Tag: <span>New Yorker</span>

How wrong Emily Dickinson was! Hope is not “the thing with feathers.” The thing with feathers has turned out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.

From Woody Allen, The Complete Prose

And so I sat there, chuckling to myself whilst my fellow commuters stared obstinately out of the train window. At least I hoped that’s what they were doing given that my involuntary giggles were at times quite loud and mostly sudden.

Now I’d warrant that you, dear reader, have heard Mr. Allen speak. You’ve heard the tones and inflections he imparts on his words, the stresses and strains he places on the punctuation, and the stuttering pause ridden asides that you realise are faked as soon as he starts to eloquently pontificate on whatever it is that currently irks – and here I’m thinking specifically of the Marshal McLuhan scene in Annie Hall, you know the one, where he breaks away from the cinema queue to berate the amateur film critic and people like him.

Must watch that movie again, it’s wonderful and probably has had more impact on modern cinema than a lot of people realise. I’m not a die-hard Woody Allen fan, he has produced a few duds in his time, and these days he is in severe danger of becoming a parody of himself, which in turn is probably a sign of his success and fame (and notoriety?).

I digress.

As mike noted a few weeks back, the written word can take on a whole new realm if you are aware of how the author uses phrasing and rhythm. The word patterns and movement that are created when speaking aloud offer a much deeper understanding of the words as they leap off the page and through your eardrums.

The spoken word goes back a long way, yes even before blogs or *gasp* the internet was invented (honestly, there was a time when there weren’t even computers, how did we manage?!), and it’s little wonder that it still carries the most impact. However I wonder if, given the rise in “personal publishing” in the past few years, there isn’t a requirement for a separate set of Writing Style Guidelines aimed solely at personal writing, where the writer is free to punctuate in a way that enforces the pauses and inflections they naturally use?

And no, I’m not talking about any free-form punctuation nonsense, but surely within the strict rules of grammar to which we all *coughs* adhere there is a little wiggle room for some artistic expression?

Or am I… you know… talking rubbish again?

Onto deeper matters then, why doesn’t Woody (Allen to his friends) have a blog? The one thing that hits me whilst reading his Complete Prose is how suited it would be to a blog format. Most of the pieces are short and punchy, and only really suit a compiled print publication. Ohhh sure he could write for a magazine, granted the bulk of the pieces in the book featured in New Yorker, but admit it, you’d LOVE a Woody Allen blog. Admittedly the fact rumour that he doesn’t own a compuer and still uses the manual typewriter on which he wrote his first screenplay might put the kibosh on that idea.

Mind you, thinking about it, a Woody Allen podcast would be much better.


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Prompted by this article in the New Yorker (which I’ve just happened across), I’ve been giving some thought to my use of grammar and punctuation on this here site.

(side note: I still jar when describing this site as a “blog”, odd that)

Comma usage, ellipsis (ellipsi?), italics, bold, capitals, the odd semi-colon, and the even rarer colon have all featured here. Did anyone notice that for a while after reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves my usage punctuation was much wider than normal? And that, more to the point, it has dwindled back to it’s normal state since then.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Hyperlinks. Are they, should they, can they, be considered punctuation?

For example, when I mentioned Eats, Shoots and Leaves should I have distinguished it somehow? Is “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” correct or will Eats, Shoots and Leaves suffice, or is Eats, Shoots and Leaves a valid use of the markup and grammar available to us.

Can the hyperlink serve as a form of punctuation? Is this a valid part of the evolution of language?

Of course I have a vested interest in this, being a technical writer for a living, but I’m interested in what you guys think. The masses (cultured of course), the proles, the everyday writer.

Postscript: the New Yorker article linked above nails this book precisely. Lynne Truss taps into that sense of outrage and disbelief that some of us feel when staring at public signage that is badly punctuated, and openly admits to ignoring and abusing some of the rules of grammar. I was once told that the rules of the English language were the strictest set of rules in the world, and it was only their steadfast resolve that allowed them to be bent, twisted and skewed so often by so many.

Next question: One space or two?

* This mistake was on purpose. Any other mistakes in this post are, of course, only there to see if you catch them. Honest.

I decided not to post yesterday. Partly out of respect, partly out of a desire not to add my clumsy thoughts on the matter, but mainly because I’m still not sure what I want to say, what I should say.
I did write down some of my thoughts about the events last year, but for the first time I’ve actually edited them down dramatically. After I started writing I found, very quickly, that I couldn’t stop and soon I was very off on tangents, running with the emotion, trying to logically argue my view point.

“I don’t know how to process this” – a quote from a New Yorker. He is not alone in that respect.

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