Penitent Dr. LG: Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
Reproachful Priest: How long has it been since your last confession?
Penitent Dr. LG: Uh… well… it’s been a while.
Reproachful Priest: That is okay, my son. Tell me of your sins.
Penitent Dr. LG:
Oh Father my sins are many. I have tried to serve as a language maven but I have given misguided directions to my followers. I have instructed them in better writing and diction but I have fallen victim to doubts and uncertainty. I am beckoned by the siren calls of language change against which I have asked them to resist. Not only that, these ideas seem to me quite normal and ones that should be incorporated into modern writing in place of their more stylistic but perhaps dated earlier forms.
Reproachful Priest: ?
Penitent Dr. LG: Let me give you some examples of my transgressions. I speak of the Oxford comma, the placement of quotation marks inside punctuation marks, and the split infinitive.
Reproachful Priest: ??
Penitent Dr. LG:
I’ll start with the Oxford comma. As you may know, the Oxford comma (also called the Harvard comma or serial comma) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (usually and, or, or nor) in a series of three or more terms. For example, we may punctuate three items as “A, B, and C” (with the serial comma) or “A, B and C” (without the serial comma). Long have I railed against the use of the serial comma as unnecessary. While the Associated Press Stylebook advises against it, many other style guides like The Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual advocate its use. How can I disagree with such an auspicious group?1
1 portions excerpted from Wikipedia
Then there is the placement of punctuation marks outside of quotation marks. I have been told that “periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, even inside single quotes.” Yet, fewer and fewer writers do this and I have a hard time explaining why they should. Isn’t it easier to let the quotation marks set off the quoted or emphasized phrase and then end with the terminating punctuation mark? Oh I fear these voices.
These same voices tell me that it matters not that I split my infinitives! Is it any improvement or difference, they say, “to go boldy” than “to boldy go” where no writer has gone before? The evil voices are winning, Father, they are winning.
Oh and I don’t even want to tell you how I refuse to give up the long-established habit of placing two spaces instead of one between sentences. I know it’s wasteful of space but I cannot help but believe it gives better readability and I’m here to confess these and many other sins too numerous to mention.
Reproachful Priest: [After a long pause] I believe that you are at the wrong confessional, my son.
Penitent Dr. LG: Well, did I confess to you about how I once thought that Steven Seagal was a good actor?
Reproachful Priest: I’m listening…
The tidal flow of politics and current events having inundated me to the point of exhaustion and inspired me to change my direction, I have somehow stumbled upon your confessional here, Curmie. (May I call you that? I feel I already know you, for your sins are so like mine! My name is Jim and I am a serial comma abuser. Hi, Jim!) Oops. Ought that be . . . )! ? Help. Where’s Tom Lehrer when you need him?
Here’s Tom Lehrer just for you:
😆 It’s elementary, my dear Curmie!
I kept thinking how you would enjoy talking to my grammar obsessed mother. I absolutely enjoyed reading your witty remarks. Thanks for making me smile today. 🙂
Oh,no! I made someone smile: what did I do wrong?
Thanks for enjoying the post.
I believe the upside to getting older, for me, is that I have forgotten many of these rules (if in fact I ever knew them) and I no longer care all that much anyhow – which leaves me happily writing whatever pops into my head, with no concern whatsoever about much of what you seem to understand so well! (I guess that is why most of my blog is just photos and yours is good writing.)
My blog’s real intent is complaining, guilt and regrets. I try not to let good writing get in the way.
Alright … I confess using both the serial comma and one space between sentences.
Meanwhile, for your punishment, an interesting read.
How did I miss this book? It will be added to the Library.
I enjoyed it!!!!
I feel pretty good after reading this. This dyslexic has come a long way.
I employ the Oxford comma – Check
I use two spaces between sentences – Check
I punctuate inside the quotation marks. (It would go against my aesthetic to place them outside.) – Check
I must confess, though, that I split my infinitives. I must also confess that I had to look up the word, Infinitive. Lol! (Does it sound better to say, “I also must confess?” ) I believe I split them because I am the most awkward of writers. This is why I go back to proof read, and even then, I sometimes miss the opportunity to make things sound better.
Oh God, are you correcting this comment? 😉
No, but for absolution you must say ten Hail Marys and read The Elements of Style.
They’ll have to pry the space bar from under my cold, dead thumb. Period. Space. Space.
…said Charlton Heston, the linguist. Space. Space.
Honestly I’m almost scared to write a comment here. Because of my stumbling English. I feel like a pagan who’s stepping into a temple during a cerimony. It’s a while since I’ve been lurking (and enjoying) this blog, always fighting the temptation to write down something, but today I can’t resist. It’s a pleasure to read you. Indeed.
All comments are welcome and thank you for your remarks. WordPress has not yet created a “markup pen” capability so your comments are safe.
You rail against the use of the serial comma? That very loud popping noise you just heard was my bubble bursting. Sigh. If you were in the UK, by the way, you would be able to place punctuation outside of quotation marks with abandon, as that’s the standard style there. On the other hand, they also drive on the left.
I am, as you know, an imperfect language maven.
I think I adore you.
My heart is fluttering (it may be atrial fibrillation).
No worries…I own a set of paddles.
Very good! 🙂
Why, thank you.for your kind comment.
The reproachful priest, on the other hand, did not like my choices of actors and actresses.
Ha ha – I wrote about REFUSING to place my quotes within the punctuation – it’s just not gonna fly with “me”.
I will start my hail marys and am wearing a hairshirt.
For you, The Vatican Rag:
How did you know I LOVE Tom Lehrer???
My favorite song – my husband’s band would do a cover it the Irish Ballad – and sing it on my birthday for me 🙂