I Thought That’s What You Meant

English is the language that (or is it which) takes us farther (or is it further) into having to accept (or is it except) the fact that English affects (or is it effects) our lives, causing us to appraise (or is it apprise) what we say and to bisect (or is it dissect) how we structure what we write. In short, it is a marvelously screwed up language.

The English language is, to a writer, like a palate (or is it palette) is to a painter. Lots of colors, shades, and variations to paint into a picture, or write into a story. Punctuation marks are the speed limit signs, the no parking stripes; the red, yellow, and green of the language.Writer at Desk

The comma is the most important, influential little twitch of a mark any writer can make. It’s the star of Lynn Truss’s terrific book, “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.” Say it out loud. Sounds like something a deranged (or is it enraged) diner might do. (Eats food, shoots a gun, and leaves the place.) Read it without the commas, and it becomes something a panda bear does regularly. (Eats shoots and leaves.)

To clarify one puzzler raised in the opening paragraph, “farther” is a measure of distance, while “further” is a reference to time elapsed. “If we are going to discuss this further, let’s move farther away from the water cooler.”

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