Awhile ago I bought a domain name. You can now read my blog at www.bananakarenina.com. I figured my style was more Banana Karenina than War and Peach.
Move over hyphens. Exclamation points are the wave of the punctuation future. Slate reported recently that exclamation points, those symbols of brown-nosing enthusiasm and unsophisticated prose that author-types tend to loathe, are making a comeback on the internet.
Apparently e-mail and text messaging have finally provided the appropriate heaven for the punctuation mark that Strunk and White relegated to a sort of grammar purgatory. In their tome Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, David Shipley and Will Schwalbe note that ” ‘Thanks!!!!’ is way friendlier than ‘Thanks.’ ” The exclamation mark here stands in for emotion, or at least that insincere tone of voice that people use when they really want you to do something for them.
I admit, I am on occasion guilty of the “please do this for me and reply quickly” Thanks! at the end of an email. But I do not endorse the wholehearted enthusiasm that the authors of the book show.
Excessive use devalues the exclamation point’s power when it is actually used appropriately. (Only one after each word/sentence, never more. Limit their use to one or two per email, if they must be used at all. Only use when the message otherwise runs the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, flippant, or critical).
I cringe at the notion that the reincarnated exclamation point might someday seep into print culture. I believe it was a Clinton who once said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” And I think the same can be said for exclamation points. They should, for all respectable discourse, remain safe, legal, and rare.
Now who said you could end a sentence with a preposition?
David Pogue and Mark Bittman, both of the New York Times (shocking, I know). Mostly because of their videos. Here are some examples. I think you’ll fall in love with them too.
Bittman on softshell crab (The intro to the Minimalist video is worth the price of admission):
Pogue’s iPhone tribute in music video:
Also see David Pogue’s video on stop-motion animation, featuring impressive play-doh creations by his children. I will soon write an impassioned defense of Mark Bittman, so stay tuned.
Now that I’m paid to correct other people’s grammar, I feel slightly more justified in pointing out flaws in reputable publications (cough New York Times cough). I also tend to collect good examples of bad grammar, in case I ever end up teaching composition somewhere down the road.
This example comes from a Sunday Styles article, A Microwave Recipe for Fame:
After everyone had been fed, Mr. Borrok, who had just sold a Manhattan building, along with his father, at 14 Penn Plaza for about a $250 million profit, was led outside to meet a young woman, Laurie Fetter, 25, a Playboy model who liked the food and asked to meet the chef.
The misplaced modifier in the sentence leads the reader to believe that Mr. Borrok had sold his father along with the building. Now, most people do not sell their parents. But if Mr. Borrok’s father was indeed worth $250 million, perhaps the son made a smart financial decision in selling while the price was right. Or perhaps 14 Penn Plaza is a particularly prime location at which to sell one’s father at auction.
All jokes about father auctions aside, I suspect the sentence really ought to read:
After everyone had been fed, Mr. Borrok, who, along with his father, had just sold a Manhattan building, at 14 Penn Plaza for about a $250 million profit, was led outside to meet a young woman, Laurie Fetter, 25, a Playboy model who liked the food and asked to meet the chef.
By moving the phrase about the father before the action of just having sold the building, the father becomes another subject doing the selling, rather than an object of his son’s action of selling. It’s still not a beautiful sentence, but at least this way, it gets the job done.
The most disappointing thing about the Mormons Exposed missionary calendar website is that you only get to see one picture of a missionary with his shirt off.
Update: Annie has advised me that if you roll over the clothed pics under “meet the missionaries,” a shot of the young beefcakes without their shirts appears. So the new most disappointing thing about Mormons Exposed is that there aren’t more clean-cut white men with no shirts. And that they’re wearing pants. Whatever happened to speedos?
This afternoon when I took this screenshot, there were not one, not two, but THREE articles about the smart dead parrot on the New York Times most-emailed list. Either Times readers have a terribly dry, British sense of humor, or they are obsessed with absurd bird stories. Either way, today marked a new low point in the history of the most-emailed list.
How’s this for a sobering statistic:
“Women occupy 50.6 percent of managerial and professional positions, according to the research organization Catalyst, but make up only 15.6 percent of Fortune 500 corporate officers.”
This is just one of many gems from a recent NYTimes article about women in the workforce that’s actually in the Business section instead of the Style section. It’s about how many women are now (only half-)joking that they want a wife at home to take care of the housework while these career women actually work. Since, you know, behind every successful man there’s a kick-ass woman and all.
The article also notes that, while working women tend to be penalized for having children–mostly through less overall compensation–working men may actually be rewarded for fatherhood.
But this article also departs from the Times’ usually flippant and matter-of-fact tone toward social phenomena involving women in the workplace. The story may still be slightly flawed, but the author actually acknowledges counter-arguments, cites real studies and statistics about labor discrepancies, and respects women who have career ambitions in addition to family lives.
The tone she takes is closer to a recent NPR story about a new phenomenon sweeping suburban Connecticut: the four-child family as status symbol. Thankfully, NPR does not commit the sin of taking these “trends” as actual sociological trends, but rather looks at the whole thing with a bit of humor and perspective. Their story approaches an anthropological tidbit about the lives of the rich, and their reporting makes this clear.
These are two stories in welcome contrast to the New York Times’ prior coverage.