Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lapsing Into a Comma

One thing that blogging has done for me is to make me more conscious about my writing style. I want my writing to be engaging as well as technically accurate and above all it should be an example of proper American English usage. That previous sentence is a perfect example of how I’m not quite certain sometimes when I write; in this case I am uncertain that I followed appropriate punctuation. I could always break it into two sentences, but I’m more of a run-on sentence kind-of-guy. So shoot me (see, I like fragments also).

I’ve never been an English teacher nor did I ever major in English. I always was an A-student in English classes, but that was so long ago that it feels like a previous life. In an effort to improve my writing style, I have been poring over (or is it pouring? I know, do you?) “Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print – and How to Avoid Them.” (Amazon link) It was written by Bill Walsh, the copy desk editor of the Business Desk for the Washington Post.

This is definitely the most interesting style book that I’ve ever read, and maybe the only one that I feel compelled to read more than once. I think that it is so helpful that I am going to occasionally give you small snippets here in the blog as a way of spreading the knowledge, and particularly in an effort to drive it home for my own learning. It seems that I remember the things that I write about much better than the things I read about.

To start with I am going to give you four common inaccuracies or misconceptions. All of these are found in pages 200-212 of Walsh’s book. This is where the audience interaction portion of the blog comes into play. Please answer the embedded poll questions below and then leave comments on this blog post to answer those “why” questions or to argue your point. After a few comments have been posted I’ll chime in with what Mr. Walsh deems to be the correct answer, or at least what I believe he would say based on my reading of his book.

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