or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, May 13, 2011

Illogical Punctuation

I tried to post a couple of days ago, but Blogger was read-only, for some reason.

Anyway. Here are three articles from Slate. The first is an object lesson in the power of good writing: a well-written negative review will have more of a positive effect than a badly written positive review. As I never seem to tire of saying, there is a lesson in this.

The second article is about something I've had reason to deal with in the past: so-called "logical punctuation", in which the usual American habit of invariably putting terminal punctuation marks such as the comma and the period inside the quotation marks is jettisoned in favour of putting them where they most reasonably ought to be put--inside the marks if what's inside the marks stands on its own, outside otherwise. (A commenter once snottily informed me that I was doing it wrong.)

The third article has nothing to do with grammar or punctuation: it is a review of an American fitness chain. But it contains these sentences:

"There are thousands of average Jane's and Joe's for every big lifter. Many of those Janes and Joes are intimidated by grunting and 50-pound dumbbells. So, they decided to cater to the thousands at the expense of a smaller segment. It seems to be working quite nicely for them."

How did that even happen? How did someone, a paid writer, decide that the plurals of "Jane" and "Joe" require apostrophes (which, for the record, plurals in English do not), and then, in the very next sentence, decide the opposite? And how did that slip past an editor, assuming there was one, which clearly there must not have been?


Blogger joeclark said...

Actually, Ben Yagoda is full of shit.

Saturday, May 14, 2011 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Yeah, he is; the article was poorly written and not altogether convincing (as you make clear in your evisceration): I was particularly baffled by his ignorance of the reasons to put a period before a close-quote. But I had bigger fish to fry, and I was just pleased to see an American who would argue against the punctuation-inside-the-quotes mindset.

Also, like you I despise those superscripts that Slate uses. They hack up the page in a thoroughly ugly and avoidable manner.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 8:31:00 AM  

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