Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

Ten Common Typographic Mistakes

with 5 comments

Really nice post up at Receding Hairline regarding the finer points of symbols that everyone tries to use correctly but almost never succeeds. For instance,

A hyphen – the kind of short dash you see above – should really only be used when linking words such as ready-made. It shouldn’t even be used mathematically to represent a minus, as there’s a dedicated character for that, too. Most other uses mandate an en dash – as here, for example – or when planning meetings from 1–2. Changing fashions mean the the long dash—this one, called an em dash—is rarely seen, but where it is, it’s usual to render it without the spaces on either side or with special hairline spaces instead.

There are other entries on, among other things, the proper use of ellipses (contrary to common belief, the ellipsis is so much more than just three periods…); the differences between primes, opening and closing apostrophes and quotes, and straight apostrophes and quotes; and when to use parentheses, brackets, angle brackets, and guillemets. All of these are accompanied by helpful keyboard shortcuts and, when that fails, character palette tips. Time to study up on some keyboard combinations!

(Lifehacker via 43folders)

Written by benferguson

2008 Apr 18 at 12:07

On the Origin of Species Punctuation

with 2 comments

Neatorama has a dandy of a post today on the roots of some of the punctuation marks that are in use by literally everyone today (well, not necessarily the Prince symbol, but one never knows how many Prince fans are still out there). I find the ampersand story especially interesting. This is a perfect example of how language can change to accommodate ease of use.

Check it out.

Written by benferguson

2007 Jul 9 at 07:41

Posted in punctuation

Visual vs. Visional

with 2 comments

What is the difference between the two?

I heard that visual refers to what they EYES see, as opposed to visional, which refers to what the MIND sees.  Is there any truth to this?

How can “visional” be used in a sentence?

Last question: Can both words be considered adjective forms of the noun “vision?”

Thank you! :)

Written by reeyah

2007 Jul 6 at 21:37

txt spk, language, education

with 8 comments

ive wanted to write a post in txt spk for quite sum time now. not totally txt spk so u cant read it at all, but just 1 where i can shorten things n see how it looks. u c, ive been in correspondance lately with a woman frm sweden who lives in london and who ive been wanting to help get on a translation course.

ive noticed a few things about her which id like to share here, maybe to get a better understanding of her (once ive written it all down).

first of all, in all her emails and msn etc she only uses txt spk. i.e. even if its a written document its just txt speak, not ‘real’ English. its not over the top teenage txt spk, but for instance all the time she uses u to say ‘you’ n stuff like that, so u can still read it but its certainly linguistically wrong! i havent challenged her about it as its quite a touchy subject i think. i mean wot am i gonna say? eh babe can u actually use proper language?

the spk she uses is not totally txt spk, but a weird form of standard english with loads of txt abbreviations thrown in. here are sum of the characteristicsn of her language:

  • shortening of words via contraction, often: omission of vowels (example: ‘some’ – ‘sum’; ‘you’ – ‘u’; ‘would’ – ‘wud’)
  • poor vocabulary (sum stats of the average use of vocabulary wud b useful here, i.e. how many different words an average spker of English uses)
  • poor punctuation (very little understanding of puncutation rules; often, ommision of punctuation mark even tho theyre required)
  • absence or incorrect use of apostrophe’s (e.g. it’s will always be written as its, while other times the apostrophe is placed incorrectly)
  • general spelling mistakes (alot of spelling mistakes, indicating poor grasp of english)
  • absense of structure (longer emails lack structure an its difficult to comprehend what she means sumtimes)
  • use of lowercase ‘i’ – she always uses lowercase ‘i’, never uppercase

the funny thing is that she does strike me as quite intelligent, only her language is so rotten and messy that i really dont know if its improvable or not, i.e. within an educational context. theres been stuff on the news where teachers at secondary school get assignments written in half txt speak and thats what it must look like.

id luv to be able to help her somehow but dont think i can. ive always taken it for granted that ppl know how to write relatively well, but maybe thats because ive only ever corresponded with those that can. maybe its me being snobbish, but it does somewhat illustrate the importance of a gud education imho.

the reason why i wanted to write this post in txt spk (yes, all the errors are intentionel :P ) is to demonstrate that language, to me, is very adaptable to whatever u want it to do. its not a reflection of any exterior reality. its a tool that u can use in all sorts of contexts, and the way u use it conveys a lot of information about u. so, use it wisely. use txt speak if u want n it makes ur life easier, but remember to switch back to proper English if u want to make urself understood.

