Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Literally thinking outside the ballpark

The Plain English Campaign has conducted a survey and determined that "At the end of the day" is the most irritating phrase in the English language. To read the other nominees, go to the site and click on the best link ever: it says, in plain English, "Click here for our latest press release, revealing the world's most irritating phrase."

The Lynne Truss book (Eats Shoots and Leaves) has reached Australia, and there's a feature in the Age about it: "Semicolons rule, full stop". I like this anecdote, because it's a great illustration of the power of punctuation, specifically the comma:

Comedian Ronnie Barker starred in a '70s British prison sitcom called Porridge. In one scene, Barker is reading aloud a letter from home to a fellow inmate who is illiterate. The letter ends "Now I must go and get on my lover". Oh, dear. Striving to save his cell-mate's feelings, Barker amends the correspondence and offers the punctuated version "Now I must go and get on, my lover."
(I also like it because it reminded me of The Two Ronnies for the first time in about twenty years! When I was little, my brother and I thought they were hilarious. Does anyone remember this show?)

While I'm at it, another example of the need for proper punctuation, this time with a hyphen, appears in a Canadian news story today. (The story itself doesn't matter, but if you're interested, it's "Some 1,000 attend funeral for Harrison McCain".) The lead sentence includes this clause:
...but it was the plain folks and neighbours of the frozen-food magnate who paid the most heartfelt tributes.
Sometimes I have trouble convincing a writer or editor of the need for hyphenation in a compound modifier that precedes a noun. I've finally found the perfect example! Certainly it would be unacceptable to refer to the late Mr. McCain as "the frozen food magnate," would it not?

(OK, honk if you think it would be kind of funny, though. Anyone?)

No comments: