Conjunction Junction

5F2D15C6-E9F3-4F05-A089-7609F647F04CEarlier today I wrote a post in which I commented on a blogger who confused the words “than” and “then.” I got some interesting feedback on my post, including one commenter who pointed out that “starting a sentence with ‘but’ (a preposition) is generally frowned upon.”

I admit that I do start a lot of my sentence in my posts with “but” and “and,” both of which are conjunctions. And not to be a stickler, but “but” is very seldom a preposition. When it is used as a preposition, “but” means the same as “except”: “Everyone ate frog legs but Jim. But “but” usually functions as a coordinating conjunction.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Is the use of a conjunction really frowned upon? Well, I suppose it depends on who you believe. R.W. Burchfield, lexicographer, scholar, and writer, who also edit the Oxford English Dictionary, writes:

“On starting sentences with a conjunction, there is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with ‘and,’ but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial ‘and’ is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues. The same is true with the conjunction ‘but.’ A sentence beginning with ‘and’ or ‘but’ will tend to draw attention to itself and its transitional function.”

Even the venerable Chicago Manual of Style writes:

“There is a widespread belief — one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as ‘and,’ ‘but,’ or ‘so’. In fact, a substantial percentage of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

So is the use of a conjunction to start a sentence an erosion of rules of usage? Well, I’m not an expert, but I think that the “rule” about not starting a sentence with “but” or “and” doesn’t represent contemporary thinking on English grammar.

But hey, if you, as a writer or a blogger, don’t want to start your sentences with a conjunction — or a preposition — that’s your right. Whatever floats you boat.

There’s a New Challenge in Town

A blogger I follow, whose blog is titled “Proscenium,” decided to create a new, weekly challenge called Friday Follies. The object of this challenge is to write a post showing “any kind of sign, flyer, ad, etc. that you may see posted or printed or whatever/wherever, that would, might, or might not be, intentionally or unintentionally, a mistake or could be interpreted the wrong way, misspelled, be a double entendre or just outright hilarious.”

I actually wrote a post in September 2017 titled “Speak American” that I believe meets the object of this challenge. So I’m going to repost it below. Enjoy.


IMG_2591

I love this photo on so many levels.

First, being the grammar and language pedant that I am, there’s the misuse of the word “your.” I don’t need to tell you that it should read “You’re in America.”

And, of course, there should be some punctuation between the first line and the second. A period, a colon, a semicolon. At the very least, a comma.

But it’s the irony of the message that is priceless. Telling someone to speak English because he or she happens to be in America and, while doing so, displaying a complete lack of mastery of the English language. How exquisite is that?

Gee, I wonder if whoever put that decal on the car window is able to speak the native tongue of any non-English speaking country he may visit.

“You’re in Mexico, gringo. Speak Mexican!”

“You’re in Canada, sir. Please speak Canadian, eh?”

Nah. That Yankees fan probably has never even been outside of the five boroughs of New York City. Well, maybe he’s been to New Jersey.

Speak American

IMG_2591

I love this photo on so many levels.

First, being the grammar and language pedant that I am, there’s the misuse of the word “your.” I don’t need to tell you that it should read “You’re in America.”

And, of course, there should be some punctuation between the first line and the second. A period, a colon, a semicolon. At the very least, a comma.

But it’s the irony of the message that is priceless. Telling someone to speak English because he or she happens to be in America and, while doing so, displaying a complete lack of mastery of the English language. How exquisite is that?

Gee, I wonder if whoever put that decal on the car window is able to speak the native tongue of any non-English speaking country he may visit.

“You’re in Mexico, gringo. Speak Mexican!”

“You’re in Canada, sir. Please speak Canadian, eh?”

Nah. That Yankees fan probably has never even been outside of the five boroughs of New York City. Well, maybe he’s been to New Jersey.


Written for today’s one-word prompt, “priceless.”

Commas, Quotation Marks, and Apostrophes

Yes, when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and usage, I can be a little fussy (aka, pedantic, persnickety, and/or nitpicky). But like sexual orientation, it’s not a choice. I was born this way.

This post is about three of my personal punctuation pet peeves. How’s that, grammar nerds, for a wonderful example of alliteration?

First, I will opine about the Oxford comma. After that I will discuss the placements of period and commas with respect to quotation marks. And finally, a brief word on apostrophes.

Are you ready to rumble?

The Oxford comma

The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma is a comma before the conjunction “and” or “or” preceding the last item at the end of a list of three or more items. Some suggest that use of the Oxford comma is optional. I don’t concur. Let me give you a few common examples where the absence of the Oxford comma can be problematic.

“We invited the strippers, Trump and Putin.”

Without the Oxford comma, that sentence implies that Trump and Putin are the strippers who were invited. But with the Oxford comma, “We invited the strippers, Trump, and Putin,” it becomes quite clear that Trump and Putin were each invited, along with the strippers.

Another frequently used example:

“I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”

Hey, unless you’re Jesus, God is not one of your parents. Neither is Ayn Rand, since she never had any children. What’s so hard about writing, “I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand, and God”?

I’m not sure why anyone has a beef with using the Oxford comma, which always insures clarity in written communications. It’s not like the little comma takes up a lot of extra space. It’s not as if that one extra little keystroke will increase the amount of time it takes you to write whatever it is that you’re writing.

Why not, in the interest of clarity, insert that little comma each and every time? Why not ensure that people aren’t confused by what it is you’re trying to communicate?

Quotation punctuation

quotation

Let me state up-front that I write primarily for an American audience. I preface this rant with that caveat because I know that you Brits, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders follow different punctuation rules.

And that’s fine. That’s the way you were taught. Who am I, just because America is the center of the universe, to suggest that you’re wrong? Even though you clearly are wrong.

That said, there is an American punctuation rule that states unequivocally that commas and periods must always be placed inside the end quotation marks, even if they are not part of what is being quoted.

Okay, I’ll admit that putting a period or comma inside the end quotation marks may not always make sense. But rules are rules, right?

A recent movement in this country, though, promotes what is called “logical punctuation.” As one grammar site noted:

“In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic. In the United Kingdom, Canada, and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation around quotation marks is more apt to follow logic.”

This “logical punctuation” movement seems to have gained some level of grassroots acceptance in the U.S. I’m not surprised to see this trend developing,  given the proliferation of emails, chats, blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts, and the informality used in those forms of written communications.

Even Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” has embraced logical punctuation. Wikipedia’s style guide notes that “logical punctuation … is used here because it is deemed by Wikipedia consensus to be more in keeping with the principle of minimal change.”

This “principle of minimal change” means that if you put a period or comma inside quotation marks, you are wrongly suggesting that the period or comma is part of the quoted material, and thus you have “changed” it.

As a liberal, I am certainly not opposed to change. But as an American, I am bothered by this encroachment of the British way of using punctuation, or what is euphemistically called “logical punctuation.”

My fellow Americans, it’s really not that difficult. Put the goddam period or comma WITHIN the freakin’ end quotations marks.

Oh, one more little thing

If you’re using an apostrophe to make a word plural, as in “Stop by the grocery store and pick up some banana’s and apple’s on your way home.” STOP IT, DAMMIT, STOP IT!