Thursday, November 3, 2011

Your Eighth Grade English Teacher wasn’t necessarily right.

Let me unpack that a little. If she told you to spell accommodation with two cs and two ms she was right. But if she drummed into you that commas were essential in lists of items, the rules have changed. If you’re shopping for peas, beans and squash, the Oxford comma, which used to be placed after the second last item and before the ‘and’, is now a thing of the past. Don’t add one there. If the list is confusing without one—say you needed to buy peas, macaroni and cheese—rearrange the list. Buy macaroni, peas and cheese.
Languages are living entities, frequently changing. New words come into use, old ones become obsolete. Authors keen to make a good impression on editors and agents, make sure they keep up with the changes.


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3 comments:

Amarinda Jones said...

I agree with that - but - and if a comma seems right to an author and the author can justify it then I say go for it ans stuff the style guide. An author has to be true to their style

anny cook said...

Heh. I really had trouble with this when I first started writing. Forty years is a long time to do something and THEN have to change it.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Language is a living organism. Think of the change in the meanings of words such as text (now a verb) and chip (more likely to be silicon than wood or potato).
Helen