Main Wanton Cruelty To The Common Comma Discussion

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10:01:00 AM May 24th 2016
Self-Demonstrating version?
01:58:27 PM Oct 30th 2015
How is this not YMMV? It's specifically about grammatical errors affecting the reader/viewer.

How do you get a trope turned YMMV?
02:19:46 AM Oct 31st 2015
09:15:13 AM Oct 21st 2011
edited by DonaldthePotholer
In case people don't get the point, how I would write my addition today is as follows:

"Fourth of all," continued Bob, "the speaker and his/her actions belong in the same paragraph."
"Why is that, Bob?" asked Alice.
"Because otherwise, the readers could get confused and mistake who is speaking."
Alice persisted, "But shouldn't quotes begin a paragraph?"
Bob shook his head. "Not necessarily."
Alice shrugged.

As Anne M. Marble wrote in "'Stop Using Those Said Bookisms,' the Editor Shriked:", "[a]s long as the action is kept with its dialogue, the reader will figure out who said what." Always starting paragraphs with quotes puts this associativity at risk. Especially with the regular 90%.

EDIT: It's manageable when there are only two people in the conversation, but then you really have to watch which sentences you end with quotation marks and which you don't; and again we're talking about the 90% here... When you have three or more in on the call, then things get real troublesome.
11:33:07 AM May 4th 2011
"If you're writing a Pokémon fic, make sure to put the names of Pokémon in caps. Otherwise half of the Pokémon-fic-reading population will stop in their tracks when reading over a sentence like "The pikachu fell on the ground, spiral-eyed". The other half, on the other hand, have it the opposite way."

I don't understand this statement. Is he saying that there is a division in the community as to whether pokemons' species names are capitalized or not? Or is there something about the sentence that is confusing when not capitalized?

It seems silly to capitalize the species names to me, since nobody capitalizes whale or sparrow or fox (unless it's Star Fox). Well, unless the pikachu's name is Pikachu, in which case it should be capitalized as a proper noun... but in that case you wouldn't preceed it with the.
12:29:49 PM Jul 12th 2011
While the common names of real life species are not capitalized, the scientific names are (Homo sapiens, Felis catus, Tadarida brasiliensis, etc.) although only the Genus part, not the species.

As for the Pokémon names. That was likely influenced by the fact that the names in the game are in all-caps unless you give them a nickname, and Grimer looks more like GRIMER than grimer does.
04:05:18 PM Sep 19th 2010
I don't have time to implement this right now, but I'll probably do it tomorrow. A lot of examples on this page are of errors that never actually happen, or else things that were normal at the time (the no spaces one, for example). In the former case, it's not an example because it doesn't actually exist. In the latter case, it can't be Wanton Cruelty any more than our habit of capitalizing the names of days of the week.
11:57:06 AM Sep 23rd 2010
  • When using a computer, special characters like ellipses and en- and em-dashes should be represented using their Unicode equivalents. Most modern word processors will automatically substitute the proper character. In an environment where this is not available, using the ASCII equivalent is acceptable, because the special characters will display strangely.
    • Publishers recommend you not use Unicode in manuscripts because of varying compatibilities between text editors.

It's not actually an error in this case. It's just a matter of technical limitations. This example is irrelevant to the trope.
11:59:45 AM Sep 23rd 2010
  • Also using "Quotation" marks to "isolate" any word that might be seen as "racy" or "unusual" or is in the "slightest bit of doubt." Reading text like this is infinitely more fun if you do "finger quotes" every time it comes up.

Does anyone feel like explaining what that is supposed to mean? Is there really a common practice of putting unusual words in quotes? I'm leaving it on the page for now, but I'll probably cut it.
12:13:58 PM Sep 23rd 2010
  • It's infuriating when a word processor autocapitalizes kg (kilogram) to Kg (Kelvin-gram, a rather unusual unit combination). It's tragic when supposedly educated people do this to themselves.
    • It's also infuriating when a word processor decides that TWo CApital INitials are automatically Two Capital Initials. MPa (megapascals = newton/mm^2) become Mpa (not a unit), or when you're writing about the VMware software.

On further reading, it seems like Rouge Angles of Satin would be the right place for this. As far as I can tell, R Ao S refers to mistakes caused by misguided reliance on spellcheck/autocorrect, and Wanton Cruelty refers to plain old mistakes.
06:40:23 PM Oct 30th 2010
You haven't come across "scare quotes" before? They certainly do exist and are vulnerable to misuse, so that paragraph should stay.
03:23:50 AM Sep 7th 2010
edited by TheUnremarkableHulk
I find this claim quite dubious:

  • Although some would say that you have five exclamations available for the whole of your writing life (so use them sparingly), that's going a bit far; and both exclamation points and question marks stack at least once. Two question marks goes for a level of "incredulous" where a single question mark indicates a mere question; the use of two exclamation points together, or one question mark plus one exclamation point, have similar uses. They all indicate a tone of voice not well conveyed on paper, and they're all legitimate - depending on the arena for which you are writing.

