“The Elements of Clunk”



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I understand that the rule is for punctuation to go inside quote marks, as in

    We are going to see “Iron Man 2.”

    But, as Professor Yogoda points out, that makes no sense: the period is not part of the title. I am unpersuaded that this arises from “rules, animated by a general urge to make writing smooth and efficient, allow us and in fact compel us to punctuate in an illogical and counterintuitive way.” I think it’s stupid, and I say “The hell with it”.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      We are all programmers now.

      I think as more and more programming entered into more and more peoples’ consciousness, the period moved from this side of the quotations to that one.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I’ve thought this was stupid since we were taught the rule in third grade or so. But you’re quite right, of course, that languages designed to be parsed by machines are more consistent than natural ones (and, in particular, less likely to feed syntactical processing back into lexical analysis.)Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    Wel that’s — that’s nitpicking, isn’t it?Report

  3. I prefer “gray”, but was always taught that “grey” is fine too, I think maybe in the original Elements of Style if I recall correctly. I’ve also read that “amongst” is British English but is found commonly in the American English of the northeast and certain parts of the South for obvious reasons.

    I can appreciate the need for clear rules in writing, but rules should always be subservient to meaning.Report