EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES: George Will looks at the nifty new book by Lynee Truss. As soon as my wife is done with it, I really should read it. We live in an age where, thanks to the Internet, the written word has never been more ubiquitous. And yet paradoxically, as Will notes, the vast majority of people online have an appalling lack of knowledge of proper spelling and punctuation:
The connection between the words “punctilious,” which means “attentive to formality or etiquette,” and “punctuation” is instructive. Careful punctuation expresses a writer’s solicitude for the reader. Of course punctuation, like most other forms of good manners, may yet entirely disappear, another victim of progress, this time in the form of e-mail, cell-phone text messages and the like.
Neither the elegant semicolon nor the dashing dash is of use to people whose preferred literary style is “CU B4 8?” and whose idea of Edwardian prolixity is: “Saw Jim — he looks gr8 — have you seen him — what time is the thing 2morrow.”
Oh, for the era when a journalist telephoned from Moscow to London to add a semicolon to his story!
I wouldn’t go that far–I’m quite happy to live in an era of demassified media (to borrow one of Alvin Toffler’s favorite phrases). But I’d happily take the language skills that flourished in the past.