Non Sequitur

Ooh gosh.   How exciting.  A daily prompt that deals with a literary device.   Speaking as a Verbal Hedge I thoroughly approve.

I should point out to those readers (yup, both of you) who are not familiar with the internal workings of WordPress that I (and many others) receive a little missive every day suggesting something to write about.    It’s a useful little nudge to give one an idea.   All clear now?

I have a thing about grammar and punctuation    To be truthful I have two things about grammar and punctuation.

Thing one is that I am rubbish at it.   Elmore Leonard, the recently deceased author had ten rules for writing that make a lot of sense.  My challenge is that one of his rules was to only use two or three exclamation marks per 100,000 words of writing.   Two or three!   I can do a dozen in a paragraph and still feel that I’m missing out.   I’m also an avid user of brackets (you’d never guess it from looking at me).   I suspect that it is partly because I can’t keep an ordered page and so rather than editing it I just try to explain myself more by sticking things in brackets (sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t).   Tom Sharpe, another author who has recently left us was a great one for bracketing things so I guess I’m not alone in this.   As for colons, semi-colons and all of those other things that need a shift key to make them work, I’ll get by without.

Thing two is that I can easily turn into a grammar fascist.    I am constantly frustrated by the use of text speak in business communications.   Suppliers who send emails containing “lol” suddenly find that life becomes difficult for them and the wrong use of a word makes me squeal with dismay.  I recently ranted to a dear friend about a communication that contained “were” when it should have been “we’re”.    The subtle and patronising pat on the bonce message that came back read “There, their, they’re”.    I wonder how I carry on sometimes.

The thing is, we know that using inappropriate punctuation or the wrong spelling of a word leads to sloppy and misleading work.   The classic “Eats, shoots and leaves” by Lynne Truss discusses it in great detail.   When I was a very young man I worked as a warehouseman in the town of Smethwick near Birmingham.   The supervisor in charge of the warehouse used to hand write picking tickets telling us lowly workers what to collect to load onto the back of the next wagon that was arriving.    You would imagine that this would be a fairly easy task.   Customer has ordered ten boxes of apples and five boxes of bananas so you’ve two columns.  Quantity and Product.   he could generally get the quantity correct but the product column always contained Banana’s or Apple’s and so on.   I used to tippex (for those that don’t know, tippex was a white paint used to correct errors before the backspace key was invented) out the single quote mark on each of my documents.  It used to make him quite cross because he was convinced that he was correct and I was stupid.  It all ended after a particularly bad day when I was ordered to pick some pare’s and some beat root’s. The picking docket returned to him was pretty much obliterated,  he turned a strange puce colour (not dissimilar to the beetroots in my box) and tried to hit me with a forklift.   It was around then that I decided university may be a better idea.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Non Sequitur

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  3. Excellent! I can very much appreciate your fanaticism about punctuation. I wish I knew the source, but recently saw a sign stating “Spelling and Punctuation. The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.”

    And today I learned that what we call White-Out in the US is known as tippex somewhere else (guessing UK or Australia?).

    Thank you for sharing this today.

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