Ming the Mechanic:
Correct Writing

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 Correct Writing2004-05-17 09:24
picture by Flemming Funch

Dave Pollard wrote a post about punctuation a little while back, referring to a New York Times op-ed piece on the same subject. Both speaking for the inevitability of relaxing all the rules for how one is supposed to write.
Anyone under 25 would probably think this post, and Mr Rosenthal's op-ed, pointless and esoteric. The young are learning to think and write almost entirely in real time, precisely the way they talk, and they have willingly traded off the time and the value that comes from careful composition, editing and reflection, in favour of an iterative, 'successive approximation' means of communicating. In such a world, punctuation may soon be seen as an affectation, not a tool for comprehension.

I suspect that this conflict of language cultures will bring about a revolution in the way in which we use language. That revolution will face its first bloody battles in the universities, where the established elite are heavily invested in old ways of written communication. Once that battle has been won, the war front will move on to business, where the carnage will be even worse, and will I suspect produce a 'generation gap' unlike anything we've seen since the 1960s. The next generation will have no tolerance for formal meetings, PowerPoint slides and long reports, and with their more oral culture will quickly learn to blow us away when they speak impromptu from the podium or look for learning or consensus in self-organized workgroups that will be substantially paper-free.

After this revolution, all we'll have left to write about is whether the result has been more understanding, or less.
It is probably true that anybody under 25 won't even care, or have no clue what any fuss would be about.

The only reason I'm interested in punctuation and the 'correct' way of writing is because I'm very aware that I'm not following the rules, and I don't intend to. So, discussing the subject a bit gives me a bit of a cover and a chance to explain.

I frequently start sentences with 'and' or 'but' or 'so'. I often write sentences without any verb. The rule says that if you need a comma after a section in quotes, the comma goes inside the quotes. It looks stupid and I ain't doing it. I feel a little guilty using an apostrophe to say MP3's, but it just happens to be more clear. I guess I've found that I communicate better if I write somewhat like I speak. So, I tend to use commas as much to indicate natural pauses as in any references to where they're 'supposed' to be.

So, yes, maybe the different cultures will clash. Or maybe the old rules will just die quietly as nobody cares any longer. To be understood is more important than being correct.

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19 May 2004 @ 22:53 by aaronb @ : Ming,s comments on correct writing
I firmly agree with you about using a personalized projection of what you are trying to communicate shows a greater transparency of you as an individual.If by stepping outside the intitutionalized thinking can invoke feelings and instill a greater sense of awareness to the reader,the writer has empowered the recipent.But there is a great deal more to intercommunication than the meer use of words.Many people are aware that body language can also give a messages,and sometime counter what the words that have just been spoken.When a message(conversation) is delivered there is also has an "energy" delivery with this collection of words.This "energy" covers a wide spectrum from the very subtle to the gross or blatant.The same choice of words received can impact from empowerment to being offensive. In the subtle "energy" range can be woven the "intention" that can influence in an unobtrusive way, almost like subliminal comunication.For some they will understand the full context of the above statement.But very few have grasped how the above statement is reflected to mean to the written word(s). Example,reading a statement that is letter perfect,has all the elements to make a good writing yet it does not invoke a good "feeling",it feels like something is missing? Or read something that is just dynamite but far from perfect diction,but it has great feeling to it and does a much better commnunicating role.What I am putting into words(written) here is how we are "being" while we are performing the role as a writer carries an "energy" message(energy profile of the writer) as well.What I mean by "being"--sad--angry--vengeful--loving--empowered or of the many states of "being" that we human can enter into.These "states of being" the personalized present energy profile are all carried forward with our written word(s).What has been stated here is simple to demostrate with human subjects. I have done and am doing active research in this area which is opening some amazing possiblities.  

20 May 2004 @ 04:44 by ming : Words and Energy
It is a strange puzzle. Words in themselves are so abstract and far removed from real experience that it is a bit surprising that we even succeed in communicating with just written words most of the time. But I think you're right, it isn't just the words. It is also how congruent the words are with everything else. With the circumstances they're delivered in, the timing, and the manner of delivery. If one is looking at the person, loads of non-verbal information adds into the picture. Their body can easily reveal that they don't really mean what they're saying, however perfectly punctuated it is. Or their whole manner backs up completely what they're saying, and makes it more clear and more compelling.

And, yes, a subtle energy that makes even the same words be different depending on the state of being of who transmitted them. I actually think that's as much a result of factors we can't quite put our finger on, like the timing and the synchronization with the circumstances, as it is the result of energy being transferred. Although the difference might not really be important. Everything is connected with everything else in one way or another, so any attempt of making a set of abstract symbols (words) exist independently from their source, can just not be completely successful. There will always be signs of what is really going on.  

24 Jun 2004 @ 13:36 by Mark @ : Read more good books
And your spelling will improve  

27 Aug 2004 @ 16:39 by kelly @ : just studying this myself!
yuk! can you believe I actually have to do a report on Correct Writing? what could be more boring. thanks for the peice.  

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