Language of Mutilation: Grammar for Ads & Life

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Grammar is like K-Y Jelly — when used correctly, everyone benefits. But copywriters and art directors find equal pleasure wreaking grammatical havoc, the results of which Strunk and White deemed “the mutilation of language” back in 1918. They’d likely cringe at Honda Civic’s tagline “To Each Their Own.” (Do you know why?) And sometimes there are good reasons to disregard the evolving commandments of English language construction, like how pronouns must agree with their antecedents, especially when following the “rules” will turn off your reader. But even in 2012, some things should be right every time. Who the hell are Strunk and White? And what are these things we should get right? Come find out. We’ll talk about where these “rules” came from, the assumptions made about those who appear not to follow them and a few grammar basics. Punctuation isn’t so boring if you think about quotation marks as little hugs, ravishing commas and periods. It’s almost hot, in a syntactic kind of way.

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  • I hail from Durham, North Carolina where I work at McKinney. Durham is often compared to what Austin “used to be”Keep Austin WeirdKeep Durham DirtySpeaking of dirty, the Panel Picker proposal and session description compared grammar to K-Y Jelly: “When used correctly, everyone benefits.” But you don’t always need it. So KNOW YOUR READER. Ads are usually written with a certain audience in mind. When advertising yourself online, you can’t really “know” your reader. Bottom line: Your message will more likely suffer without grammar than with it. When in doubt, use grammatical lubrication.The phrase “language of mutilation” indicates that something was one way and now, through mutilation, it is another way. That “one way” is assumed to be correct/right/good. Its “mutilation” makes something incorrect/wrong/bad.Why can’t the “other way” be simply different? Another version of language? Why must it be negative? Where is this judgment coming from?
  • William Strunk Jr.- Professor of English at Cornell for 46 years- Wrote “Elements of Style” in 1918- Required it in all of his classesE.B. WhiteStudied at CornellStrunk’s studentWriter of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart LittleUpdated and edited “Elements of Style” in 1959Won an honorary Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his work as a wholeStrunk/White facts“Elements” has been in continual print since 1959Sold more than 10 million copiesIllustrated edition published AND book set to music in 2005 (http://web.archive.org/web/20060827225315/http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9844117/site/newsweek/)In 2011, Time magazine listed the writing style-guide as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923
  • First four lines of Beowulf prologue, first work known to be written in English Example of “Old English”Translation:Lo, praise of the prowess of people-kingsof spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,Translated first lines of Beowulf
  • Chaucer would not have been able to read Beowulf – took just 300 years for the language to change that drasticallyTranslation:When in April the sweet showers fall That pierce March's drought to the root And bathed every vein in liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower;500 years ago:1490 -- First printer in English—William CaxtonFirst English language standards—London’s Chancery begins developing a standard English to use when producing government documents.
  • Unedited ShakespeareThere are only six surviving signatures from Shakespeare, and they are all spelled differently.350 years ago — 1672 — John Dryden said in an essay (“Defense of the Epilogue”) that ending a sentence with preposition is “wrong” (he Dryden wrote in Latin, where preposition-final constructions are not possible, and translated into English. 1712: Jonathan Swift bemoans the loss of the pronounced “ed” at the end of past-tense verbs (rebuk-ed, disturb-ed)First English dictionary published around this time based on what author thought was “correct” instead of how people were already writing/speaking.Banned the double negative though other languages use it readily and without concern1762: Robert Lowth publishes the first official grammar book
  • Known as “Fowlers” it calls the English grammar myths already in circulation “ungrammatical pieces of nonsense.” - Still in print - Fowler died in 1933
  • Lynne Truss publishes “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” in 2003Truss factsSold more than 3 million copiesIllustrated and children’s editions already publishedNo. 1 on NY Times nonfiction list for one weekImage: http://dailyoasis.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/eats-shoots-and-leaves/
  • http://kellysworld.net/2011/10/apple-think-different-ad-hd/"Think Different" has been criticized as a slogan for being grammatically incorrect. "Think" is a verb and should take the adverb, "differently", not the adjective, "different". On the other hand, in certain colloquial expressions such as "think big", this rule can be violated for effect. Furthermore, the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary cites use of "different" as an adverb dating back to 1744.[6] Also, with "different" as a noun, the phrase "Think Different" refers to what to think as opposed to how to think. This is similar to the difference between "Do Good" and "Do Well," where "Do Good" refers to performing good deeds such as being kind to others, and "Do Well" means to perform an action successfully, such as earning a high score on an exam.
  • http://creativity-online.com/work/honda-civic-ninja-poster/22998Webster says”each” is pronoun meaning “each one”“each” takes a singular verb (Each person has a car.)“each” as an antecedent should take a singular pronoun (his or her)“To each his own” is a phrase meaning that onehas a rightto one's personal preferences. BUT, language morphs…
  • http://www.happyplace.com/3645/the-best-obnoxious-responses-to-misspellings-on-facebook
  • Grammar = how words are put together in sentences; focus is on the parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections)Punctuation promotes ease of reading by clarifying relationships within and between sentences.I am most often asked about punctuation, so that’s what we’re going to review in the remaining minutes.
