Archive for the ‘vonnegut’ tag
As I read a lot of news Web sites, blogs and magazines, it’s not hard to spot instances of bad grammar or punctuation, even in sources that should have a firm grasp of rudimentary punctuation rules, such as using a comma to join two independent clauses (A subject and verb on both sides of “and” or “but” consist of two sentences that could, in theory, standalone. Without a comma, such a conjoined sentence becomes a run-on sentence.)
But then again, I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to errors in printed type. Of course, saying that opens the way for someone to nitpick every sentence I’ve written sleepy and after midnight since 2008. I understand that we’re all human, but it really is distracting seeing stuff like “Jones said he lost his job, because he had a disagreement with his boss.” So, here are a few of the more common errors that I find in general writing and from sources which should know better. I should keep a running list — like this delightful site — but I’m afraid I would need a completely separate blog. If you’re curious, here are some basics.
- Because — No comma before “because” ever. Ever. Ever. Why? Because it looks hideous and doesn’t make any sense. And because the writing gods say so.
- And and or — Use a comma before “and” or “or” if two complete sentences appear on both sides of “and” or “or.” That means a subject and verb. Don’t use a comma if one clause is independent and the other is dependent (not a complete sentence on its own). This one is serious.
- Their, they’re, there — “Their” is a pronoun. “They’re” is “they are.” Even more serious.
- Its, it’s — “Its” is a pronoun. “It’s” is “it is.” Super-cereal serious.
- Whose, who’s — “Whose” is an adjective or pronoun. “Who’s” is “who is.” Falls into the cereal category of serious.
- Which, witch, bomb, baum, bow, beau, bough, bear, bare, hour, our, sell, sale, cent, scent, break, brake, seem, seam, etc. — Examples of English language debris.
- ! — Use once or twice in your lifetime. That’s your limit.
- , — Most misunderstood, misused, abused and mangled mark in the history of written language.
- ; — Most useless mark in the history of written language and what smart people use when they want to feel smarter. Or, as Kurt Vonnegut said: “If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts. But do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites, standing for absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
- — — Denotes a sudden break in thought inside a sentence. I have this one — this is my favorite punctuation mark — down pat! I just reached my exclamation mark limit for the next 50 years.
- () — Denotes extra information inside a sentence that could be excluded but is included anyway because the writer, in all his language prowess (See Faulkner and Milton, the latter of whom often included entire paragraphs of parenthetical text inside a single sentence. Now that’s talent! … [Lifetime exclamation quota met.]), seeks to make his text as belabored, chunky and hard to muddle through as possible.
There’s more, of course — for the record, starting a sentence with “there” or “its” is lazy writing — but I wore myself out on that last bullet point, thus the lazy writing. For your amusement, here’s one case of many in which an ill-placed apostrophe can be weep-inducing … or funny. Take your pick.
Welp, folks, I just renewed the registration on this domain for another year. I had a free credit somehow or another, so it didn’t cost anything, and as an added bonus, you get to see me babble for another year! I know you couldn’t be happier.
I was watching a Christopher Hitchens interview today from 2002 (I know, I apologize. I keep harping on this crass Englishman, but I’m fascinated with the guy.) Anyway, he was saying that at some point in his life, he came to realize that he was a born writer and that he really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. That the career of writing was really decided for him, not by him. And that struck me as something I could relate to.
English was the last gasp. I did not know what I would do with an English major, even after graduating college. I just took the wise words of a professor of mine. He told me to just study what you enjoy. And I did enjoy that, at least. I was inspired by John Milton, Shelley, Keats, Emily Dickson, Bronte, and others, and later, Thomas Wolfe, Jack Miles, Stanley Fish, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck and others. I had early aspirations of going on to becoming an English professor. This would, of course, require graduate school somewhere other than Clemson. And in order to stay closer to my family and friends, I declined that option and started working at a retail store in Clemson to make ends meet. But we’re getting bogged down. To make it short, a journalism instructor at Clemson University (S.C.) saw something in me, I suppose, and gave me a favorable recommendation, thus allowing me to get an interview with a local newspaper in Clayton, Ga.
My future aspirations would lead further than this blog and my current position. I would like to do some writing for a major magazine on the topic of either politics or religion or history … or perhaps, a well-read online publication, by way of a weekly or monthly column, if the opportunity ever presented itself.
But back to writing as a career. I think at some point in the latter part of 2007-08, I came to the realization that a writer is what I am, like Hitchens and others. I think before then, I was just trying to scratch by, have fun and the like. Although, I was attempting to write some (bad) poetry and fiction in high school, so the interest was there early on.
Today, I take a certain pleasure when I am in the company of fellow writers, like the editor at the paper for which I work. And I don’t mean pulp fiction writers who crank out 10 novels a day. Those folks aren’t writers; they are entertainers. I mean people who appreciate the language and have something meaingful to say through it, like Milton, Wolfe, Paine, Locke, Vonnegut and others.
At the expense of this getting too long and to catalog the renewal of the domain name and this site for another year, here are 15 of my favorite posts from the last year and four months, beginning in May 2008. Thanks for reading!