Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Color Outside the Lines

Grammatically, should of is a predatory admonition; as such, it is always used as part of a herpetological phrase. ~~Dave Barry

I read Dave Barry's quote, above, as a sort of knock against guerilla grammarians (grammar nazis?) who insist that all rules of grammar which were in place when said grammarian learned grammar must be followed, Perfectly. And. Never. Departed. From. Ever. Ever. Ever.

To them I say: Fiddle Faddle. B-O-L-O-G-N-A. Stuff 'n such.

By so asserting, said people negate a primary force of wordstuff, which is the migration of language. Which, by default, includes a migration of the rules which govern the constructing of sentences.

So, when I was a kid, I learned that one puts a comma after every item on a list. The four things which most interest me about writing are words, stories, publishing, and potentially making money. For instance. Today's convention is to leave off the final comma, in front of 'and'. I dunno why, or who made the change in convention, but frankly, the sentence makes sense without it, and I really care not, as long as I do that which facilitates communication.

Also, I learned that one MUST put two spaces after a period in a manuscript or in any business communication. It is my understanding that this is a typography convention, and in this day of insta-documents , the convention once used to really make sure someone knew you were at the end of a sentence is no longer valid. One space is fine. I still use two, because the muscle memory is so ingrained in me that I cannot do otherwise, but at some point I bet someone will start telling me I am wrong to do it.

Finally, the rules I learned pre-date the internet, chat, and text as common forms of communication. I've heard many an adult bemoan the fact that young people today write in a pidgin language, comprised of misspellings, single letter substitutions, and unintelligible acronyms. OMW, r u thr yt? Further I have heard that these forms have found their way into formal writing, such as classroom writing assignments. I am torn on this subject, having used certain of these forms myself, and having received many a text from the wretched teen employing same.

Perhaps the bottom line for me is whether or not communication is taking place. If it is taking place, then really there is nothing to snit about. Unless one is just a fan of snitting, or one plans on being one of those older folks who sits around deludedly reminiscing about the days in which things were perfect. Having said that, there is space to differentiate between formal writing and that which we use to communicate with pals -- slang versus the book stuff, and yeah, formal writing should likely employ the latter over the former. And there is much merit in learning the rules, and learning them well, in order to be able to toss them about and use them (and depart from them) with deliberation.

I wonder though what the wretched teen and his ilk would produce if not restricted to the formal version of language, and were instead set free to play with form and word and structure irrespective of the rules, and I posit that in fact we will soon see literature (whether or not you call it that) produced using the new conventions to great effect. In fact, I seem to recall hearing about a YA novel written entirely in text messages, so I guess it's already happened.

wd i lie 2 u? c 4 yrself.

At any rate, there are much larger, much more important things in the world to worry about than how grammatically correct someone's Facebook Status Update is, or whether it's okay to shorten words to single letters or numbers.

Of course, I still reserve the right to get snitty when people write loose when they mean lose, or lead when they mean led. Or your when they mean you're. Why? Because it's my blog, darnit. So there.


The Final Snippet: Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver. (no explanation)

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