Grammar in the news!


I am indulging myself in another non-law post.  It is about semicolons.  Can anyone explain to me why a small article about semicolons is the most e-mailed New York Times article TWO DAYS running?  I love semicolons; people who know me well know that I like grammar.  My students sometimes critique me in my evaluations for being so “picky” about it.  You’re welcome; I thought you came to college to learn, in part, how to write.  I find grammar fun and funny; I find great humor in the blog of unnecessary quotation marks even if Mary Pattillo does not.  This blog being one of the very few things we do not mutually find funny. 

But seriously?  Most e-mailed?  Explain.


5 Responses to Grammar in the news!

  1. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    I love, love, love semicolons; I sometimes overuse them. This is so much better than “I love, love, love semicolons. I sometimes overuse them.”

    Tell your students to grow up, and learn to punctuate. They think you’re picky? Wait until they meet me, their future employer.

    My copy of Strunk & White, third edition (1979), points out that while semicolons, and not commas, should be used to join independent clauses, “there is an exception when the clauses are very short and alike in form, or when the tone of the sentence is easy and conversational.” An example: “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Another: “The gates swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.” Something to keep in mind.

  2. briand0n0van says:

    I’ve seen some David Brooks columns run on the most popular list for multiple days, so nothing surprises me.

    I think Bourdieu can help explain the popularity of the article. Proper use of semicolons signifies cultural capital, and circulating the article shows that you care about refined things like grammar and usage.

    I’m a fan of the semicolon, too, but here’s an entirely different perspective from a copy editor (and the author of the fun & fantastic Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies).

  3. robertlnelson says:

    LB, are you saying some people are in favor of a semicolonoscopy? Shocking.

    I think my heaviest semicolon use appears in a series of series. Seriously. Like you have a series, but some elements of the series are themselves a series that must be separated by commas. The only resort is to use the semicolon. I realize this is an inferior use, for which I must semi-apologize.

  4. laurabethnielsen says:

    semicolonoscopy. Hilarious. Should have been the title of the post.

    B: I think you are right about Bourdieu – I can just imagine the accompanying text: FINALLY! Someone who appreciates the nuances of grammar as much as I do!

  5. robertlnelson says:

    Hi Brian,
    Nice to have you raising the level of our discourse. Do you rollerblade around the KU campus? I will leave the obscure reference for cocktail party conversation.

    What is the deal with Kansas? Would Obama have a chance against McCain out there in wheat country?

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