Elements of Style in Posting

How about "///" to signify deep scratches, claw marks, rent hair or garments with the rant?


From a three-toed sloth or one of the Simpsons?

Maybe we can make an emoji like this:


First, let me go on record as opposed to utter gibberish. As Mrs. Slocombe on "Are you being served?" used to say, "And I am unanimous in that."

But most of the points raised in this thread have little to do with gibberish. As I recall, they are:
-- paragraph structure
-- stream of conciousness writing
-- capital letters
-- apostrophes
-- "it's" versus "its"
-- quotes for emphasis

Of these, only the failure to use paragraphs and stream of conciousness style have much to do with the intelligibility of the post. As I said, I agree about the importance of those elements. As for the other points, it is possible to create sentences where they obscure meaning, but I seldom run across them in nature. They irritate people who notice them, but do little other damage.

I also disagree with the suggestion that knowing the rules of written grammar "requires not so much of special learning as a dash of patience and attention." Correct written grammar is not just a visual representation of correct oral grammar. Indeed, most of the points raised here have no parallel in oral grammar. It is "special learning" that is intuitive only in the way that a Mac is intuitive to those who use a Mac (but not to those who use a Windows PC). Not everyone has the interest or time needed to acquire this special learning, but one can make a cogent and important point without it.

Putting people on notice that their grammar will be scrutinized won't help the free flow of ideas. I don't correct (or comment on) people's grammar in person, so I don't think I should do so here.

1 Like

I did not intend this result, and I put it as a personal request.

I will occasionally alter a thread title, because it sits there in the list. For this reason we have sometimes encouraged re-titling to dial back an incendiary wording. But I leave alone anything in the body of a post, and I never comment on usage or spelling within a post.

I know you didn't and I didn't mean to imply that you did. I'm sorry that it sounded that way. Like many on this thread, I enjoy discussions about the finer points of grammar.

What moved me to write was the suggestion (not yours) that minor grammar errors are both significant and the result of a failure of sufficient effort on the part of the writer. I thought that could have unintended consequences.


As I wrote the first paragraph of this response, it occurred to me that maybe we need another signal that indicates we are being sincere, not sarcastic. Maybe "/-s"? Anyway, I mean it sincerely.

I think Zorro might take issue...And, doesn't that mean Disney lawyers?

What about sarcastic rants?

The term of art for the three dots is "the ellipsis", and it has several uses. Chiefly, it is used to show, in a quotation, that some text in the original has been omitted: "Mr Trump has tried to perpetrate several...lies," when the original said "several fuckawful lies". Wikipedia says, rightly I think, "indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning." (That last is always open to subjective judgement).

The ellipsis is less commonly used to indicate a pause in speech or an unfinished thought, or to separate items in material (such as show-business gossip, a style made famous by Walter Winchell, and later Herb Caen, and now often called "three-dot journalism").

Be aware that exact mechanical use of the ellipsis is not settled matter. Some stylebooks say just put in the three dots, no space before, between, or after; others (less commonly relied on but controlling in publications that use them) mandate spaces all through. And it gets a bit hairy when the ellipsis is at the end of the elided text; most, including me, use a fourth dot to signify the sentence end: "That was not all John had to say on that occasion...."

1 Like

May I suggest that "minor" is in the eye of the beholder?

As I have triied to say several times, even a minor solecism that does not really defeat sense still gets noticed by many, and does several things simultaneously: one, it is a distraction to the flow of the ideas, a sort of speed bump on the road of communication; two, it grates on the perceiver; three, it reflexively lowers the perceiving reader's or listener's esteem for the speaker or writer. None of those effects are likely huge, even cumulatively, but they do occur.

Someone once quite artfully said that presenting one's ideas in slapdash English is like serving a fine meal on chipped, cracked, mismatched china.


I couldn't agree more.

As for the rest of your post, I'm afraid that once I saw the non-word "triied" (sic) I was so distracted, jostled by the speed bump, grated on, and cramped by the reflexive lowering of my esteem muscles that I couldn't quite focus on it. (Is this where the /s goes?)

Just kidding. Of course I understood your point perfectly. I really do appreciate your writing standards. I just don't have much difficulty ferreting out the meaning in slightly substandard English and I don't feel like criticizing those who, for whatever reason, express themselves in that way.


Such restrictions on free expression.

I'm so glad to see this issue addressed.

I've often found myself unable to appreciate and offer a "like" to an incisive and thought-provoking post due to misuse of homonyms or a randomly placed comma.

Is a bit of cleverly employed alliteration or sly foreshadowing too much to ask for if I am going to invest time in reading an accomplished lawyer's opinion of Supreme Court decisions? Similarly, why should I bother with an analysis from a foreign policy wonk if he can't keep his possessives straight?

Threads such as this have a wonderfully dampening effect on those of the community who would like to offer an opinion but may lack the skills to express themselves according to professional contemporary standards. It's helpful to have the shadow of exasperated grammatical and stylistic correction, along with the implied ridicule attached, hanging over their heads rather than make allowances for those of us who have not spent their lives composing at a keyboard.

The arc of the TPM universe is bending in a most delightful way.

I am confused, however, as to the proper placement of the "/s" disclaimer.

Shall I leave it here?


You had me there**;** I was so wrapped up I didn't notice the satire.

Edited for punctuation

1 Like

I apologize for asking a personal favor. As I noted upthread, I don't edit inside a post, or even comment, as I know I make mistakes, too.


Thanks for that, as I am one of the worst offenders, I maybe over sensitive.

As to language drift, we had a thread on that. It is not wrong to resist some tendencies that, while unforced and sort of natural therefore, don't help anything. An example would be light pollution, or the distressing tendency of modern cars' headlights to be both aimed too high and be too bright, or the general inflation in volume, whether movies or music performance.

For example I don't see how the world improves if we reverse the meaning of "could" for one phrase only--"I could care less" (which of course means I couldn't care less.) Other examples abound.


It's not that at all, Tom, and not personally directed at you or anyone else.
I'm taking it ad absurdum above but I'm rebelling more against the cultural changes here and pining for the days when these boards were more raw progressive and less elitist.
The evolution is subtle yet perceptible to those of us who occupy the further left edge as the range of "mainstream TPM discourse" realigns toward the center and away from populist concerns.

I'm very lucky as a rare blue collar type with a very good education so I sometimes feel compelled to poke a stick and remind people that we, as Democrats, are a diverse group of individuals with many concerns and not just a gaggle of comfortable, hyper-literate professionals.
My mantra, for as many years as I have been here, is to allow people to say whatever they will in whatever way they can express themselves.
I cringe whenever I see someone play grammar nazi to show off their learning while wounding another person and perhaps dissuading them from ever posting again.
Send them a damned PM to offer help rather than do that.

I appreciate a thoughtful and well-written post as much, if not more, than anyone else and flatter myself with the idea that I am occasionally capable of producing one but posts here are mostly ephemera and shouldn't be held to journalistic standards.

I savor the exceptional ones for the artful presentation but I also give equal attention to a clumsily expressed yet insightful post.

I'm available by PM for anyone who wants my style of editing.:wink:


Stephen, keep on keepin on.

we don't always agree, but I value the posts and your perspective, even if it is prickly at times.


Very nice of you to say so.
Thank you for that.