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Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Passive Voice Day is to be celebrated today

Posted by Richard on April 27, 2012

It was announced by Shaun the other day that today is a special day:

It has again been decided that April 27th will be passive voice day. Fun will be had by everybody as the passive voice is used for tweets, blogs, and casual conversation. The active voice will be frowned upon. The hashtag #passivevoiceday should be used when passive voice is used in social media, so the fun can be shared by all.

Why is this being done? Simple. It’s considered fun. No point is being made. It’s just enjoyed when things are taken to an absurd extreme.

It seems to be a good idea, so it’s my pleasure to be calling attention to this occasion. It will be tweeted about momentarily and my colleagues will be alerted. A good time will be had by all.

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Apostrophe dropping condemned

Posted by Richard on January 16, 2012

British bookstore Waterstone’s is now Waterstones, and some people are upset:

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said in a statement, “Waterstones without an apostrophe is, in a digital world of URLs and email addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling. It also reflects an altogether truer picture of our business today which, while created by one, is now built on the continued contribution of thousands of individual booksellers.”

The BBC reports that the move has been condemned by the Apostrophe Protection Society. John Richards, the chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, told the Telegraph, “It’s just plain wrong. It’s grammatically incorrect. If Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s can get it right, then why can’t Waterstones. You would really hope that a bookshop is the last place to be so slapdash with English.”

Those wacky Brits! Who knew that there was an Apostrophe Protection Society? I bet some of its members are also in the Village Green Preservation Society.

 As for why Waterstone’s would thumb their noses at the Queen’s English like that, here’s the real explanation (emphasis added):

Waterstones also has a new logo, which is a capital W in a Baskerville serif font. Waterstones was acquired by Russian banker Alexander Mamut last May.

It’s the Russkies! Damn their Slavic souls! 🙂

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Blogging with a grammatical focus

Posted by Richard on April 16, 2008

My blog would undoubtedly attract more readers if (besides posting more regularly and frequently) I were more focused — posting on one topic, not 20 or 30. But that's just not me. I may go through periods of focus on a topic, but eventually my attention — and therefore my posting — turns elsewhere.

I recently encountered a few examples of truly focused blogging, however. As something of a language maven with a prescriptivist bent, I admire the single-minded dedication these bloggers exhibit:

Typo Hunt Across America — The chronicles of a road trip across America by the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL), making this a better world one typo correction at a time.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks — This one's even more narrowly focused. No broad grammar focus, no quest to make corrections. Just pictures of "signs" with "inappropriate" quotation marks and "snarky" comments about "them."

Apostrophe Abuse — Another blog dedicated to a single punctuation mark. Apparently one of several that rail against the greengrocer's apostrophe and other inappropriate sprinklings of apostrophes.

If you're into writing and language, and especially if you're the nitpicky compulsive editor type, you'll get a kick out of these.

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Grammar saves lives

Posted by Richard on October 19, 2006

If you’re like many people, you’ve wondered why your English teachers made you learn all those grammar rules — you’ve forgotten most of them, and yet you get along just fine.

Of course, if you’re significantly younger than me, your English teachers probably never made you learn them in the first place, believing that any emphasis on tedious subjects like grammar, punctuation, and spelling would merely stifle your creativity and potentially damage your self-esteem.

Well, it turns out that knowing the basics of grammar can help you conquer drug-resistant microbes and save lives:

Studying a potent type of bacteria-fighters found in nature, called antimicrobial peptides, biologists found that they seemed to follow rules of order and placement that are similar to simple grammar laws. Using those new grammar-like rules for how these antimicrobial peptides work, scientists created 40 new artificial bacteria-fighters.

Nearly half of those new germ-fighters vanquished a variety of bacteria and two of them beat anthrax, according to a paper in Thursday’s journal Nature.

This potentially creates not just a new type of weapon against hard-to-fight germs, but a way to keep churning out new and different microbe-attackers so that when bacteria evolve new defenses against one drug, doctors won’t be stymied.

Using grammar as their guide, scientists could easily produce tens of thousands of new bacteria-fighters and test them for use as future drugs, said study lead author Gregory Stephanopoulos, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Now aren’t you glad that at least Dr. Stephanopoulos and his pals were paying attention in English class?

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