Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fun for a bleak February...


The photo at right shows how it looked on our street early yesterday. Sometimes the bleakness of winter causes us to find relief in unexpected places. This morning in an e-mail with my friend Randy, he mentioned wanting to write a book of "The Lost Rules of Strunk and White". You know Strunk and White, Gentle Reader: that grammar book of pithy rules for keeping your writing crisp and clear? (You can see the updated version here, or find an older version online here.) It recently passed the 50th anniversary of printing in the current version (with both Strunk's original and White's additions) and many wrote of its pros and cons at that time. The book consists of a short rule, followed by examples. For instance:
Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.

This rule is difficult to apply; it is frequently hard to decide whether a single word, such as however, or a brief phrase, is or is not parenthetic. If the interruption to the flow of the sentence is but slight, the writer may safely omit the commas. But whether the interruption be slight or considerable, he must never omit one comma and leave the other.


Well, Randy suggested a book of the "lost" rules: the ones that never made it into the book. He suggested:

Never use the words "cat" and "stupid" in the same sentence. It is a redundancy.


And the following occurred to me:

Not every noun should be used as a verb for convenience.


My personal favorite example of this was recently seen on a billboard in Tucson, AZ: "If you 'officed' here, you would be home by now." I mean, really...

Or how about:

The manner in which one spells text messages should not be his guide for normative spelling.


If I get one more e-mail that ends with "Thnx"... How long does it really take, after all, to add the two additional letters that would make the spelling correct?

Well, I thought it might be diverting to ask you, Gentle Readers, if you have discovered any of these "lost rules" from Strunk and White. Share them in the comments, and bring some smiles to bleak February!

6 comments:

Randy Greenwald said...

Let's see – how did you find the links for the Elements of Style... did you google them? Oops. I mean, did you search for them using Google?

Otherwise, luv it. Gr8.

MagistraCarminum said...

I know, I know! And I knew that I would hear about this. And I should have known it would be from you...

Nikki said...

I know exactly where that "If you 'officed' here" sign is! I always wondered if I was just stupid for not knowing you could do that or if they were stupid for writing that! Lol.

Randy Greenwald said...

Hmm. Does Chris 'write a blog' or does she 'blog'? That is the question.

Dominion Family said...

I used to be a generous user of the parenthetic comma. Lately I have noticed that most people omit it. Being shy about grammar, I began omitting it also. And now, as with all things grammar for me, I am thoroughly confused.

MagistraCarminum said...

Ah yes, Cindy and Randy: grammar makes hypocrites and inconsistent fools of us all!