  • Use a comma after the last item before the conjunction (and, but, or) in a simple series
  • Image credit: http://www.sideofsneakers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/image8.pngA fictitious and apocryphal bookdedication blogged by Language Hat in 2003: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God. To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.
  • January 11, 2012 in The Telegraph article: Waterstones, the bookshop, has dropped the apostrophe in its trading name and logo, sparking outrage among some of its customers. More practical for URLs, email, tweets, etc.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/9007692/Waterstones-drops-its-apostrophe.html#disqus_threadhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/12/waterstones-apostrophe-no-catastrophe
  • Personal possessive pronouns ending in S often come AFTER the noun being possessed: the car is his, the house is hersQuasi possession: a day’s pay, two weeks’ vacation
  • Starting a sentence with a conjunction: it’s OK.Per Chicago, when a colon introduces two or more sentences, when it introduces a speech in dialogue or an extract, or when it introduces a direct question, the first word following it is capitalized.
  • Between complete thoughts normally joined by a conjunction. Keep the conjunction if lots of punctuation is needed in one or both of the separate clauses.Before “transitional expressions” in the middle of sentences -- however, therefore, nevertheless, in any case, rather, for instance, moreover, etc. Help the reader relating the preceding thought to the one being introduced.
  • McKinney resources: Merriam-WebsterNo passwordAnnoying ads follow youTips for searching prefixes (post-, re-)AP StylebookSubscription neededEmail me!
  • Language of Mutilation: Grammar for Ads & Life

    1. Language of Mutilation Grammar for Ads and Life #sxgrammar
    2. William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White“Today, the language ofadvertising enjoys anenormous circulation.With its deliberateinfractions of grammaticalrules and its crossbreeding of the parts of speech, itprofoundly influences the tongues and pens ofchildren and adults…. You will want to try writingthat way, using that language. You should do so atyour peril, for it is the language of mutilation.”
    3. Brief history of English grammarCHANGE = DECLINATION?
    4. 1,000 years agoHwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum, - Beowulf
    5. 700 years agoWhan that Aprill, with his shoures sooteThe droghte of March hath perced to the rooteAnd bathed every veyne in swich licour,Of which vertu engendred is the flour; - Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”
    6. 400 years agoI remember Adam, it was vpon this fashionbequeathed me by will, but poore a thousandCrownes, and as thou saist, charged my bro-ther on his blessing to breed mee well: andthere begins my sadnesse… - Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”
    7. 100 years ago and so on“P” banned the split infinitive in 1834.Ben Franklin wanted all nouns capitalized.Thomas Jefferson went ape shit withapostrophes (see Declaration of Independence).Noah Webster determined standard spellings.Henry Watson Fowler publishes “A Dictionary ofModern English Usage” in 1926.Strunk & White warn of mutilation.
    8. Today
    9. ExamplesCONTEMPORARY MUTILATION
    10. Serial CommaTHE COMMA BEFORE THECONJUNCTION
    11. Serial CommaJudy’s favorite colors are red, green, and blue.Judy’s favorite colors are red, green and blue.
    12. Serial Comma: Per the AP StylebookUse it when items in a series have internalconjunctions – Judy ordered cheese fries with bacon, green eggs and ham, and beer to go.• Use it when the elements are complex – The main points to consider are whether they serve cheese fries with bacon and spicy sauce, if we can take the beer to go, and what time we need to be back to the office for yet another meeting.
    13. Serial Comma: Per the AP StylebookUse it when items in a series have internalconjunctions – Judy ordered cheese fries with bacon, green eggs and ham, and beer to go.• Use it when the elements are complex – The main points to consider are whether they serve cheese fries with bacon and spicy sauce, if we can take the beer to go, and what time we need to be back to the office for yet another meeting.
    14. Serial Comma: Per the AP StylebookUse it when items in a series have internalconjunctions – Judy ordered cheese fries with bacon, green eggs and ham, and beer to go.Use it when the elements are complex – The main points to consider are whether they serve cheese fries with bacon and spicy sauce, if we can take the beer to go, and what time we need to be back to the office for yet another meeting.
    15. Serial Comma: Per the AP StylebookUse it when items in a series have internalconjunctions – Judy ordered cheese fries with bacon, green eggs and ham, and beer to go.Use it when the elements are complex – The main points to consider are whether they serve cheese fries with bacon and spicy sauce, if we can take the beer to go, and what time we need to be back to the office for yet another meeting.
