Shouldn't it be 'NORTHMARKETMERCHANTS'? To my mind they've wussed out but not removing *all* the spaces...
Yes (and I agree with JD actually) but whatever did they mean by doing it this way?
Now that's an excellent question. Hopefully it's an attempt to be hip (spaces being old hat) and not some weird ideological or philosophical decision. In any case, I'm amazed that whoever thought this up was able to get the approval.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
A doozie of a usage quirk, this time from a mystery shopper in California. With only a few exceptions, this writer forms all past tense sentences thusly:
[Actor] was [adjective] to [action] .
I spotted three variations of this pattern. The most common was able to:
When we first arrived at the table, Cari was able to smile and make eye contact.
Followed closely by sure to:
Nicolai was sure to initiate our interaction with a friendly "Sir, I can help you over here if you are ready."
Finally, about once per page, this writer used kind enough to. This particular example is a double-whammy:
After Teresa was sure to answer my question, she was kind enough to ask if there was anything else that we needed before we ended our encounter.
While this is probably the most extreme case that I've seen, about once a week I edit a mystery shopper who overuses did to form the past tense. (Which adds an odd, contrarian emphasis to sentences like "He did thank me.")
I'm starting to dislike did.
Proper linguistics terminology notwithstanding, I've decided to call this profusion of over-verbed sentences auxilaration. Or possibly auxilaration!, with an exclamation mark like Jenny! from Wayside School.
From the editing side it looks lazy, like the writer just couldn't be bothered to conjugate those other verbs. Really though, it was more work for the writer to do things this way — and since the entire narrative has to be written in the past tense, it's considerably more work for me. Although most of these sentences are grammatical, when you have so many of them together it quickly becomes ridiculous. And the able to variation has its own problems.
So why do this? The auxilarated shoppers tend to be fairly competent as amateur writers go, and they don't seem to have any problems correctly conjugating the verbs that do slip through. Nor is this one of those cases where the structure of the survey question is influencing the structure of the answer.
What then? Overcorrection? Some sort of folk grammar? Perverse stylistic preferences? Bad advice from an ill-informed pedant? I have no way to know.
Wundergrammar: Colon-Break Quotes
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Less exciting than my discovery of semicolon quotes, but still notable: this writer introduces all direct quotations as if they were block quotations. That is to say, with a colon, no quotation marks, and a break in the text:
Cordilia said: Thank you and good luck.
When I got to her station she said: How can I help you?
Though I suppose that even for block quotes these are unusual, since most people would probably add a blank line before the quote. And indent!
In any case, it's pretty safe to say that we're all a bit confused about quotations. For my part, last summer I went through a phase where I was refused to add in a comma when using said to introduce a quotation — now I have to coach writers who ignore this convention that it's our company style.
While most college-educated people (or at least, most English majors) probably agree on the basic mechanics of quotations, there are still sticking points out there — dark, warm places where prescriptivism can fester.
For example, from what I've seen, I'm at odds with much of America in my belief that the verb state can introduce only indirect quotations, not direct quotations. It also looks very weird when people introduce a paraphrase with stated instead of stated that. Such are my correctness conditions.
More than once, I've edited writers who broke both these 'rules' and used stated rather than said. Exclusively.
(It would be interesting to know what speaking verbs can introduce a paraphrase without that for most people. I'd guess that more than 90% of English speakers, whatever their preference, would have no problem with He said the dog was brown.)
The Wundergrammar: Semicolon Quotes
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
A curiosity: I just finished editing a writer who did not punctuate quotes in the usual style. Instead of using quotation marks, she availed herself of the semicolon. Some examples:
As I left, Ramona said; good luck.
Daniel approached as I sat at the bar, smiled and said; hi, what can I get you?
Julietta smiled and said; hello, my name is Julietta. I will be bringing you to your table.
A good friend of mine advocates abandoning the semicolon altogether — in favor of the em dash — and he's not alone in his disregard for the mark. It may be a sign of the times that someone could even think of using the semicolon like my writer did. As if it has nothing better to do!
At the very least, this usage represents a woeful misreading of the semicolon charter.