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Grammar peeves

Has anyone read anything by Lynne Truss? She's most famous for Eats Shoots and Leaves, but she's written loads of books about grammar and correct use of punctuation. Some of her books are written for children and illustrate how one misplaced punctuation mark can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Yesterday I took a look at her newest book, Twenty-odd Ducks, and I remember now why I dislike her so much. With every book of hers I read, there are always one or two things that have me making the WTF face.

The two examples that I can remember from my reading:

"The ancient history teacher went to Egypt to study the pyramids." vs. "The ancient-history teacher went to Egypt to study the pyramids."

Truss says that without the hyphen, ancient could be modifying teacher instead of history...but who has ever heard of using a hyphen in a case like this? Seriously, I'd like to know. When has a university ever labeled a class "American-history" or "Postmodern-philosophy" or "Greek-literature" or anything like that?

Second example: "What are you doing with that shoe?" (question) vs. "What are you doing with that shoe!" (exclamation)

This is just stupid, because she is correcting something that is not a mistake to begin with. In both cases, the speaker is asking a question. The fact that one is rhetorical is beside the point. Tone of voice can be expressed in the exposition (she exclaimed, she asked, etc.). Using an exclamation mark is valid, but it's informal and not standard.

Also, Truss's solution to the problem of dangling modifiers is apparently to just tack on parentheses around the entire prepositional phrase, which is...lazy and not correct. Parentheses are for conversational asides and information not necessary to the sentence. They are not for separating pieces of the sentence that are getting in the way!

My boss pointed out that Lynne Truss is British, so that had me wondering whether I was just being dense and not knowing the differences between standard British English and standard American English. Do any Brits know the answer to this?

I don't know why I'm ranting about this (or why it irritates me so much in the first place), and I'm pretty sure half of you think I'm insane now. So if you got this far and without skipping to the next entry on your flist, then leave me a picture of something adorable in the comments, okay? Or, you know, respond to the grammar stuff. Whichever.

Also, it is 5AM. Why am I sitting here typing up a grammar rant at 5AM? *facepalm*
Tags: books, grammar, wtf
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