    16. Enough with the serial comma. Questions?
    17. ApostropheTHE MARK OF OMISSION ANDOWNERSHIP
    18. Show omission and ownershipIndicate what’s missing – Judy OMalley – Rock ‘n’ roll – Don’t, can’t, it’s, you’re, they’re – Summer of ‘69Indicate possession – Judy’s clients – Judy’s clients’ demands – Judy and Jonah’s house – Judy’s and Jonah’s housesAvoid confusion when making single letters plural – Cross your T’s, dot your I’s and earn all A’s Per the AP Stylebook
    19. NOT needed to make nouns pluralThe Joneses, who have lived in both KansasCitys, wore leg warmers in the 1980s.This:
    20. Enough with the apostrophe. Questions?
    21. ColonTHE MARK OFINTRODUCTION, EXPLANATIONAND EMPHASIS
    22. Introduce a listJudy’s backpack held our beach necessities:towels, sunscreen, small farm animals andCorona Light.
    23. Introduce a listJudy’s backpack held our beach necessities.towels, sunscreen, small farm animals andAVOID:Corona Light.Judy’s backpack held our beach necessities, including: towels,sunscreen, small farm animals and Corona Light.BECAUSE:Judy’s backpack held our beach necessities, including.
    24. Introduce textJudy promised me this: Our love will not dieunless we are both dead, and then maybe thememory of our love will spur others to lovenondead people, but the original love, whichwas ours, will have died.
    25. Introduce textJudy promised me this. Our love will not dieunlessAVOID: we are both dead, and then maybe thememory of our love will spur others to loveJudy promised me that: Our love will not die unless we are both dead,nondead people, but the love will spur otherswhichand then maybe the memory of our original love, to lovenondead people, but the original love, which was ours, will have died.was ours, will have died.BECAUSE:Judy promised me that.
    26. Introduce textJudy promised me this. Our love will not dieunlessAVOID: we are both dead, and then maybe thememory of our love will spur others to loveJudy promised me that: Our love will not die unless we are both dead,nondead people, but the love will spur otherswhichand then maybe the memory of our original love, to lovenondead people, but the original love, which was ours, will have died.was ours, will have died.BECAUSE:Judy promised me that our love will not die unless we are both dead,and then maybe the memory of our love will spur others to lovenondead people, but the original love, which was ours, will have died.
    27. Introduce a long quoteJust as she was leaving, Judy turned and reciteda limerick: A flea and a fly in a flue Were caught, so what could they do? Said the fly, "Let us flee.” "Let us fly," said the flea. So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
    28. Explain and emphasizeJudy refuses to eat ice cream: She is allergic todairy and ice.Judy refuses to eat one thing: ice cream.
    29. Enough with the colon. Questions?
    30. SemicolonTHE BASTARD LOVE CHILD OF THEPERIOD AND THE COMMA
    31. Yeah• It’s not quite a full • It’s more than a stop. pause.
    32. Join related sentencesReplace a junction . . . – And – But – Or. . . with a semicolon(Keep the conjunction if one or both clauses usean excessive amount of punctuation.)
    33. Without a conjunctionBefore:The baby was due on Saturday, but she wasborn on Sunday instead.
    34. Without a conjunctionBefore:The baby was due on Saturday, but she wasborn on Sunday instead.After:The baby was due on Saturday; she was born onSunday instead.
    35. With a conjunctionThe baby girl, Jennifer, was due on Saturday,July 2, 2011, which is exactly one year after herbrother, John, was born; but she arrived (thanksto a C-section) on Sunday, July 3, instead, whichupset her sibling, as he was reluctant to sharethe affections of his mother with such a squirmylittle being.
    36. With a conjunctionThe baby girl, Jennifer, was due on Saturday,July 2, 2011, which is exactly one year after herbrother, John, was born; but she arrived (thanksto a C-section) on Sunday, July 3, instead, whichupset her sibling, as he was reluctant to sharethe affections of his mother with such a squirmylittle being.
    37. Separate serial items with internal punctuationThe specials tonight are beer cheese soup, which ismade with aged cheddar, ale, cheese, beer andcream; spinach, feta and spicy walnut salad; and anobscenely large cut of red meat with your choice ofmashed, fried or baked potatoes. – The entire family celebrates July birthdays: The youngest, Jennifer, was born in July 3, 2011, via C- section; her brother, John, was born the year before on July 2; and her parents, Judy and Jonah, were both born on July 28, 1980.
    38. Separate serial items with internal punctuationThe specials tonight are beer cheese soup, which ismade with aged cheddar, ale, cheese, beer andcream; spinach, feta and spicy walnut salad; and anobscenely large cut of red meat with your choice ofmashed, fried or baked potatoes. – The entire family celebrates July birthdays: The youngest, Jennifer, was born in July 3, 2011, via C- section; her brother, John, was born the year before on July 2; and her parents, Judy and Jonah, were both born on July 28, 1980.
    39. Enough with the punctuation review. Questions?
    40. HelpONLINE SOURCES
    41. Merriam-Webster and AP Stylebook
    42. More online sources• Bartleby.com • Guide to Grammar and – Strunk & White, Fowlers Writing• Purdue Online Writing – Index, quizzes Lab (OWL) • Chicago Manual of Style• U of IL Center for – Subscription required Writing Studies • Grammarphobia• Oxford Dictionary – The living dead • Paul Brian’s Non-errors My tweets: @gmariethatsme My blog: towriteawrong.tumblr.com
    43. My tweets: @gmariethatsmeMy blog: towriteawrong.tumblr.com

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