April 2008 Archives

Commas in Wit

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"Nothing but a breath--a comma--separates life from life everlasting.  It is very simple really.  With the original punctuation restored, death is no longer something to act out on a stage, with exclamation points.  It's a comma, a pause."

-From pages 14 and 15 of Margaret Edson's Wit

This entire passage reminded me of many of Lynne Truss' comments in Eats, Shoots & Leaves.  Truss constantly pointed out the importance of proper placement of commas, and any punctuation for that matter.  Similarly, Edson's character Vivian's professor comments on how only a comma can be the determining factor in the entire meaning of Donne's Holy Sonnet Six.  I think that it is very creative how Edson relates this sonnet and the study of Donne to Vivian's situation.  I love how she uses this scene to highlight Vivian's misunderstanding of her own involvement in society.  Basically, her professor tells her that one seemingly insignificant action, such as actually trying to talk to someone about something besides Donne, could help her to learn more about life and, eventually, death.  Edson continues to explore Vivian's loneliness in this and other creative ways throughout the rest of the play. 

The Bible and Free Verse?

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"The initial models for free verse poems were the psalms and the Song of Solomon in the King James Version of the Bible.  While reproducing the Song of Solomon in English, the translators attempted to imitate the cadences of the original Hebrew..."

-From page 239 of Sharon Hamilton's Essential Literary Terms

I was really suprised by this fact.  I have always recognized that the printing of the Bible in English was a major accomplishment; however I have considered the Bible as more of a historical reference and religious text rather than a literary work.  This makes me think that maybe more people should read the Bible as a piece of literature just to see what differences and similarities this point of view has to offer when compared to the former religious and historical perspectives.  Maybe people have already done this, and if so it would be interesting to see the comparisons. 

It does make a lot of sense though that literary concepts from the Bible would be the first to be imitated.  This would have been the first text translated into modern languages, and the Bible has been one of the most important texts to society practically since its creation.  It is just very interesting to compare free verse poems now to the psalms, especially because the content is often so different.  Hamilton gives the free verse example of the psalms followed by the example "Song of Myself" by Walt Witman which deal with some of the most conflicting ideas possible.  It is just very ironic that free verse poetry would have originated this way when compared to more recent free verse poetry. 

The End of Ender

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"It's not my idea of freedom to go live in the house of the people that I killed."

-From page 312 of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game


This thought of Ender's is completely revealing, probably one of the most revealing in the novel.  The reader is constantly informed along with Ender that the buggers had no free thoughts, that only the queens could think, reason, and cause the populous to act.  After Ender kills the entire species of buggers without knowing it, he is seriously depressed, even though all this time everyone told him that they were brainless, they were not like people, only the queens could think, and he would just be killing a few intelligent beings to save millions.  However, Ender still calls them "people" here, and he is not just referring to the queens.  He is referring to every bugger he killed.  He knows that humanity is not always right in their actions or their thoughts because of all of his experiences at the Battle School and on Earth, so he thinks that they could also be wrong about the buggers.  Regardless of the buggers' intelligence levels, Ender sees them as people, an entire species that he has mercilessly destroyed.  Yet he hopes for redemption.  He moves on to the colony with Mazer and Valentine, becomes governor, and begins looking for a new site for another colony from Earth when he discovers the reason why he was able to see them in this light.  His thoughts were somehow connected to the buggers the whole entire time.  They knew exactly what was going on and what would happen to them, and even how it would happen.  Why would the queen bugger allow him to destroy them then?  And more interestingly, why would she leave the only chance of her species' survival in the hands of the boy who destroyed them in the first place?  Because she knew Ender and he knew them.  I'm sure the answer is much clearer in the following novels; however Card is still able to end this novel in such a way as to provide the perfect balance of answers and questions. 

 I believe that this thought of Ender's proves that he is not desensitized to killing.  If Ender did not care about the buggers at all, why would he want to repopulate their planets with humans, why would he want to learn from them, and most of all, why would he want their species to be recreated?  Card writes the following on page 298:

"'We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them.  So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers.  But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed.  Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs.  If you knew, you couldn't do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough.' 

