Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For grammar grumps

I have my pet peeves when it comes to grammar and punctuation. I am a fan of Lynne Truss and I have passed on my enthusiasm to our daughter. She has been know to use "The Panda says no" stickers when she sees a misplaced apostrophe. But I have to admit I am sloppy sometimes in my writing and I am always willing to improve so I found the NY Times article, Tangled Passages, on some points of "grammar, usage and style" of interest. The author (Phillip E. Corbett) gives several examples of confusing style. I think avoiding this is so instinctual that good writers don't even notice. I don't agree in some ways about the long sentences with phrases. Perhaps it is not the best style for newspaper articles but sometimes longer sentences with complex phrasing can be quite understandable to a well read person. I do agree with him about having too many commas. I like to use them only when they are absolutely needed; as a result I probably use them too little. He makes some good points about hyphens being used inappropriately.

Mr. Rattner and other government officials have repeatedly said they have no interest in running the company day-to-day.

If the phrase were used as a modifier before a noun — “day-to-day operations” — then we’d use hyphens, as in “door-to-door” above. They hold the modifier together and make it easier to read. But in an adverbial phrase like this after the verb, there’s no need.

He gives other examples of bad style, some nice reminders to keep our writing neat and tidy.


jodi said...

My children write so much better than I do - better grammar teachers. And they know the parts of speech better also and can explain rules with no problems.

canary said...

That is encouraging. Ours learned grammar rules also but mostly from learning other languages - Spanish, French !

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)