Thursday, June 25, 2009

Foolish or not, consistency is what winds the clock of "word nerds"

Although I teach legal writing, I've never considered the course to be much about the technical aspects of writing rather than teaching students to "think in ink."  As clear writing guru William Zinnser has said:  "Fuzzy writing is almost always the result of fuzzy thinking." Amen, brother. 

When it comes to the technical rules of grammar, syntax and the like - I'm as "po-mo" as a Quentin Tarrantino film:  As long as it works, who cares whether it adheres to archaic rules laid down by a bunch of long-dead white guys?.

Alas, I have suffered greatly for my beliefs.  "Hunted, despised . . . .living like an animal" while my colleagues take comfort in the so-called "rules" of good writing as a bulwark against their own existential crisis.

Uh, where was I?  Oh, yeah . . . . here's a good article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed discussing the challenges of working in an academic PR office at a time when language is rapidly evolving.  The article also includes a helpful list of common style and usage conventions.  Here's an excerpt:

While most of us recognize that there is no single, right way of writing something, it's nonetheless important that you reach a consensus in your PR office about how to treat common grammatical and punctuation questions, and then execute that consensus faithfully. To denote time, for example, should you use "a.m. and p.m.," "AM and PM," or "am and pm"? Should acronyms include periods (C.A.G.S., for certificate of advanced graduate studies) or not (CAGS)? Make your choice, then be consistent.

. . . . .

It's more than a matter of consistency. Much of it has to do with meaning and emphasis. It bothers us to see writing that is unclear or otherwise does not meet our high standards. Seemingly minor mistakes add up, especially when they appear over and over again, and as an institution of higher learning, inconsistencies reveal an inattention to detail and standards that can accrue to the detriment of your institution's academic reputation, consciously or otherwise.

(Ed note:  The author's emphasis on the adherence to "dead white-guy" rules in order to enhance the writer's ethos is something I agree with - insofar as it contributes to an effective end product).

Here's the rest of the article.  Enjoy!

I am the scholarship dude.


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If you're working in MS Word, our software can really help on those consistency issues. Since it checks documents for consistency in writing, it finds mistakes that spelling and grammar checkers don't even look for. There's a free trial as well:

Posted by: iEditor | Jun 26, 2009 3:19:46 AM

Professor Levy's comments about grammar and consistency and the like reflect his own views, and not those of the blog or its other editors.

Posted by: Coleen Barger | Jun 26, 2009 10:40:07 AM

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