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March 16, 2007

YAY for Punctuation!

Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Ho hum," you say, or, if you're American, "Big deal." Very Well. You're entitled to your ignorance, but pause a moment, dear reader, and imagine this page of deathless prose, the one you're reading, without punctuation" (xii).

I feel totally lame for already having a quotation selected and I'm only on the second page of the foreword. But, I could not resist because it reminds me (naturally, as I have just read it this semester) of the wonderful world of Faulkner and his very famous novel The Sound and the Fury. (Yes, the title does seem familiar because it is, unsurprisingly, from good old Billy Shakespeare.) So, as a future teacher, I have decided that if any of my students ever try to argue that punctuation and grammar doesn't matter, I will be making them read a section like the following one out of Faulkner’s novel:

Father said Uncle Maury was too poor a classicist to risk the
blind immortal boy in person he should have chosen Jason
because Jason would have made only the same kind of blunder
Uncle Maury himself would have made not one to get him a
black eye the Patterson boy was smaller than Jason too they
sold kites for a nickel a piece until the trouble over finances
Jason got a new partner still smaller one small enough anyway
because T.P. said Jason still treasurer but Father said why
should Uncle Maury work if he Father could support five or six
niggers that did nothing at all but sit with their feet in the oven
he certainly could board and lodge Uncle Maury now and then
and lend him a little money who kept his Father's belief if the
celestial derivation of his own species at such a fine heat then
Mother would cry and say that Father believed that his people
were better than hers and he was ridiculing Uncle Maury to
teach us the same thing (175)

And if didn't have some trouble with that passage, trust me, that is an easy one. It becomes much worse. So, there I rest my case and hopefully serve to enhance the author's point (in case anyone isn't already convinced).

Posted by LorinSchumacher at March 16, 2007 6:34 PM


Nice, Lorin. Way to wrap all your classes together (intertextuality--AHH!). Faulkner's writing in TSATF is an excellent way to look at what punctuation actually does for a reader.

I love (read: LOVE) Truss's books. She's a great writer, hilarious, and really knows her stuff. I would like to meet her one day, even though I'd be a little intimidated. I read her books on my own right before I learned that Dr. Jerz was assigning them for EL150. I don't know what that says about me as a person, but you already knew I was a nut for English.

Glad you're enjoying the book :)

Posted by: Karissa at March 16, 2007 10:01 PM

Wow, I read over that section you quoted three times, and I am still confused. I think my personal favorite so far from this reading is the one review that a person did on a movie:

"I watched this film [About a Boy] a few days ago expecting the usual hugh Grant bumbling...char-
acter Ive come to loathe/expect over the years."

This is just the first sentence and all ready I was shocked at how poorly this was written. I guess just after reading the text and what you blogged about, I am just surprised how people are so poor when it comes to writing grammaticly correct.

Posted by: Margaret Jones at March 18, 2007 1:19 AM

Yes, I agree Maggie. And people seem to think that it doesn't matter, but I get very upset when I receive emails and messages that have careless or very common grammatical mistakes. If it is an email from a friend it doesn’t usually bother me THAT much, but if it is a response from a professor or peer after I asked them a serious question or they are asking me to do something for them and they have poor grammar what that says to me is "I really don't care enough about what I am writing to you to make sure it is at least reasonably correct. That bugs the heck out of me!

Posted by: Lorin at March 18, 2007 10:15 PM

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