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Author Topic: Grammar nitpick... or something  (Read 8896 times)
xiombarg
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« on: September 22, 2003, 10:13:08 AM »

So, I got my copy of Orbit. I like most of it so far.

But the pendant in me wonders about constructions like this:

"You can eat cheese, meat, -or you can just hit someone over the head with a shovel."

I have to admit I've never seen this "comma followed by a dash" construction before, but it's everywhere in Orbit.

Personally, I'd render something like the above like this:

"You can eat cheese, meat --or you can just hit someone over the head with a shovel."

Regardless, I find the comma-dash contruction sort of jarring, because I've never seen it before. Have I just been living a sheltered life? Did anyone else find this slowing you down, rather than speeding things up and making it more colloquial, like I think it's supposed to do?
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Lxndr
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2003, 10:18:38 AM »

I normally wouldn't say something, but in a nitpicker thread, I have to:

You have a pendant inside you?  Aren't you supposed to hang those around your neck?
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2003, 10:27:55 AM »

As far as I know, ', -' is not grammatically valid.
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2003, 10:57:26 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr
I normally wouldn't say something, but in a nitpicker thread, I have to:

You have a pendant inside you?  Aren't you supposed to hang those around your neck?


I hope Kirt can see the delicious irony of misspelling pedant in a thread nitpicking about grammar.

Being one who plays fast and loose with punctuation myself, I have to say that punctuation "rules" are about the most ridiculous pointlessly arbitrary constructs in the English language.  What little point most of them have is lost given that most people don't know the rule anyway and never get the point (like the one about leaving the quotation open at the end of a paragraph when the new paragraph continues the same quote...but yet you still have to put a new opening quote mark at the beginning...stupid)

So, for me, I didn't find it very troublesome.  But then I've gotten used to internet punctuation, which is all pretty much make it up as you go along anyway.

...stray thought...I wonder how many type written school papers are handed in with emoticons, as if the writter doesn't fully realize that they are not real punctuation marks.
...stray thought #2...I wonder how long before using emoticons in formal writing becomes an acceptable practice...
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2003, 11:29:37 AM »

Quote from: Valamir

Being one who plays fast and loose with punctuation myself, I have to say that punctuation "rules" are about the most ridiculous pointlessly arbitrary constructs in the English language.


(Disclaimer:  I am, by inclination and practice, a novelist, and thus I am a flaming grammar whore.  So I am required by natural law to come forth and defend my chosen language with vehemance and power.)

BL>  I think that our non-phonetic spelling systems are the most ridiculous pointlessly arbitrary constructs in the English language.  That, there is just no justification for, other than history.

Punctuation, on the other hand, is by and large very useful.  Some aspects (the comma splice rule is one) have very little purpose, but by and large punctuation is very very useful for the conveyance of tone.  Essentially, they function as words unto themselves which help you sort the information provided in a text.

That means that when someone misuses a mark, there is a very big problem.  Anyone who reads that will either ignore the mark -- missing whatever sorting it was supposed to provide -- or misinterpret it.  Either of these outcomes means that the information that was supposed to be conveyed did not make it across.

Quote

  What little point most of them have is lost given that most people don't know the rule anyway and never get the point (like the one about leaving the quotation open at the end of a paragraph when the new paragraph continues the same quote...but yet you still have to put a new opening quote mark at the beginning...stupid)


BL>  I give you a man who has never had to read an eight page long quote.


Quote

So, for me, I didn't find it very troublesome.  But then I've gotten used to internet punctuation, which is all pretty much make it up as you go along anyway.


BL>  Hardly.  Given, a lot of people do use poor grammar and spelling on the net, but most worth reading (for instance, most of the posters on the Forge) use proper punctuation.  Albeit, a casual form thereof (Ex: although your of ellipsis as offset wouldn't fly in a formal academic paper, it's perfectly fine for use among friends.)

Quote

...stray thought #2...I wonder how long before using emoticons in formal writing becomes an acceptable practice...


BL>  Hopefully soon, but probably not until they are obsolete in casual use.

(Aside: Emoticons are not punctuation.  They're something {tone of voice markers} that English has never had before, although some other languages do.  Punctuation provides a structure for viewing information, emoticons provide overall context.  Both useful, but totally different.)
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JSDiamond
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2003, 11:41:00 AM »

Hi y'all,
Sorry if that caused some trouble.  The only reason I do that '-' thing is because I've seen it in novels.  When I read it, it's like an illustration (explanation) of the thought/idea just presented.

Maybe it's like a quick afterthought?

That's the way I 'hear' it when I read it anyway.  I didn't know if it was a grammar rule.  It just looks that way to me, so I emulate it because it reads (sounds) like natural speech.

Does that make any sense?  Or am I totally off the mark?
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JSDiamond
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2003, 11:48:06 AM »

Quote from: JSDiamond

That's the way I 'hear' it when I read it anyway.  I didn't know if it was a grammar rule.  It just looks that way to me, so I emulate it because it reads (sounds) like natural speech.

Does that make any sense?  Or am I totally off the mark?


