IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for 4th February 2015
This is my twenty-second post for IWSG.
Punctuation, the teeny-tiny parts of written language
Since February is a short month, I thought I'd write a short post about the tiniest parts of writing, punctuation; those iddy-biddy little dots and squiggles that help our written words say clearly what we mean.
I have always felt uncertain about the rules for using commas, and was delighted to find a really good explanation in a handy - truly pocket-sized - book about the rules of English punctuation. If you also feel uncertain about any area of punctuation, take a look at The Penguin Guide to Punctuation by R.L. Trask. Thanks to Mr Trask, I've learnd that there are four types of commas: the listing comma, the joining comma, the gapping comma and bracketing commas.
Do you know how to use apostrophes (')? Honestly. Do you know the proper use of colons (:) and semicolons (;)? Do you understand the difference between hyphens (-) and dashes (--)? Thanks to R.L. Trask's precise language and clear examples, it is easy to learn punctuation. And Trask's prose that is such a joy to read.
Who is R.L. Trask? According to the 'About the Author-page' Mr Trask was born in western New York State in the US, but came to study and live in Great Britain 1970. He worked as a chemist until 1979, when he moved to England and switched to linguistics. His special interests are historical linguistics, grammar and the Basque language. (He must be about 71 years old, if he is still alive today.)
R.L. Trask's book is mainly about the use of punctuation in British English. But Trask also includes how punctuation differs in America and in other English-speaking countries.
I highly recommend R.L. Trask's little guide book about punctuation. It is a non-fiction book that is also a good read.
Another handy pocket-sized reference book about punctuation is the Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation by John Seely. It is even smaller in size than The Penguin Guide to Punctuation. If you need to take it with you on an air trip or on a camping trip, it fits easily in a coat-pocket or your backpack.
As the title implies, John Seely has written about more than just punctuation. Seely's book is also a concise description of how English sentences are constructed. The topics in John Seely's book are arranged in alphabetical order, like a dictionary. You can just look up those areas of grammar and punctuation that interest you.
Personally, I enjoyed reading Trask's little book straight through, as if it were a novel. I'm not sure I could read Seely's book straight through, but I am going to try. I just haven't had the time. But I think these helpful books are worth mentioning to anyone who wants to write and be taken seriously.
There seems to be something of a rivalry between these two camps, Penguin och Oxford. In The Penguin Guide to Punctuation, R.L.Trask warns the reader about the Oxford dictionary's use of hyphens in words like electro-magnetic, preferring electromagnetic as the Collins and Longman dictionaries prescribe. He laments: '... Oxford clings stubbornly to the antiquated and pointless hyphen.' (p. 61)
To be fair, I plan to read John Seely's book completely and thoroughly. Both of these books could be useful when and if I ever get a job teaching English!
I'm still looking for some kind of income-bringing work, and I've got lots of school work (at the university) to do too. So, I may not have time to blog that much. (But I have pre-scheduled next month's IWSG-post, so please come back for that.) I may let my daughter, Elisabet, post on my blog.
Elisabet has already made her debut on my blog with a video about making an uneatable smoothie made out of mustard, milk, ham & cheese spread, ketchup, cappuccino powder, cinnamon, chilisauce, peanut butter, sour cream and popcorn.
I did the washing up afterwards. Elisabet's and Emilie's smoothie was so bad that Elisabet threw up after eating/drinking it, and then vomited again the next morning. So, don't do this at home.
For those of you who don't understand Swedish, I'm sorry. The Smoothie-video is really funny in Swedish. But now that you know the ingredients, it won't be hard to follow what Elisabet and her school friend, Emilie, are talking about. (Remember what you've learned from Tina Downey's Swedish Postcards.)
Check out Elisabet's Smoothie Challenge here.
Alex J Cavanaugh