I've never known anyone well-versed in English to accept the stacking of exclamation points or question marks as anything but Wanton Cruelty. I've especially never heard of anyone who seriously considered double question marks acceptable until I read this.
06:29:49 PM Sep 14th 2010
It's common in everyday speech, but I agree that I've never seen double question marks used in literature. I think I might have seen double exclamation points, but even that's questionable. I think ?! is valid in less formal work, though. If you want to delete the example, I've got no objections.
02:28:25 AM Sep 4th 2010
In Zero Punctuation's review of Split Second Velocity, Yahtzee goes overboard on the distinction between the dash and the slash (or stroke, as he calls it). Reminds me of how I feel when I see "s/he". Anyway, could someone put this in the right place? I looked through the list and didn't see the right place, and don't have time to look more thoroughly to figure out whether it's there and I missed it or it's absent and I ought to add it in.

Here's the link:
02:24:06 PM Aug 24th 2010
I'm currently going through the examples (especially the first section) with a flamethrower and extreme prejudice. Stuff that's irrelevant is being chopped, and stuff that's on-point but nattery is being condensed. I'm removing any example of an "error" that's just varying usage (those I'll post on this page, but there's too much natter to put here). Also, I think that we should downplay the self-demonstrating aspect of the article. It might be funny in passing, but it's still deliberately making the page hard to read.
02:31:36 PM Aug 24th 2010
Cut the following:

  • When referring to decades, an apostrophe is before the number (e. g. roaring '20s, '70s disco, '80s conservatism) denoting the contraction (leaving out 1900 as assumed). It's not before the s, which would be used to denote (anthropomorphized) possession.
  • It is not desirable because such a "rule" is probably the source of the ubiquitous greengrocer's apostrophe. It is simpler to just have apostrophes denote possession and contractions.
    • Apostrophes are used in contractions to indicate omitted characters, which is the same purpose they serve in decades.

This is a purely stylistic choice. I did a quick google search. It seems like most people recommend against using an apostrophe in plurals of acronyms, but they still accept the apostrophe as valid. I left the original point "Some grammarians argue that it's acceptable — but not desirable — to use an apostrophe for the plurals of numbers, acronyms and initialisms." The rest is just natter.
02:33:00 PM Aug 24th 2010

  • It's not uncommon for possesives to be a problem with singular nouns ending in "s". Many people simply as the apostrophe in the same way that would be done with the plural. For example, the arms of a robot named Maximus are Maximus's arms, not Maximus' arms. The latter implies that the arms belong to more than one Maximu.
    • This particular example is debatable and difficult to classify, though, and the rules may change to accommodate it. At the moment, either s' or s's is considered acceptable.

Another stylistic choice. Which one is correct depends entirely on where and who you are.
02:48:46 PM Aug 24th 2010
  • Spellcheck and English teachers will tell you that "that" is a different part of speech from "which" and should not be used interchangeably from it. "That" denotes the identity of something ("the dance that is from Guatemala" assumes you know of multiple dances and tells you it's not the dance from Argentina), whereas "which" provides more information ("the dance, which is from Guatemala" assumes you know which dance is being talked about and tells you that the dance in question is from Guatemala.) This rule has almost died out, and may vanish completely like the difference between "thou" and "you," but in the meantime it's best to be cautious when a Grammar Nazi might read your work.

This supposed rule isn't and never was widely observed in writing. See here and here. It hasn't "almost died out", it's a dead unicorn.

Someone may want to put it back, since it is commonly cited by pedants like Strunk & White, but since this page is about egregious, Carrot-like violations of punctuational common sense, I think it's best to just leave it out.
05:19:59 PM Aug 24th 2010
This is a page about errors. Failure to use an interrobang is not an error.

  • Question marks and exclamation marks do not go together‽ Use an interrobang instead.
    • To be fair, the interrobang hasn't really caught on. Still, wouldn't it be annoying if sentences ended like this!?!?!?!?!?
    • Interrobangs are not only not recognized by any grammar authorities, they're difficult to make out in any font size below about 12 pt on a standard monitor. As such, ?! or !? are rather more practical and are considered grammatically sound.
05:23:08 PM Aug 24th 2010
  • Using a question-mark to end a declarative sentence is also annoying? Can this be worse than using a period to end a question.
    • No... THIS sentence is definitively worse?
    • This is a phenomenon that linguists have actually studied? Although many people think it sounds uncertain? It's actually sort of a verbal ligature that connects related but separate sentences together? And it's sometimes also used as a marker of assumed social superiority, as if it's some kind of false-politeness or something? (It's pretty complicated, but it's generally considered to be a dialectical shift in North American English that started on the west coast in the 70s and 80s and has spread over most of the US and Canada.)
      • I think this phenomenon is used more often when writing than when speaking, especially since people (particularly the young) tend to be more unsure about expressing themselves when they are writing. I never actually hear people using the interrogative voice inappropriately, except for sarcastic or insulting remarks like "Hello?!" (And, if Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth is any guide, this quirk had reached England by the late 1980s.)
      • Lampshaded by, of all people, Robert Jordan? In The Wheel of Time? A female novice at Wizarding School talks this way? And one of her instructors snarks, "Child, please try to remember that not everything you say is a question" (or something like that)?
      • Also used in Straight Man by Richard Russo? The protagonist's secretary talks like this?

Pitch-raising at the ends of sentences is fascinating, but irrelevant to a trope about the written word. Ending declarative statements with question marks is not a common error.
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