'And it had to be a child, Ender,' said Mazer.  'You were faster than me.  Better than me.  I was too old and cautious.  Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart.  But you didn't know.  We made sure you didn't know.  You were reckless and brilliant and young.  It's what you were born for.'"

Graff and Mazer's descriptions of Ender here are perfect.  These comments display that without a doubt Ender is not completely desensitized by his actions because deep down even he knows that they were not really his actions but the actions of those around him that caused the destruction of the buggers and the humans he directed.  After the years of isolation, after the unknown killings he committed, and after the psychological program they put him through, Ender can still feel and care.  Someone who is desensitized by killing would not even care a little bit.  Even Ender's rational ultra-human thought processes do not allow him to ignore his moral feelings, which is why the novel ends with Ender planning to repopulate a world with buggers instead of with Ender going back to Earth to lead a 3rd world war or create a military dictatorship for his brother. 

I love that this is not the end for Ender.  Even if Card had not continued with the series, the book would still have a final ending for me.  The reader doesn't see Ender succumbing to the horrors he was taught, but instead is able to hope for and even act for peace. 


Why Are They Outcasts?

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"'I'm a girl,' she said, 'and you're a pissant of a six-year-old.  We have so much in common, why don't we be friends?'"

-From Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game page 79

This comment really struck me.  First, Card tells the reader that Valentine, Ender's sister, had been a candidate for general of the entire army of the world.  Then he tells us that there are only a few girls at battle school.  Finally, he has Petra tell the reader that she is an outcast because she is a girl.  I'm still not very sure what the view of women is in the society in this novel.  Petra is obviously an outcast at Battle School because of her gender, not because of her performance: she is one of the best shooters.  Would Valentine have been an outcast too despite her abilities?  I think so because Ender is one and because the men in charge of the Battle School make Ender an outcast in order to prepare him for his future position.  Petra also seems to be a member of one of the minority races in the novel, which could also contribute to her position as an outcast in the Battle School society.  I hope that the following chapters will afford a clearer picture of the roles and significance of gender and race in the novel, as well as a clearer picture of why Card has chosen certain characters to be outcasts.

Prose or Poetry?

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"The blank verse is so understated that a reader might at first mistake the lines for prose."

-From Sharon Hamilton's Essential Literary Terms page 235

I really agree with Hamilton's comment here about blank verse poetry.  For most of my life I only thought of a poem as being "Roses are red, violets are blue..."-you know the rest.  I never really considered anything longer than a page a poem until I learned about blank verse poetry in high school.  Although blank verse seems to be less restrictive than a sonnet, this is not true when length is considered.  I really admire those who are able to write very long poems in blank verse.  I have read many British authors in my Major British Writers course who have been able to write these long, yet meaningful poems.  I enjoy these so much more than regular poems because they are able to tell stories that are fun and exciting while still restricting themselves in a more formal way.

Sci-Fi Is Actually Real

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"Father came home and kept saying it was such a wonderful surprise, they had such fantastic children that the government told them to have three, and now the government didn't want to take any of them after all, so here they were with three, they still had a Third...until Ender wanted to scream at him, I know I'm a Third, I know it, if you want I'll go away so you don’t have to be embarrassed in front of everybody, I'm sorry I lost  the monitor and now you have three kids and no obvious explanation, so inconvenient for you, I'm sorry sorry sorry."

-From page 15 of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game


First, I just want to say that I love this story.  I haven't read too many science fiction novels, but I do love Sci-Fi movies.  My father loves them so much, so I basically grew up watching shows like Sea Quest, Star Trek, and Stargate SG1, not to mention all of the popular Sci-Fi movies.  I've read books like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and The Giver and Gathering Blue by Lowis Lowry, but I have never read a science fiction book like this one. 

