Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Grammar Absurdities: Kick Off

You’ve been there, painted in a corner with a peculiar sentence and you want to properly observe the rules of grammar, yet you’ve stumbled into a quagmire of rules that can’t help you. For instance, what do you do when there’s a quotation within a quotation in yet another quotation? You only got a couple of those hangy things (‘or “) on your keyboard!

And what’s with this? I read a book by Patricia Highsmith once, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and all the dialogue was bracketed with single quotation marks! How did she get away with that? Did the rules change since the book’s copyright? It didn’t matter. I still understood it.

How is it that most of the grammar laws just seem to get in the way rather than help?

In this series, I hope we can answer those questions, fix the problems, or abolish the absurdity once and for all. If nothing else, we can gripe about it like old geezers at a whiskey bar and maybe we’ll go home feeling justified.

We’re going to look at these mysteries:

The mind-boggling multi-purposes of commas (no wonder they don’t work).

How they come up with grammar (if you think the government is scary, get a load of this).

It’s and its (I just got confused typing that small bit).

Past perfect tense with all its ‘hads’ knotting up your otherwise beautiful prose.

Cyrus’s or Cyrus’ when showing possession (or just avoid using names with ‘s’ in the end).

What on Earth is a semicolon for?

We’ll probably attack other snags, especially as I work on my manuscripts or read something and run into one of the many conundrums. By all means, pipe up! Let me hear what really burns your biscuits about the almighty grammar.

See ya next time.

The ever opinionated E.C. Stacy

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