Written by lenina

2007 May 15 at 11:46

All right now…

with 8 comments

This is my pet peeve to end all language pet peeves. Two words are used to spell “all right.” That’s exactly what it should look like, all right? It means satisfactory, agreeable.

The Chicago Manual of Style says to avoid “alright.” To my chagrin, “alright” has been used in business publications, by journalists, and even by Gertrude Stein.

Speaking for myself alone, I cannot stand “alright” because it looks like a misspelling.

But something interesting is happening to the usage of “alright.” Contemporary American urban use has reduced it to a single syllable expressed on paper as “a’ight.” If you’re one of the more than 35 million TV viewers of “American Idol,” you would’ve heard judge Randy Jackson say “a’ight” more than a few times per episode. It’s pronounced like the word “height” but without the H.

I accept “a’ight.” The apostrophe, inserted to indicate that letters have been removed, makes this spelling acceptable (palatable, really).

So here’s to “a’ight.” Though it’s considered slang right now, I’d welcome its entry into the dictionary.

Written by wellaintheworld

2007 Feb 18 at 21:41

What’s the Genitive Singular of ‘address’?

with 12 comments

I’ve been working on a translation project lately and just got stuck a wee bit. Look at the following sentence:

Alternatively, you can put it onto your email address’ ‘whitelist’

(intended meaning: ‘you can put it onto the ‘whitelist’ of your email address’)

Can someone tell me what the correct genitive singular is of the word ‘address’? I mean, in writing, you could just add an apostrophe, like what I’ve done above. However, it doesn’t look right. I’ve been trying to figure it out using Google, but not very helpful. I thought for a moment it might be addresse’s as I think that’s pronouncable (you can hear that it’s a genitive); however, on pasting addresse’s into Google I get stuff like this:

Beware sellers of unconfirmed addresse’s with paypal payments from buyers.

Doesn’t help, does it? Any sensible suggestions or pointers? For now, I’m just going to not use genitive, as I reckon that:

Alternatively, you can put it onto your email address ‘whitelist’

is grammatically correct too.

Written by lenina

2007 Feb 2 at 19:46

Language Problems: Articles (The/A/’Omission’)

with 10 comments

I’m having to revise my PhD thesis (minor corrections) and one item on the list of corrections pertains to my use of articles. The internal examiner wrote:

Page 16, line 3, should read ‘new media’, not ‘the new media’. The use of such prepositions [sic] before ‘media’ and other nouns should be reviewed throughout the thesis. Example, p. 71 ‘the TV’, ‘the magazine’, p. 76 ‘the telephone’, p. 94 ‘the tv’

Now, I didn’t think I had many problems with articles these days. I proofread a non-native friend’s MA thesis and corrected many instances of incorrect article use. I thought I had cracked it.

Apparently this is not the case. I’ve tried narrowing down my specific problem with it, and I think it concerns mainly ‘the’ vs. ‘no article (omission)’. Here are two actual examples from my thesis:

The commercial advent of the new media, especially the digital computer and the Internet, has revived popular and academic interest in Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the media.


Similar to the TV, the World Wide Web (WWW) too is defined by a high degree of remediation.

I *think* my problem is that I use ‘the’ when contrasting two or more nouns and my reasoning is that, when contrasting, you’re referring to something specific or particular and therefore, the direct article is necessary. In the above example, consider the following:

The commercial advent of the new media [as opposed to the old media], especially the digital computer and the Internet, has revived popular and academic interest in Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the media [i.e. not the cinema, not the new media].

I can see it looks odd now myself. I’d really appreciate it if someone could point me to references or articles dealing with this particular problem. I need to understand exactly what it is and why I’m getting it wrong before starting with my corrections. My thesis is 320 pages long and it will take a few days to actually read it all and correct the article situation. I can’t really afford not to understand it and then having to read it again :(

Written by lenina

2007 Jan 10 at 04:34