Doing the reading (was: Best Books 2002)

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Thu Jan 9 04:31:43 EST 2003

Ania, quoting Denise:

>> Most of our profs have been
>> teaching for decades, as you can guess, and they don't cut slack on one
>> student because another failed to use proper punctuation -- in fact, I've
>> had readers nail me a half-grade for having a 1.1" margin on one side
>> rather than 1" exact margin when my printer was out of whack.
> To the downgrading for having a slightly wonky printer, I have this to say:
> pathetic. I am a stickler for proper punctuation and I never make spelling
> mistakes, but I am forced to agree with the esteemed Mr Pullman, who said in
> a radio interview that when it comes to writing (he was specifically talking
> about creative writing, but it applies to writing in general), things like
> punctuation can be put in later, and spelling can be checked. On the other
> hand,  the heart of the story, essay, poem, has to be there in the first
> place. And this is what really matters.

Hear, hear!

I'm an engineer, and do technical writing.  My boss (from whom I've just escaped
for 6 months) is also well-educated and articulate, but he has the view that the
system of English grammar and punctuation that he was taught (or more likely,
the system that he remembers being taught) is superior to the systems that the
rest of us were taught, and insists on "correcting" anything we write.  He holds
onto his view even when we can back up our own style from Fowler or other text

I generally get off quite lightly, but others have suffered quite heavily.

My view, on the other hand, is that if it gets the message across, it's OK.
When I read colleagues' work, I will generally correct spelling, but punctuation
and grammar I will usually only correct if the passage reads as if it might mean
something else, or is otherwise difficult to understand.


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