Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Exclamatory Remarks

September 24, 2007

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.


September 24, 2007

Poor syntax turns me off.

Now who said you could end a sentence with a preposition?

Flawed Style

September 17, 2007

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.