Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Grammar-book-ophiles, take note

The Christian Science Monitor has a nice review of the Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots and Leaves." The headline raises an eyebrow, however: Don't lapse into a comma.

The review includes this nice anecdote on the editor-vs.-writer, comma-vs.-no-comma debate.
One of the comma heavyweight championship bouts of the 20th century played out between Harold Ross, the legendary editor of The New Yorker, and the equally legendary humorist James Thurber. Ross was a pro-comma kind of guy. Thurber was of the less-is-more school, but since Ross was the editor, he generally had the last word. Thurber was asked by a correspondent why he used a comma in the sentence, "After dinner, the men went into the living-room." Truss writes, "His answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.' "
We get an assurance, as well, that the American version of this book has been altered for differences from British rules, which was to be expected but deserves confirming. The U.S. version will go on sale April 12.

And I also learned that the author, the chief copy editor at the Monitor, has a blog about grammar. The latest entry champions the semicolon, and I can find no fault in that. (I would say she and I may be the only two fans left, but I know there are dozens who are members of a semicolon group on Orkut.)

>Don't lapse into a comma [Christian Science Monitor]
>"Eats Shoots & Leaves" [Amazon.com]
>Verbal Energy [Christian Science Monitor grammar blog]


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