistake of judging a book by its cover.

If you just looked at the picture on the cover of Hop on Pop it would be easy to jump to the conclusion it’s not suitable for children.


What can we possibly judge in 1/10th of a second? Surely all our mind can do is observe some basic characteristics and mix them with some pre-conceived prejudices to get a verdict?

I’m sad to say that bike riders seem as bad as anyone at book cover judging. I see it at the traffic lights every morning as I ride the Commuter Cup. People who think they’re quicker pass those waiting patiently and sneak further up the queue.

The carbon fibre crew take pole position. Closely followed by track standing hipsters with toe clips. Next comes the fluro vest and pannier brigade. Finally, me and the rest of the allsorts  are left to jostle for the places at the back of the grid.

But it’s a big assumption to make. There’s plenty of all the gear no idea warriors out there. Just as there’s plenty of shabby looking folks who can make a hard rubbish clunker sing. Appearances don’t always reveal who’s going to struggle and who’s going to cruise.


I know you’re busy. I know you don’t have time to find the good in everyone. I know you’re conditioned to judge the book by its cover in 1/10th of a second.

But just maybe bike riders can lead the way when we judge each other. Rather than just sorting the worthy from unworthy in a split second we can start by reserving judgement and not judging other riders so quickly.


Despite her obvious obnoxiousness the super perceptive Willie Wonker gave Veruca Salt until half way through the movie before allowing a final ruling to be given.

Then when we master waiting, we can go further and start from the position that everyone is a good egg (until they prove otherwise).

Oh and one last thing, if you think your 1/10th of a second radar is never wrong, try this exercise of judging books by their covers. http://playjudgey.com/   If you don’t get them all right, might be time to lengthen your judging time.

Ride free!


Does your job define you?

By The Free Rider, Craig Richards,  21 September 2016

What do you do for a living? It’s the classic barbecue ice-breaker question. It seems a good place to start. I read somewhere acting being genuinely interested in others is a great way to build rapport.


Just google rapport and you’ll see lots of photos like this where acting genuinely intersted has  clearly worked absolute wonders.

In reality, when we find out what someone does for a job we often make a snap judgement. We slot them into the square box of characteristics that all people who do that type of work possess.


 In Coming to America successful Restauranteur Leo McDowell made the classic mistake of judging someone by their job when he thought Prince of Zamunda Akeem was a cleaner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29wNCH4RBrk

 Oh and here’s a disturbing summary of what your job says about you according to an urban dictionary – which must be different to a regional and rural dictionary.

Back in the 1990s my barbecue ice-breaker answer was ‘lawyer’. It always brought sneering judgement. Lawyer jokes were on trend (although that phrase wasn’t because it hadn’t been invented yet). Instead of being judged as part of a respected profession, I was tagged as money hungry, self-centred and untrustworthy.


 Surely this breaches discrimination laws and lawyers could form a class action and sue.

Desperation not to be judged harshly by our profession sees some people go to extremes. Who can forget (unless you’ve never seen the movie) when Romy and Michelle were so desperate to impress the sanctimonious (I’ve always wanted to use that word) judgers at their high school reunion they made up that they invented post it notes – which is surely one of the greatest stationery inventions ever.


Sadly, my house isn’t in order with judging people by their jobs. As a young man with a smart mouth I made a quip in year 7 art class that art is not for brainy people. I’m assuming this got talked about in the staff room as the next day Mr Mac the science teacher tore me a fresh one.


 This of course is not Mr Mac but he did have crazy Jack Nicholson eyes when he gave me both barrels.

His dressing down ended with, ‘MY WIFE’S AN ART TEACHER AND I CAN ASSURE YOU SHE’S VERY BRAINY!’ So here’s a long overdue apology to my art teacher Mrs Ryan and to Mrs Mac – I’m sorry for being such a judgmental twit.

Because you’re probably starting to drift off I’d better get onto bike riders. Well here’s the point: there’s a great advantage to wearing lycra. Over the years I’ve seen lots of people in skin tight clothes become friends without knowing what each other does for a living. They bond over their mutual love of pedaling and slightly unnatural love for 7.2 kilograms of carbon.

The lycra signals they have something in common and by the time they find out what each other does for a living they’re already kindred spirits. So in bike world we see million dollar a year foreign exchange hedge fund traders (excuse me if that’s not a real job) happily hanging out with self employed battlers (I know this is a real job because I’ve been one).


 It worked wonders for tow truck driver Darryl and imminent QC Laurie who became kindred spirits in the wonderful movie The Castle.

 A lucky few find their calling in their work from day dot. They find something they love, that they believe in and they do it with great passion.

The rest of us just stumble into a job because we’re not sure what to do and we need to pay the bills. We only find out when we’re in there whether it touches our soul.

Some of us eventually find our calling in our work (lucky me!). But others never do and find a life outside of what they do for a living (thank civil rights activist Maya Angelou for that beautiful phrase).

The message is that for some people their job defines them. For others it doesn’t. So rather than judge people when you hear their job title, take the time to find out if it’s their calling and if it is find out how they go about it.

And when it comes to a barbecue ice-breaker question, maybe What do you do for a living? is not the best place to start. It’s highly unlikely you’ll do the same job so fish around and find a passion you have in common. Of course, if you’re the only two people at the barbie wearing lycra, I’m sure you’ll be kindred spirits in no time.

Ride Free!