Tuesday, August 11, 2015

McClatchyDC.com article in which Hillary Clinton is a group of things...

Howdy readers! It's been 10 months since my last update. I think that's a new record. Going to take almost a whole  year for me to break that one. For now though, let's get into some politics!

I was reading this article on McClatchyDC.com when things started to get a little weird. First up: To em dash, or to underscore...

It was as if millions of programmers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Of course when you're breaking up a sentence it's typically common to use an em dash. However, someone seemed to have been a little too busy holding down the shift key to notice what they were doing and wound up writing something that looks more like they were trying to come up with the worst variable name in programming history. I say "someone" because this article was written by three people; Anita Kumar, Marisa Taylor, and Greg Gordon so I have no idea who to blame for the typo.

Really, I think you could make the argument that this really doesn't affect the sentence all that much. The meaning is still there and from what I can tell the grammar is all still intact. But for me not having the em dash present just feels weird. Like, I can tell that they meant to put a break or pause in the sentence, but because there's this random underscore there I just focus on that rather than what is being said.

I mean, isn't that the point of writing well? So that the reader doesn't have to spend needless time trying to figure out what is being said? How many people have paused and wondered to themselves what the hell two underscores are doing in the middle of a sentence disconnected from any word or meaning?

Speaking of meaning, I feel like one of these authors isn't sure what or who "Clinton" is. Let's take a look:

Which Clinton is which?

Typically "which" is used to describe a group of things, such as the Clinton Administration which is made up of many people, or to introduce a nonessential clause (e.g. see my previous use of "which"). With that I hope you can understand my confusion when the authors use "which" to describe Clinton, who is to my knowledge, a singular person.

Again, maybe it's just me, but I feel like these little slights against the Gods of Grammar really just serve to show how little most people care about proper writing and grammar. I mean, it hasn't even been 100 years since Strunk and White wrote a book whose only purpose was to help people write more clearly and yet here we are. Journalists getting paid to write are just putting in whatever words they like in place of ones that actually would help clarify what they're trying to say.

I'd like to end with an example of the narcissism that writers have to contend with on a daily basis.

I, author.

If you'd be so kind as to look back then you will see that none of the three writers of this article were named Charles McCullough III. So it seems a little strange that a sentence would begin almost as if it were a statement of self. Now I will be honest, when I first read this I thought it was the beginning of a numbered list, however as I continued to read I couldn't help but notice the lack of any further numbers in this list. A list cannot consist of one item, that would simply be a numbered item. I came to the conclusion that yet again Anita, Marisa, or Greg had made a typo. To make matters worse, there should be a comma after the "I" not a period. Not only do the authors have no idea how lists work, one of them doesn't even know how to self-reflect in a grammatically correct manner.

I mentioned narcissism and I believe that to be the root cause of this errant "I". The authors couldn't handle writing a 1500+ word article without including some mention of themselves. I mean what is the world coming to where journalists are having to sneak in references to the fact that they have to assume someone else's identity in the middle of an article.

But really what I think this is all about, and what I mean to say is what it all boils down to is this: I, Will Bolt, had no idea who I. Charles McCullough III was and because I just spent a good half-hour ripping this article apart I had no problems believing that someone was dumb enough to slip in a random pronoun where one did not belong. As it turns out, I'm an idiot, and Mr. McCullough's first name begins with an "I" (spoiler alert: It's Irvin) which really isn't all that uncommon.

Of course we could talk about the kind of hubris it takes to reduce your first name to a pronoun so every time you introduce yourself it sounds like you're making a declaration. But I believe that's a topic for another time.

Thanks for reading!