I get letters telling me that I use quotation marks incorrectly, that my grammar is horrible, that I use far too many italics, and other issues like that. If you've ever wondered about any of that (at least, with respect to the webpage), this is the page which I wrote in defense (well, sort of) of some of my grammar.
I've organized it as a question-and-answer session, much like the F.A.Q., and I'm going to answer the questions in a more-or-less random order. Although the truth is more that they aren't in any order, and I'm just answering them as they occur to me.
Why do you use quotation marks the way you do?
I get asked this a lot, and with good reason. If you look around the website, you'll find many instances where I put a terminating comma (or period) outside quotation marks. The rule is that one must put ending commas or periods inside quotation marks. Always, always, always. There are no exceptions.
Except sometimes. The exceptions are fairly new, and usually deal with technology or literary criticism (where accuracy is paramount). To quote The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition):
6.8 . . . In the kind of textual studies where retaining the original placement of a comma in relation to closing quotation marks is essential to the author's argument and scholarly integrity, the alternative system described in 6.10 could be used . . .
True, I don't think that "scholarly integrity" is as important for a website (yet!) as it is for academic journals, but I do care for accuracy. Given that I often refer to computer concepts, I much prefer using the "alternative system" they describe. It's more accurate.
And sometimes I can get away with the "textual studies" excuse. If I want to refer to the word "bagel", I put the comma outside the quotation marks, because the comma is not part of the word. At some point, I will probably revise the entire website to follow the described alternative system more closely (that is: using single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks). But that's a project for a very rainy day indeed.
So please, please, rest assured that I do know what I'm doing, and I do know how quotation marks are used, and I do know that my use of them technically breaks rules. I know all that.
And just as an even more defensive aside (as if the above isn't defensive enough), the only reason the rule exists in the first place is due to the physical limitations of printers based on movable type. It's not for any actual linguistic purpose.
There. The end. That's the most ranty one. I'll try to be calmer now.
Why do you use italics so much?
Okay, I'm guilty of this one. I use italics far too often. My reasoning is that I want the text on the website to echo my manner of speaking as closely as possible. I don't speak in a flat monotone (unless I've just been dragged out of bed), and I try to get that across in my typing. It's a crude attempt at putting inflection into what I write. So treat the pages as if they're spoken rather than as written. It's more accurate that way.
Actually, that's not entirely true. If the pages, as written, were really close to the way I talked, there'd be "um" and "uh" and "like" all over the place. But I don't think that much meaning is being lost by leaving those out.
Do you mean to use that many adverbs?
I'm trying to quit. I read a lot of my writing from the past year stuff that was recent enough to be familiar, but far enough back that I was detached and I was horrified. I use qualifiers everywhere. Most of my sentences start with "however" or "on the other hand" or "as it happens" and I've got to stop it. I don't talk like that, so why should I write like that?
So yes, I know that I use a lot of unnecessary adverbs (and qualifiers in general, many in the form of parenthetical asides just like this one) but I'll be paring those out soon.
Do you realize that "complected" isn't a word?
This isn't a complaint against me. It's a complaint I receive about the books. The author is fond of using the word "complected" instead of "complexioned", and some people have a problem with that. One person wrote "The American Heritage Dictionary aside, 'complected' is a non-word."
Well I've done some research, and "complected" is a valid entry in every dictionary I've got, including the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition). Yes, it is an American colloquialism, but that doesn't make it a non-word.
What's your opinion of verbing?
I don't have any problem with verbing or its analogues (adjectiving, adverbing, etc.) as long as it's handled properly. If you want to use a word as an adverb, then go ahead and turn it into an adverb. But don't turn it into an adjective and use it as you would use an adverb. New words are fine. Breaking the rules for usage of those words... not so fine.
How about ending sentences with prepositions?
Even though it's hammered into kids all through school, the fact remains that this is an arbitrary rule that was invented by someone who contributed nothing else to grammar (although I can't remember his name at the moment). In most cases, rephrasing a sentence to make it comply with the rule damages the sentence aesthetically. It just sounds better the original way. To quote (again) from The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition):
5.169 . . . The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction . . . The "rule" prohibiting terminal prepositions was an ill-founded superstition.
So even though it may horrify English teachers everywhere, the truth about ending sentences with prepositions is finally out.
Do you have any idea how many typos are on the website?
Nope. I do care, but my eyes glaze over when I'm editing pages that I've read literally a hundred times before. If you find a typo, tell me. I'll fix it as soon as I'm able.