Posts tagged ‘grammar’


sound and rhythm

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.

Elmore Leonard, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing (2001)


by ear

Grammar is a piano I play by ear.

Joan Didion, The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1 (1976)



The adjective is the banana peel of the parts of speech.

Clifton Fadiman, Reader’s Digest (1956)



Generally, sic means the foregoing mistake (or apparent mistake) was made by the writer/speaker I am quoting; I am but the faithful messenger; in fact I never get anything wrong myself.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003)



One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided wherever possible.

Winston Churchill, in a letter to Eddie Marsh (1934)


exclamation points

Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, quoted by Sheilah Graham and Gerold Frank in Beloved Infidel (1958).


single dash

‘Wait for it,’ the single dash seems to whisper, with a twinkle if you’re lucky.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2003)


the full stop

…the full stop is surely the simplest mark to understand – so long as everyone continues to have some idea what a sentence is, which is a condition that can’t be guaranteed.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (2003)



From one casual of mine he picked this sentence. ‘After dinner, the men moved into the living room.’ I explained to the professor that this was Ross’s way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up. There must, as we know, be a comma after every move, made by men, on this earth.

James Thurber, memo to The New Yorker (1959);

Note: This is a variant of a similar quote Thurber used in The Years with Ross (1957). Harold Ross was the editor of The New Yorker at the time and well-known for his overuse of commas.

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