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The big chill

by Jenna Weissman Joselit on February 23rd, 2015

Everyone’s talking about the weather. Our daily speech is studded with allusions to snow, wind chill, clipper effects and vortexes. Wreaking havoc with our plans, much less our wardrobes, meteorology has taken hold of our lives.

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style/Wikipedia

I can’t wait for the day when I no longer have to pull on my warm clunky boots. Or is it my warm, clunky boots? Having just read “Holy Writ,” Mary Norris’ wry and vivid piece in The New Yorker about her experiences as a copyeditor, I’m no longer sure about my commas. Norris’s cautionary tale about when to deploy them and when not has got my knickers — okay, my long johns — in a twist.

Norris acknowledges that grammar can be intimidating, but then, throwing caution to the wind, she gleefully intimidates the rest of us with her knowing references to coordinate adjectives, serial commas, Oxford commas, and other tools of the trade.

For those who don’t spend the better part of their days fretting about such matters, “Holy Writ” makes for great reading. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most critical, but little known and even less understood, aspects of the writerly life.

For those who, like me, do spend the better part of our days fretting about commas and clauses, “Holy Writ” has had a chilling effect. It was all I could do to write this post. I’m frozen in more ways than one.

From → language

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