Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Quickies: Yet Another Plea For Good Punctuation

     I have no intention of embarrassing the blogger who wrote the following:

     If you want to solve the pension crisis, the state, local, federal government debt crisis, the student loan crisis, and all of the other crises which are besetting us work to end the progressive model and allow the new to replace it.


     He's a progressive he can't afford to tell the truth.

     ...but I must say: they’re awfully hard on the eye, to say nothing of the mind. Improperly punctuated sentences are like that. They can defeat one’s best attempts at syntactic or semantic analysis until the proper punctuation is inserted.

     Lynne Truss’s excellent little book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is a must-read for anyone who’s been gigged for poor punctuation. It’s both funny and instructive. Having said that, allow me to present a puzzler a friend gave me some years ago. She asked: “Can you write a sentence in which the word and occurs five consecutive times, but is nevertheless correct and comprehensible?”

     Here’s the answer, in story form:

     For many years, Joe sold fish and chips from a little kiosk along the bank of the Thames. After three decades of labor, he had amassed funds sufficient to get himself a regular storefront, and he wanted everything about it to be perfect. As part of his effort, he commissioned a sign painter to construct a magnificent marquee for his new shop. Unfortunately, Joe had a problem with the sign painter’s initial effort:


     Joe wanted the sign to be more readable than that. (He was no fan of neologisms.) So he wrote the sign painter a note, describing how he wanted the sign redone:

“Put spaces between ‘fish’ and ‘and,’ and ‘and’ and ‘chips.’”

     Imagine how hard that sentence would be to parse if it weren’t properly punctuated.


IlĂ­on said...

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

== Buffalo NY zoo bison push around (other) Buffalo zoo bison (which have been by yet other) Buffalo zoo bison pushed around.

Thomas said...

Indeed. And it appears that Joe would now have 2 (or more, since he didn't accurately indicate the exact plural number) spaces between each word if the painter were to faithfully follow his instructions.

Some people loathe the use of parenthetical expressions, I know.

Linda Fox said...

You really must write a grammar book for the average person.

Linda Fox said...

My granddaughter is terrible with commas. I told her, slap a comma in when you might take a breath, or pause.

Thomas said...

That works for only 99.99% of situations, though. Haha

"Less is more" also comes to mind.

All I know is that it is much more difficult to write something worthwhile than it is to comment about it afterward. Editors have got it so easy... lol