Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

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tl;dr? Not for a semicolon lover.

If you’re a semicolon kind of guy (or gal), you’re not alone: Ben Dolnick, writing in the New York Times, tells the story of his love affair with that much-misused punctuation mark: My disdain for semicolons outlasted my devotion to Vonnegut. Well into college I avoided them, trusting in the keyboard’s adjacent, unpretentious comma and period to divvy up my thoughts. I imagined that, decades hence, if some bright-eyed teenager were to ask me for advice, I’d pass Vonnegut’s prohibition right along, minus the troublesome bit about transvestites and hermaphrodites. By now I’d come across Isaac Babel’s famous description of […]

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What your favorite punctuation mark says about you

A friend of mine once admitted to being obsessed with dashes. She said it like she was admitting to a clandestine affair–bashfully yet boldly: “I LOVE the dash.” When she said that, I felt a pang of jealousy. For I, too, love the dash, and I am not good at sharing things I love. Perhaps you, too, adore a particular piece of punctuation: the workhorse comma, the sophisticated semicolon, the much-maligned interrobang. Author Leah Petersen (via) offers a humorous guide to what this favorite punctuation mark says about you: Period (.): Type A personality. You are decisive and clear. You […]

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Brief is beautiful

Over on the Wall Street Journal’s newly-launched Book Review, Alexander McCall Smith laments the pitfalls of overwriting in “Block that Adjective!” Smith writes: Concise prose knows what it wants to say, and says it. It does not embellish, except occasionally, and then for dramatic effect. It is sparing in its use of metaphor. And it is certainly careful in its use of adjectives. Look at the King James Bible, that magnificent repository of English at the height of its beauty. The language used to describe the creation of the world is so simple, so direct. “Let there be light, and […]

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The Rise of the "Jumper Colon"

As a former professional proofreader, self-proclaimed punctuation nerd, and admitted colon addict, I was delighted to stumble across Conor J. Dillon’s essay on the uses of colons in prose. The whole thing is worth quoting, but here’s a snippet: A new colon is on the march. For now let’s call it the “jumper colon”. For grammarians, it’s a dependent clause + colon + just about anything, incorporating any and all elements of the other four colons, yet differing crucially in that its pre-colon segment is always a dependent clause. (Yikes.) For everyone else: its usefulness lies in that it lifts […]

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apostrophes banned in Birmingham

This sounds like an Onion article. It’s not. From now on, no sign produced by Birmingham City Council will contain the punctuation mark. Debates over whether Kings Norton really should be King’s – or even Kings’ – Norton may rage on, but they will be useless. And nearby Druids Heath – which was never actually home to one, let alone many, druids – will never take on the possessive, no matter how furious local apostrophe advocates become. The council said the move had been taken for the purposes of consistency and to avoid costs and confusion over whether place names […]