Science Fiction writing, or fantasy writing, is the most flexible in my opinion.  The author can create different worlds, characters, races, religions, etc. in order to create a great story.  But more than this, the author can create completely fictional places and people, and yet still discuss important themes of reality.  Already, and I've only read to chapter five, Card has included so many ideas and themes that resonate with our current society: education, societal pressures, child psychology, videogames, and technology to name just a few.  This flexibility of science fiction allows the author to reflect on the world around him or her and to provide a commentary about it without actually saying, "Look at the problems with ---" or "--- is a terrible leader."    

For instance, in the above quote, Card could be referring to the previous rule that Chinese families (in China) could only have a limited number of children as a means of population control.  I don't know if Card was thinking of this as he wrote or not, but it is definitely a possibility.  Despite the obvious seriousness of this matter, I was reminded of when my mother told me she was going to have another baby, a "Third," and I cried saying that I didn't want another sibling.  Later I told her that she could have the baby as long as it was a boy.  She told me that she really couldn't decide.  Well, we got another girl, but she is a tomboy through and through.  Now, I couldn't imagine my family without her.

Anyway, I think that this book is going to provide us with a lot of discussion about important issues that are discussed in the world and in our personal lives today, even though it takes place in the future where aliens are called "buggers" and where children have more complexthoughts at age six than some adults have in their entire lifetimes. 


"One Tiny Little" Problem

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"A short research paper assigned in the first month of class is not the proper occasion for you to tackle huge issues, such as, "Was Hamlet Shakespeare's Best Tragedy?" or "Women's Struggle for Equality."  You won't be graded down simply because you don't have all the answers right away.  The trick is to zoom in on one tiny little part of the argument."

-From Dr. Dennis Jerz "Short Research Papers" (online work, 1998)


I have never written a short research paper.  In elementary school I did write research reports that were short, but never a formal, MLA style research paper.  The shortest I have written was supposed to be four to six pages, and mine was exactly six.  The problem is that, though I may be able to find "one tiny little part of the argument," I may have trouble keeping it short.  I think that this will be a challenge for me, but it is very important to learn to write restricted papers, especially if I eventually wish to obtain a job in the English field. 

I Still Prefer the Oxford English Dictionary

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Okay, I know that most people are having or are going to have lots of fun with this activity, but I really think this website is not at all great.  I have never visited Urban Dictionary before this assignment, only because I knew exactly the sort of information that the site contained.  I love to laugh, but I absolutely hate the excessive use of foul language and crudeness.  Anyway, now that everyone knows that I am conservative, here are some words and definitions that I found on urbandictionary.com, along with these words used in sentences elsewhere:


procrastination: I ll put up a definition later

                          I ll put up an example later

                          by Arm Aug 19, 2004

I loved this one because it is a pure and funny definition that is absolutely correct.  Also, it perfectly describes my action in not completing this assignment until right now.

". BAD HABITS: i waste too much time here, i procrastinate way too much, eat too much junk food, can be too impatient, too introverted" -From Gina's Space




It's original definition was "Laughing out loud" (also written occasionally as "Lots of Laughs"), used as a brief acronym to denote great amusement in chat conversations.

Now, it is overused to the point where nobody laughs out loud when they say it. In fact, they probably don't even give a shit about what you just wrote. More accurately, the acronym "lol" should be redefined as "Lack of laughter."

Depending on the chatter, its definition may vary. The list of its meanings includes, but is not limited to:
1) "I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this conversation."
2) "I'm too lazy to read what you just wrote so I'm typing something useless in hopes that you'll think I'm still paying attention."
3) "Your statement lacks even the vaguest trace of humor but I'll pretend I'm amused."
4) "This is a pointless acronym I'm sticking in my sentence just because it's become so engraved into my mind that when chatting, I MUST use the meaningless sentence-filler 'lol.'"

lmao, lmfao, rofl, lawl, heh, haha, lolol, and 120 for similarities.

