Daily Archives: July 12, 2007

An Alternative to the Punctuation Police

My do I love the Guardian book blog and having time right now to read it. Today they’ve got David Crystal on with “Punctuation is no place for zero tolerance.” I’ve always been an autrocious speller (and never seem to use enough commas) and so, while I did get a kick out of Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, I also felt sympathy for those who created the punctuation crimes in the book. And so how enormously refreshing it is to read Crystal’s very different view of the matter. In fact, he’s taken Truss on with a book of his own: The Fight for English: How Language Pundits Ate, Shot, and Left.

In his blog post, Crystal writes with insight and compassion about the difficulties of a zero tolerance to the English language. He shows us how lack of agreement is often why what appears to be a punctuation error is not. And when it really is an error he suggests that it is more important to try to figure out why the individual made the error than simply carrying on about it being wrong. He ends with the following:

I don’t like an approach which blames people for their handicap, even in jest. I think such energy would be better spent trying to improve an education system which has left huge holes in their literacy. Such a situation requires sympathetic intervention, not balaclava’d condemnation. That is why I am zero tolerant about Trussian zero tolerance.

Hear Hear!  (Instead of my first effort of Here Here — see the comments for the kind soul who gently corrected me.)


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