BL>  It sounds like your going for the em-dash.  Written as a long dash, typed "--"
  It can be used like a comma for offsets -- something I frequently do -- or it can like a weaker form of colon for linking two phrases.

I think that some early typesetting conventions used ,- for the em-dash, but that was a very long time ago, and only for typesetting purposes (the final copy would just have a long dash.)  What novels did you see it used in, out of curiousity?  What are their publication dates?

yrs--
--Ben
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JSDiamond
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2003, 12:27:08 PM »

I must be thinking of those old yellow-spine DAW sci-fi novels.  I'm at work right now, but I'm going to look through some books at home just to see if I can find this thing.
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JSDiamond
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2003, 12:36:54 PM »

Quote from: JSDiamond
I must be thinking of those old yellow-spine DAW sci-fi novels.  I'm at work right now, but I'm going to look through some books at home just to see if I can find this thing.


BL>  That sounds like the right time -- right after the typewriter came into heavy use -- and probably cheap enough publications that they might have skimped on the typesetting.

Wow.  Cool.  :-)

I'd recommend changing them to "--" or "" for a 2nd printing, if you ever do one.  But thanks for giving me a chance to show off my "punctuation lore" skill.

yrs--
--Ben
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xiombarg
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2003, 01:12:58 PM »

See, that's the thing. I don't think it's a big deal, I just found it jarring. I just wanted to know if I was alone or not.

But the mention of DAW novels is why I asked if I've just lived a sheltered life -- perhaps that construction resembles those found in a category of SF novels in the Orbit vein that I just happen to be unfamiliar with, and therefore it conveys a tone that I simply haven't encountered.

Personally, I agree with Ben in that I think an em-dash would convey the same feeling and be less confusing, which is why I used it in my "rewritten" example, but if it's actually a stylistic reference to old novels I've never read, that's kinda cool...
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
JSDiamond
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2003, 03:12:17 PM »

You know what?  I *have* seen the '--' version of that.  But I always wondered why two dashes instead of one.

Now you guys got me thinking about it.  I reckon that maybe it's two dashes because in most trade paperbacks the single dash would be too small to define within that already small font?

Or maybe there's a grammar rule about one dash being a kind of link between words (e.g., "life-like" or "cobalt-blue")

Quote
but if it's actually a stylistic reference to old novels I've never read, that's kinda cool...


Oh err... yeah... I meant to be all cool and retro like that!   ; )
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JSDiamond
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2003, 03:29:18 PM »

Quote from: JSDiamond
You know what?  I *have* seen the '--' version of that.  But I always wondered why two dashes instead of one.

Now you guys got me thinking about it.  I reckon that maybe it's two dashes because in most trade paperbacks the single dash would be too small to define within that already small font?

Or maybe there's a grammar rule about one dash being a kind of link between words (e.g., "life-like" or "cobalt-blue")


(if you look below you will find one of the only times it is acceptable to have a period outside of your quote.  Score!)

*puts on academic hat*

Your very close with that last comment.

There are two forms of dash in standard English punctuation.  The first is the normal dash "-" and the second is the em-dash "".  The em-dash is also, for historical reasons, typed "--", and for that reason it is sometimes called a double-dash.

The standard dash serves to link two words, and also, in handwritten english, to link long words over a line break, though this use is becoming less and less common.  The em-dash is used to offset a parenthetical remark -- much like a comma, but stronger -- or in place of a colon, but weaker.  It is particularly useful when use of a comma or colon would be confusing, such as the above sentence where the parenthetical phrase contains a comma.  Nonetheless, it remains a seldom used punctuation mark.

When the typewriter was invented, it was envisioned as a business machine, and thus the em-dash -- primarily used in more "stylistic" writing -- was not included in the standard keyset.  When the typewriter became more widely used by writers, the typesetting conventions "--" and ",-" were introduced to signify the em-dash.  In print, it initially remained a long dash, but as typewriters became more and more common, "--" (and, apparently, ",-") became widely used and acceptable on their own.  Modern computer keyboards actually have the em-dash (option+shift+-), but "--" has come into such wide usage -- and is more easily accessed in typing -- and so it has become an acceptable variant.  Still, most editors will replace "--" with "", as does most typesetting software.

Any more questions?

*takes off academic hat*

yrs--
--Ben
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2003, 07:41:56 PM »

so where's the name "em" dash come from?
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2003, 03:54:38 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
so where's the name "em" dash come from?


BL>  Absolutely no clue.
  A quick googling found out that the normal dash "-" is called an "en" dash and that it has nothing to do with the town of Bad Ems or the Punctuation of Ems meeting held there by the Catholic Church.

yrs--
--Ben
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quozl
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2003, 05:15:40 AM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
(if you look below you will find one of the only times it is acceptable to have a period outside of your quote.  Score!)


Now it's my turn to be pedantic.  "One of the only times" means nothing.  Perhaps you meant to type "one of the few times" or "the only time".
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--- Jonathan N.
Currently playtesting Frankenstein's Monsters
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