Statement: Sorry if I'm not too cheery, my best friend just died yesterday.
Worthless Reply: lol

Statement: The golden ratio is truely an intersting aspect of not only mathematics, but art as well.
Worthless Reply: lol

Statement: ... And then he says, "Your mom goes to college!"
Worthless Reply: lol

Statement: Hey, are you doing anything tonight? You could come over to my house and play some Unreal Tournie...
Worthless Reply: lol, ok

by no_one_2000 USA Aug 10, 2005

This definition is amazing!  Who would have thought that one rational person posted on this site?  I agree completely, this phrase is overused.

"She is hysterical as she reads the story back to me... she even uses special voices! LOL!"

-From Poppy Paperie, April 10, 2008 



a language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary

That word didn't used to be part of english.

by j-narrah Nov 13, 2003 email it
I thought that this definition was really interesting.  I see both truth and error in this statement.  Yes, many English speakers lack foreign language skills that other peoples feel are so important.  I've taken Spanish for six years, yet I know I am not anything near an expert.  However, the incorporation of words from other countries is a natural part of cultural diffusion.  Regardless of the definition's reliability, it is surprisingly thought provoking.

"Write college-level essays on personal and professional topics, building on the foundation of standard English grammar and usage that you developed in Basic Comp and/or Seminar in Thinking and Writing."

-From the Intro. to Literary Study Syllabus

What have I learned from this assignment?  That even though I sometimes have to do things I hate, I can still learn from them, even though I still prefer the Oxford English Dictionary.
P.S. Dr. Jerz, this was a really good assignment because probably every other student really seemed to enjoy it, and even I learned from it.  I also liked what we discussed in class.




Hidden Rhymes

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"Rhymes may also occur within a line of poetry rather than at the end, as in this example from William Blake's 'The Garden of Love':

      And binding with briars my joys & desires.

In this case, the device is called internal rhyme."

-From Sharon Hamilton's Essential Literary Terms page 211


I really love internal rhyme in poems and sonnets, sometimes even more than end rhyme.  I think that rhyming internally is sometimes much harder, especially when you want to find significant words that rhyme.  They are also much more difficult to find when you are analyzing poetry. I also love alliteration, assonance, and consonance in poetry.  All of these devices add a more lyrical flow to poetry that is not always possible in prose.  I just wanted to present the entire Blake poem that Hamilton used in her book to describe internal rhyme because it is one that I discussed in my British Literature class and liked:


"The Garden of Love"

by William Blake


"I went to the Garden of Love,

And saw what I never had seen:

A Chapel was built in the midst,

Where I used to play on the green.


And the gates of this Chapel were shut,

And 'Thou shalt not' writ over the door;

So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,

That so many sweet flowers bore,


And I saw it was filled with graves,

And tomb-stones where flowers should be;

And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,

And binding with briars my joys & desires."

-From The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor


Blake also uses the other literary devices mentioned above.  Here are a few:

-the a's in "Garden" and "saw"

-the i's in "built" and "midst"

-the a's in "Chapel" and "shalt"

-the t's in "'shalt not' writ"

-the t's in "turn'd to"

-the s's in "so" and "Sweet"

-the i's in "it," "filled", and "with"

-the i's in "binding" and "briars" and "desires" 


Here is also another internal rhyme: "gowns" and "rounds"

Can you even imagine this poem without all of these rhymes and similar sounds?  They really make the poem as good as it is.



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by Erica Gearhart


Looking out upon the sea's calm waters

At the newly waken moon I’m gazing.

Shadowy reflection swirling, moonlight

Playing lambently along with darkness.

Gypsies silently arrived, eyes twinkling.

Slowly rose she to meet me where I sat.

Stillness veiled the nearing stellar figure.

But I saw she clasped her crystal ball.

First I only viewed the surface nicks, the

Foggy window cleared, then, I saw my soul.


Subplots or Superplots, They All Make a Difference

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"A work may have only a single unified plot, or it may abruptly shift focus, to a different set of characters or a new locaiton.  The drama of the English Renaissance, for example, is full of subplots, secondary stories that parallel or contrast with the main action."

