Monday, July 12, 2010

Punctuation garden gone to seed

I did not earn my good-worker dress. Darn. Maybe by the end of August I will have earned it. By the end of August, I hope to have 10 pages written. That's worth a new dress I think!

It has been difficult to get through the reading list I created. This is for a variety of reasons:

1. It's hot in my apartment
2. I've been busy with final copies at work
3. I've been catching up with friends
4. Some of the books are so badly written I throw them across the room in frustration. Getting up, retrieving the book, returning to the couch and finding my place in it all take up a surprisingly large amount of time.

It is difficult to avoid being distracted by the disastrous prose I've been reading. My first thought is usually that I missed something--that I read too quickly and so overlooked the word(s) or punctuation that make the sentence or conceit work. Because I am so generous, I re-read the sentence and too often conclude that I was correct - the sentence is badly written. Then I turn forensic grammarian and try to figure out what would have made the sentence work - sometimes it's as simple as a preposition switch or the addition or subtraction of commas. Other times it appears that a sentence's failure can be traced to the author's attachment to a certain phrase within the sentence: the rest of the sentence simply does not fit with the phrase but the author prizes the phrase more than s/he prizes clarity. Misuse of verbs is unfortunately common. Relationships don't cut, you cannot emasculate a thing or idea, and you cannot sever a split. Lastly, it appears there is an all but irresistible temptation to resort to important-sounding vagaries when approaching innovative or original thought. I suppose that it must be easier to leave readers with a mysterious-sounding short and pithy-seeming sentence immediately followed by something different and easier - more familiar that is - than it is to write one's way to an explanation of what one means.

How will I ever learn to write well when I must slog through so much bad writing? Bad writing is distracting. It is self-perpetuating. It is unethical. It is a disservice to everyone. It generates bad karma.

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