Wednesday, July 14, 2010

 An editorial by George L. Trigg in Physics Review Letters, (Volume 42, Issue 12, pp. 747-748, 19 March 1979).

"I will not go down to posterity talking bad grammar."
- Benjamin Disraeli

It is said that back in the 1940's, the following message was prominently displayed at the front of the main chemistry lecture hall at a major university:

"The English language is your most versatile scientific instrument. Learn to use it with precision."

In the intervening years, the teaching of proper grammar in the public elementary and high schools fell into disfavor. The inevitable result is that manuscripts submitted to us are often full of grammatical errors, which their authors probably do not even recognize (and often would not care about if they did).

We regard this state of affairs as deplorable, and we want to do something about it. For many years we have tried to correct the grammar of papers that we publish. This is toilsome at best, and sometimes entails rather substantial rephrasing. It would obviously be preferable to have authors use correct grammar in the first place. The problem is how to get them to do it.

One fairly effective way is to provide examples of what not to do; it is particularly helpful if the examples are humorous. We have recently seen several lists of grammatical examples of this type. A few weeks ago we found taped to a colleague's office door the most complete one we have seen. (He tells us it was passed out in a class of Darthmouth - not in English - at the time a term paper was assigned). We reproduce it here in the hope that it will have some effect.

1. Make sure each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
2. Just between you and I, the case of pronoun is important.
3. Watch out for irregular verbs which have crope into English.
4. Verbs has to agree in number with their subjects.
5. Don't use no double negatives.
6. Being bad grammar, a writer should not use dangling modifiers.
7. Join clauses good like a conjunction should.
8. A writer must be not shift your point of view.
9. About sentence fragments.
10. Don't use run-on sentences you got to punctuate them.
11. In letters essays and reports use commas to separate items in series.
12. Don't use commas, which are not necessary.
13. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
14. Its important to use apostrophes right in everybodys writing.
15. Don't abbrev.
16. Check to see if you any words out.
17. In the case of a report, check to see that jargonwise, it's A-OK.
18. As far as incomplete constructions, they are wrong.
19. About repetition, the repetition of a word might be real effective repetition - take, for instance the repetition of Abraham Lincoln.
20. In my opinion, I think that an author when he is writing should definitely not get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that he does not really need in order to put his message across.
21. Use parallel construction not only to be concise but also clarify.
22. It behooves us all to avoid archaic expressions.
23. Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and ought to be weeded out.
24. Consult the dictionery to avoid mispelings.
25. To ignorantly split an infinitive is a practice to religiously avoid.
26. Last but not least, lay off cliches.

An editorial by George L. Trigg in Physics Review Letters, (Volume 42, Issue 12, pp. 747-748, 19 March 1979).

For a one-page printable version of this post to pin up on your bulletin board, go here: Grammar -- Printable Version

Don't Leave Yet! More Stuff Ahead ...

The first time I read this it drove me nuts; I wanted to correct Mr. Trigg's humorous examples of bad grammar. Even as we speak I am all too aware that you the reader are now watching to see If I make some type of error in this post. Isn't that a kick in the Irony Pants? You won't find any though. I am never more vigilant about bad grammar then when writing a post about it.

A lot of times bad grammar does tick me off; I see it everywhere I go. Restaurant signs, newspaper columns (even a HEADLINE was botched a few times, deplorable) and it's not so much the human speak that bugs me, but the people who make the signs and write the newspapers, they should know better, shouldn't they? And If you're going to pay out a pile of dough for a sign for your Restaurant, shouldn't you do a little spell checking?

The reason I don't bug people about their atrocious grammar is because it just exasperates me, and what the heck, it makes people more colorful doesn't it? And If I went the route of chastising these people for not speaking the Queen's English I guess I'd have no friends left. This role of Grammar Cop usually leads to blow-back: I'd have to speak with the guile of a master elocutionist ever after so these phonetic manglers couldn't get back at me for mispronouncing the word 'affidavit' or leaving a participle dangling. Also, correcting someone's grammar in the middle of a conversation is just bad form and will only make you look like an elitist asshole. Better to write down said person's grammatical indiscretions and send them in a polite email far from flying fists and harsh language.

Time for me to stop talking and show you some examples of bad grammar that drive me absolutely batty. Some are funny, and some ... well ... as Chuck Jones says, "... they'll leave linguists swooning in phonetic horror ..."

(Note: This post was written under extreme duress due to the subject matter and any glaring typos or grammatical errors are in fact attributed to mischievous elves who on occasion open up my files during the night and purposely hack up my docs. Carry on my wayward reader ...)

Okay, this may not count as a grammatical error; more of a bone-head mistake.

Just because we make signs doesn't mean we have to be grammatically precise or anything! Chee whiz!

To a wandering astrophysicist this road sign may mean the secret to time travel has finally been discovered!

Not picking on McDonald's here but ... that sign's not gonna sell too many burgers.

That's what yah get for cutting back on proof-readers!

You heard Mayor Stranczec! No Excetions!

Heath Isurance? really?

Grammar and tpyos are a crime! (this one SOUNDS correct at first, but it's dubious ...)

Thanks for playing ...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Den Gets a Paint Job

"Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." ༺༻ Mark Twain

Hey all, I know I've been away for a while, couple weeks, but I had been contemplating changes to the old site and took some time to work on things. I needed new scenery, a new place to bring you my particular brand of wordiness. Hope you like!

Anyhow, Stay tuned for more stuff here at the Den, my life, my love; my pursuit of writing. For now, here's a few nuggets of wisdom on writing from some of my literary pals:

❝If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.❞ ༺༻ Ray Bradbury

❝The novel is an event in consciousness. Our aim isn't to copy actuality, but to modify and recreate our sense of it. The novelist is inviting the reader to watch a performance in his own brain.❞ ༺༻ George Buchanan

❝Writing wasn’t easy to start. After I finally did it, I realized it was the most direct contact possible with the part of myself I thought I had lost, and which I constantly find new things from. Writing also includes the possibility of living many lives as well as living in any time or world possible. I can satisfy my enthusiasm for research, but jump like a calf outside the strict boundaries of science. I can speak about things that are important to me and somebody listens. It’s wonderful!❞ ༺༻ Virpi Hämeen-Anttila

❝Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.❞ ༺༻ Barbara Kingsolver

❝Are we, who want to create, in some way especially talented people? Or has everybody else simply given up, either by pressures of modesty or laziness, and closed their ears from their inner need to create, until that need has died, forgotten and abandoned? When you look at children, you start to think the latter. I still haven't met a child who doesn't love - or who at least hasn't loved - drawing, writing or some other creative activity.❞ ༺༻ Natalia Laurila

❝Like everyone else, I am going to die. But the words – the words live on for as long as there are readers to see them, audiences to hear them. It is immortality by proxy. It is not really a bad deal, all things considered.❞ ༺༻ J. Michael Straczynski

❝I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.❞ ༺༻ Brenda Ueland

❝Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer - and if so, why? ❞ ༺༻ Bennett Cerf

❝Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven't been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.❞ ༺༻ Harlan Ellison

❝People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.❞ ༺༻ Harlan Ellison

❝It's tougher than Himalayan yak jerky in January. But, as any creative person will tell you, there are days when there's absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing.❞ ༺༻ Richard Krzemien

Thanks for playing! Come again soon, and .... keep scribbling.

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