A Great Read from Paul B. on the UK Board. [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: A Great Read from Paul B. on the UK Board.

12-01-2003, 11:33 PM
Punctuation? I'm trying to give it up
Thread started on: 12/01/2003 at 19:17:59

Panda -- eats, shoots and leaves. Anti-social little devil.

Reminds me of a Welsh pal -- economical with the dots and the dashes, he might be, but you still get his point.

Pay attention: it's important!

Daily Telegraph, 24/11/2003

Oliver Pritchett reviews Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

I have always had a great affection for the semicolon; it has a certain discreet charm. On the other hand, there is just one word to describe the colon: bossy. A colon says: "Pay attention, this next bit is really important." If the colon is a fanfare, the semicolon is more like a polite cough. It is a nasty shock to discover that it has enemies. Gertrude Stein, who might, in her time, have been considered a bit of a bossyboots herself, suggested that semicolons were simply commas with pretensions.

Others have even claimed that semicolons were middle class. (I was tempted to put an exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence to draw attention to the absurdity of the notion, but good manners restrained me.) As Lynne Truss says in this witty, clear-headed and altogether enchanting book, "If they are middle class, I'm a serviette."

This is not just another of those grammarians' gripes about greengrocers, and, in spite of the reference in the title to zero tolerance, Lynne Truss remains utterly good-natured throughout. She says she is not a pedant, but a stickler - which is a description that many of us would be happy to adopt. She does say that people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place, when they ought to know better, deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave, but it's probably mostly in fun. Although she is given to the occasional expression of fierce bravado, I suspect that she is civil to her greengrocer.

This is a celebration of punctuation, full of jokes and anecdotes and information. It also introduces us to a new hero, and, as a fitting act of deference, I am going to put down a colon before writing his name: Aldus Manutius the Elder. This Venetian printer, who lived from 1450 to 1515, was the inventor of the italic typeface and also the first to use the semicolon.

I should mention that Eats, Shoots and Leaves is also extremely helpful to anyone who is looking for guidance about commas, brackets, dashes and the rest of them, and who is perhaps intimidated by the whole business. Most of all, it makes you love punctuation; you want to conserve what is still left and perhaps even call for more of it. Is it time to campaign for the British to adopt the Spanish upside-down question mark, which appears as an advance warning of a sentence with a query in it? Should we demand more tildes?

Reading this book put me in such a good mood that I came close to taking a wishy-washy liberal view and almost forgiving the people who use that modern punctuation atrocity, the "forward slash". This is the one that is so beloved by presenters of Radio 4 programmes when they nag you to visit their website. It makes me feel like hurling potato's (sic) at the radio.

12-02-2003, 09:37 AM
Yes, Fred, that is a great read.

I internally cringe everytime I read the posts - grossly misspelled words, butchered English, etcetera.

What ever HAPPENED to good grammar?

I guess it is just another casualty of our "modern" education system.


Dble Haul
12-02-2003, 10:23 AM
I think that a great deal of the poor grammar and punctuation in the younger generation today stems from instant messaging, where kids abbreviate and shortcut their way through sentences in order to keep up with the conversations online.

That being said, I have known a few of these younger individuals who claim that they rightly know the correct use of our language, and that they can turn the IM lingo on and off at will. This has not always been the case....I've read their written words, and the IM habits almost always appear (lack of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling mistakes). Can they really expect to do things correctly when their constantly taking shortcuts?

It's a rhetorical question, but one worth consideration.

I like the piece you've posted, Fred. And I have to agree with both of you.

Stepping off my soapbox now....:p

12-02-2003, 10:38 AM

Willie Gunn added this 'connect' to the UK board thread.

12-02-2003, 03:30 PM


One of the most glaring lacks I noticed in students, when I was teaching at a local community college, was the terrible grammar of nearly every student under the age of 35. They even got angry with me for marking up their incorrect grammer on the papers they were required to do in my classes.

This is a very widespread problem and their have been many articles in the "Chronicles of Higher Education" about the very poor grammer of a huge proportion of college students. I've seen research articles that had a full 85% of college freshman having attrocious grammar. One of the most surprising things has been that business has been saying the two biggest problems they have with new college graduates are: 1) poor grammar; and 2) an inability to think critically.

I even had some students who had earned BS degrees and were retraining as nurses because they did not like the fields they had gone into who had very poor grammer. It amazes me how someone could graduate from a college or university with a BS or BA degree and not be able to write a grammatically correct paragraph.

Willie Gunn
12-02-2003, 03:36 PM
Now is the season to see those Xmas tree's for sale signs at the side of farm roads. The two things that realy iritate me.

12-02-2003, 04:32 PM
My wife was an English major at university and goes ballistic at the slightest gramatical transgression. Living in the US has been a challenge for her :devil:

It brings back memories of an incident in the car park of a fishing hotel back in the U.K. when an unfortunate electrical contractor blocked our car in the car park. My wife flew outside whilst I remained in the safety of the hotel bar to watch the inevitable altercation. I felt very sorry for the driver of the van, he didn't stand a chance. You see, the fact that he had blocked our car in was irrelevant, we weren't going anywhere. But the spelling mistake on his truck's painted sign led to a very severe dressing-down which left the poor chap completely speechless.

I should add that she never sees any of my posts :D

p.s. great idea for an Xmas stocking filler !!