Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fodder for the Serial Comma Wars

In today's Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley pens a lovely salute to The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White.

Yardley's essay has this excerpt:

This is the same William Strunk, Jr., who two pages earlier writes, "In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last," as in "red, white, and blue," this second comma being "often referred to as the 'serial' comma," except in newspaper offices, where it is often referred to as the "space-eating" comma.

Score one for the serial comma!

The funny thing about Strunk & White is this: over the years as an editor, I have heard countless colleagues (often engineers and scientists) make adoring comments about it -- and rarely, if ever, apply its principles. It got to be that if someone quoted Strunk & White to me, I cringed, knowing their writing would be obtuse and bloviated.

I doubt they ever read it.

Same with many lawyers.

Such is life.

1 comment:

Patti said...

We always need to save space, don't we?