-From Sharon Hamilton's Essential Literary Terms, pages 174-175

When I read this section, I immediately though of my favorite author Jane Austen.  In every one of her novels, she uses this technique.  In fact, I would say that some of her subplots are just as interesting, or more interesting, than her main plots (maybe Austen's should be called superplots).  I think she does this because if only her major plots could subsist on their own, or if Austen reworked them so that they could stand alone, her stories would not be nearly as good.  This is mainly because all of her stories end happily.  It would be all "bunnies and rainbows," as Dr. Jerz often says.  All of Austen's stories may end pleasantly, but only after the characters have some problems.  Most of these problems for the main characters proceed from the subplots.  I really liked how Katie mentioned that dramatic irony is often relatable to subplots.  I had not considered this before, but it is definitely true.  In almost every story I have even read, including those by Jane Austen, I find that the subplots cause some type of irony either for the readers or for the characters.  Subplots, or superplots, add so much to stories: they make them more complex, more fun, and more interesting.





Welcome to my second blogging portfolio for Intro. to Literary Study.  This portfolio encompasses many of the blogs that I have accomplished throughout the second portion of this semester.  I feel that this portfolio is more accomplished than my first portfolio; however there is always room for improvement, especially in the areas of depth, timeliness, and disscussion.   Anyway, here are some great blogs by me and some wonderful responses from my classmates, my professor, and other people who have stumbled upon my blogs. 


Coverage:  I think that this portfolio shows that I have really improved on coverage.  Although I have included the work, the author, and the page of every reading, as well as a link back to the course page that relates to the agenda item, I have included a few of the blogs that best demonstrate my coverage abilities.  Some of these blogs also include links or references to sources other than our readings.

"Could You Live on Only $281 Per Month?": Great use of links to the course webpage and to another source

"Sir Michael Sims": Interesting quotes from a class speaker related to our reading

"Good Story and Academic Literary Devices?  Of Course!": Quote and links from the reading and from a classmate's blog

"Ambiguity in O'Connor": Work cited at the beginning with other usage throughout my response

"The First :-)": Work cited at the beginning with a relating source referenced in my response


Timeliness: I am still having some trouble posting things by the specified time.  I always have them posted before class; however my schedule is set up so that I have time on the day agenda items are due.  I can never seem to get ahead.  Oh well, I will still try to do this more successfully for the next portfolio.  Here are some links to blogs I was able to post on time (at least 24 hours before class).

 "Suicide? Mercy? Or Just Another Sad Story?"

"Verbal Irony or Just an Angry Tom Wingfield?"

"Dickinson's Diction"

"Could You Live on Only $281 Per Month?"

"Could the Valedictorian Be a Crappy Teacher?  Of Course!"

"Sir Michael Sims"

"I Think I Lived Another Life as a 6th Century Scribe"

"Virginia Woolf, Semi-Colons, and (Hopefully) a Colon Example"

"!: The Really Active and Disruptive Sibling"

"The First:-)"

Interaction: I had a lot of blogs with great interaction this time.  I actually had three blogs on which people other than classmates and Dr. Jerz commented, which shows that my blogs are attracting attention from outside sources.  Many of my blogs this time also had really in depth and helpful comments from peers.  Here are a few that I think really highlight my improvements in this area:

"Could the Valedictorian Be a Crappy Teacher?  Of Course!": This blog received five comments from classmates

"Sir Michael Sims": Not only did classmates respond to this blog, but author Michael Sims himself, as well as Becky Campbell, Director of Seton Hill University's Career Works

"Good Story and Academic Literary Devices? Of Course!": I created a link to another students blog on this one of mine 

"The Corporate World Is Not for Me...Or Maybe it Could Be":  This blog attracted comments from students, Dr. Jerz, and another member from outside of the Seton Hill community

"Be Your Own Tour Guide": This blog entry received seven comments from students and Dr. Jerz, but it also helped to clarify some of the particulars of the courses required for the English Literature major as well as for the Education Program

"An Unconventional Birth of Ideas": This one contains a link to another classmate's blog as well as some very insightful comments

"Mrs. Havisham Isn't a Round Character?": This last blog contains a great comment from a classmate, as well as another rather disagreeing comment from the outside world 


Depth:  I have produced quite a few blogs this time that I feel demonstrate my ability to write in depth about the various topics and works we have been discussing in class.  Here are a few of them:

"Dickinson's Diction": This one shows the application of one work we discussed in class to another

"Fate and Raindrops": In this blog, I point out the possible symbol of baptism in Flannery O'Connor's "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", as well as discuss the character Mr. Shiflet

"Sir Michael Sims": I relate a class reading to a guest speaker's presentation

"She Really Just Wanted to Sell a Book": This one analyzes the purpose of an author's controversial statements.  It is also a response to peer blogs.

"An Unconventional Birth of Ideas": This is another blog in which I discussed possible symbolism and meaning in a Flannery O'Connor short story

"Peacocks, Peacocks, and More Peacocks": Here I look at the reasoning behind the Flannery O'Connor's use of peacocks in "The Displaced Person"


Discussion:  I think that I still have room for improvement in this area as well, but below are some links to comments I left on others' blogs that sparked a conversation or contributed to a discussion. 

Greta Carroll's "Déjà vu from the 9th grade causes the death of a resentment"

Jeanine O'Neil's "Punctuation Gets Personal"

Kaitlin Monier's "No Comma Before the AND... Not for Me."

Tiffany Gilbert's "Count Your Blessings"

Chelsea Oliver's "I'm glad I'm complex"

Ethan Shepley's "The Cost of Happiness"


True Confessions: In the following blogs, I opened up a lot more than I normally do and shared some more personal thoughts, which I feel is also an important part of learning to write blogs.  Enjoy!

"Women Rule (But I Feel Sorry for the Guys!)"

"I Finally Get Close Reading!"

"A Small Confession- I Actually Like Learning about Grammar"

"I Think I Lived Another Life as a 6th Century Scribe"


Worst Blogs: I like these two blogs, but the first one was written before I finished reading the chapter, which skewed my understanding of the text.  I corrected my mistake in the second one and have learned my lesson.

"A Small Confession-Actually Like Learning about Grammar"

"It Is a Punctuation Book, Not a Grammar Book"


Best Blog:  I was so pleased with my writing here, as well as with the responses I got from students, faculty, and the author himself.

"Sir Michael Sims"


I hope you enjoyed the blogs and comments that are linked to this portfolio.  Please take the time to look at my classmates' progress as well.

The First :-)

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"You will know all about emoticons.  Emoticons are the proper name for smileys.  And a smiley is, famously, this:


Forget the idea of selecting the right words in the right order and channeling the reader's attention by means of artful pointing...Anyone interested in punctuation has a dual reason to feel aggrieved about smileys, because not only are they a paltry substitute for expressing oneself properly; they are also designed by people who evidently thought the punctuation marks on the standard keyboard cried out for an ornamental function."

-From pages 192-193 of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss


Not only is it amazing that Truss included a section on emoticons, it is also amazing that my roommate's grandfather recently sent her a newspaper clipping about this exact topic.  The clipping article is called "Putting a face on computer writing" and was written by Daniel Lovering of the Associated Press (the title of the newspaper was cut off, although I believe it is from a 2007 edition of  the Tribune Review).  In this article, Lovering identifies the man who started it all: "Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman."  Apparently, the very first record of this emoticon, according to Lovering, was "...at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor."  According to Lovering, Professor Fahlman said, " 'I propose the following character sequence for joke makers: :-).  Read it sideways.' "


I think that this is so funny.  A professor at nearby Carnegie Mellon was the first (known) person to create the online smiley face.  What's more, look at how this idea has spread around the world!  Almost everyone who has used the Internet knows this symbol.  I also think that for once Truss may be somewhat wrong here.  Yes, Mr. Fahlman was probably looking at the keyboard too long when he created this symbol; however as evidenced by the article, he was attempting to make text talking more understandable.  This is not a regression of the English language: it is an addition to it, or even-gasp!-a progression of it.  We must just remember that these symbols should be reserved to the Internet and phone texts, and they should never find their way into academic or formal writing.

P.S. I hate emoticons almost as much as Truss does, but take a look at what other people have to say about emoticons and other ideas from Eats, Shoots & Leaves.


!:The Really Active and Disruptive Sibling

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"In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."

-From page 137-138 of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss


Lynne Truss' visuals here are so great for me (aside from the reference to the "attention-deficit" brother).  These make the book so much more entertaining.  When I saw that Truss included rules concerning the exclamation point, I was very surprised.  I have only ever learned that the exclamation point goes at the end of a sentence or phrase that is very emotional.  I did not think that there were very strict rules concerning it.  Well, apparently there are very few rules concerning it (only six according to Truss).  I just thought it was interesting that she included these rules at all until I thought of all of the people I know who use exclamation points all the time.  They think every sentence they write that has some meaning should have an exclamation point!  Yes, these marks are important, but do they have to be used all of the time?!?  I just can't stand it!  Isn't this really annoying?  However, I still get emails and letters like this all of the time.  Is there even a "?!?" mark?  If there is, what is it called? A questioningly exclaimed question mark?  Who knows?


"But the thermals that benignly waft our sentences to new altitudes - that allow us to coast on air, and loop-the-loop, suspending the laws of gravity- well, they are the colons and semicolons.  If you don't believe me, ask Virginia Woolf:

'As for the other experiences, the solitary ones, which people go through alone, in their bedrooms, in their offices, walking the fields and the streets of London, he had them; had left home, a mere boy, because of his mother; she lied; because he came down to tea for the fiftieth time with his hands unwashed; because he could see no future for a poet in Stroud; and so, making a confidant of his little sister, had gone to London leaving an absurd not behind him, such as great men have written, and the world has read later when the story of their struggles has become famous.’

                                        Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 1925

Look at that sentence fly.  Amazing.”

-From page 106-107 of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss


I've never seen a sentence this long!  It truly is as "Amazing" as Truss says.  I love that Truss gives us examples and practical rules of application, but I love even more that she uses the punctuation marks herself in her descriptions.  I think the biggest problem with teaching these two types of punctuation is that teachers often just show examples of what is or is not proper, and then they are done.  What middle or high school teacher uses colons and semicolons in notes on a daily basis?  None of mine ever did.  Just a few examples in one chapter of a grammar book are not enough.  This is probably because most teachers are not comfortable with complex punctuation and grammar themselves.  One of the reasons why I chose to major in English is so that when I do become a teacher, I will be able to enforce the proper writing techniques that are so important to my students (and I love reading and writing).  I will even begin right now: I will (maybe?) use a colon properly.


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I Think I Lived Another Life as a 6th Century Scribe

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"Most significantly of all, however, they ignored the old marks that had aided the reader-aloud.  Books were now for reading and understanding, not intoning."

-From page 78 of  Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss


Okay, I definitely lived another life when there were tons of ways to write commas.  I constantly insert commas where they do not belong.  This is fine if someone is writing poetry or something similar, but obviously not if someone is writing an academic paper.  Just like these guys from before the 15th century, I like to insert commas where I feel there should be a pause in reading.  I could never seem to grasp all of the comma rules as I could other punctuation and grammar rules, so I was ecstatic when Truss wrote that "the great Sir Ernest Gowers" said, " ' The use of commas cannot be learned by rule' " (82).  "Yes! I can put commas wherever I want," I thought, but then I read on.  I knew the rules would come inevitably.  Oh well, at least I have these helpful rules to follow now. 


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