Saturday, November 16, 2013

Blog spelling and punctuatio, or lack of same

When I can't think of an appropriate picture I always just use one of Natalie Wood.  It's worth not having an appropriate picture. 

These posts would be so much eazier to write if I didn’t have to worry about spelling and punktuation. That was always one of the beauties of riting dialog. People don’t talk in grammatically correct sentences and who cares about the spellling because the audience is just hereing the words and not seeing dem. (Shit. That last sentence is in fact a question. I forgot the question mark.)

After having proper grammar drummed into my head in school it was difficult at first to not write dialogue stilted but correct. Eventually you learn that flow and writing conversationally is the key. Then its (or it’s) fun. All bets are off.

Until you have to write prose again (or FRASIER).

(This is the punctuation that is the screenwriter’s best friend -- … Use it to represent any pause. Believe me, it… works!)

It’s (or its) amazing how much grammar you forget. And part of the problem – at least for me --, is that if you (or in my case, me) tend to write quickly, you’re trying to get your ideas on the page while their in your head and I can’t do that when your stopping midthoughtwse to ponder whether there’s a comma here or this participle is dangling or there is no such word as midthoughtwise. (That last sentence may or may not be a question. I’m not sure.)

Back to script writing, you see this in rewrite sessions. There are monitors in the room allowing the writers to see the script as the assistant is typing it. Someone pitches a joke, everyone laughs, the assistant starts transcribing it, and there’s always one asshole who sees himself as the Grammar Police barking out that there should be a comma there, or that’s a semi-colon. That shit is “Proofer’s challenge”. Let whoever proofs the script deal with that. Don’t slow down the process by blurting out that dad needs to be capitalized.

Back to prose: Spellcheck and grammar programs help somewhat. A wiggly green line will appear under something the computer doesn’t feel is right. Half the time it’s (or its) useful and half the time I’m thinking, “what the hell is wrong with this?” Or, “the computer just doesn’t get me.”

Same with spell check – it catches a lot of mistakes but misses others. If a word can be spelled correctly two ways or if you write in the wrong word but it’s an actual word -- : that too won’t get caught. Sometimes I remember the little hints we got in school. Principle or principal – the principal is your “pal”. But as I get older my brain is beginning to fill up with the Infield Fly Rule and where I put my keys and those little tips are fading from memory.

I actually do know the difference between it’s and its (it’s is only used as a contraction for it is) but there are others that I’ll admit, I’m guessin’.

And there are certain words I just don’t know how to spell. So I type in some approximation and let Spell Check correct it. If I ever have to write a letter in longhand I am so screwed. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

The point is… from time to time… you will see grammatical mistakes, misspelled words, made up words, tenses changing, inconsistencies, italics for no reason, and other egregious clerical errors. I do try to proof these posts but things still slip by. So I beg your indulgence. I don’t have an editor. And even one of those doesn’t guarantee (that’s one of the words I always struggle with) 100% accuracy. When I got the galley proof for my book IT’S GONE… NO, WAIT A MINUTE (notice the ….?) this is what it said on the cover:

GALLEY PROFF

28 comments:

Matthew said...

Punctuatio sounds like some sort of delightfully perverse act.

Scooter Shektman said...

Grammar is a crutch for people who don't understand the language. Shakespeare didn't care about such rhodomontade . Look how he many times he spelled his name differently.

Candid Cador said...

I'm a grammar nerd. After reading the first paragraph, I got a head ache...

Not kidding.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

OK, I'll stop pointing out typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.

But not fact-checking: Steve Jobs did *not* invent the spelling checker!

wg

Richard Y said...

Well said Ken....I once had a boss that opened ALL mail even addressed to others in the department. He spell checked and corrected the grammar in letter margin, and circled the offending word(s) to the incoming mail then put it in our mail box.

Brian O. said...

Did ABC warn that if Robert doesn't want to blend completely into the SHARK TANK set he had to become extremely petulant?

Jim said...

You need to get people to realise that there are two grammars in every language - one for the spoken language and one for the written one. Most of us crack the first one pretty well by the time we're five years old, thanks to lots of help from Mum and Dad. Then we go to school and not only do we learn about the existence of other one, we also get told that it's better and more correct.

Hence most grammar books cover the rules for the posh version, the written one. And that's the one they use to teach English to foreigners. That's why people always say that foreigners speak English much better than native speakers. They don't actually, but because they don't know the grammar of the spoken language they use the written one instead. It sounds odd, but memories of our seven year old selves being slapped over the knuckles with a ruler make us think that we are the ones that are getting it wrong.

Maybe the next Levine project should be a definitive grammar of the spoken word.

Toledo said...

I think I spotted a typo in the first few paragraphs of your post.

Jon88 said...

I grant you that people don't always talk in grammatically correct sentences, but it would be nice if movie and TV characters could distinguish between "you and I" and "you and me" at least one time in ten (to pick only one common error). As far as blogging is concerned, allowances are made. But it does jar when you write glowingly of people, especially friends, and misspell their names. I know you don't mean to imply disrespect to these folks, that is somewhat how it reads.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Some of us correcting Ken's grammar errors is like the guy in the Vatican bitching that Michelangelo was dripping paint spots on the Sistine floor.

Kelsey Grammar (not Kelsey Grammer, to avoid any potential speculation by those who misse the pun, which at this point kind of makes it not worth having chosen this pseudonym if it requires this much explanation) said...

I have no control over being the grammar police in my head, but I do have control over what I say, so I never say anything to anyone about their grammar issues... because I'm not an asshole.

ONLY BECAUSE we're on the subject today, however, I will point out one thing you did today, which I have also seen you do previously. The period at the end of the sentence goes inside the quotation marks, even when it seems counter-intuitive. So, where you wrote "proofer's challenge". it should have been "proofer's challenge." And the same with "pal." In the grand scheme of things, a pretty minor transgression, but, since we were on the subject....

Cap'n Bob said...

"...get your ideas on the page while their in your head..."

they're

Remember, the grammar police are your friend. We are here to help you. I wouldn't worry too much, Ken. With the Twitter and Facebook spellings and abbreviations popping up everywhere our language is doomed.

VP81955 said...

Over at Nationals Journal, the Washington Nationals blog from the Washington Post, many commenters regularly inveigh about grammar and misspelling in the entries as compared to Nats stories in the print version of the Post -- not realizing that the biggest and most crucial difference is that (aside from story accuracy), speed is the highest priority when it comes to beat blogging. If Nats GM Mike Rizzo trades for Matt Garza, the Post reporter wants to get the particulars of the deal before CSN Washington or the MASN reporters do.

I do some freelance proofreading and fix most of the punctuation mistakes I see in the press releases I work with, but I don't go overboard with it; that's not what the client wants.

Howard Hoffman said...

Nothing will make one a grammar nazi more than a girlfriend who was a grammar nazi on you. I had one of those and she was totally worth it at the time. But the anal retentiveness of spotting mistakes remained all these years. That's not to say what I'm writing here is grammatically correct, but the fact that I even brought that up speaks volumes of my neurosis.

Yah Shure said...

In my college radio years, I once corrected a misspelled word on a program director's office bulletin board memo, then forgot about the incident until that same PD hired me some years later and recalled the "teaching moment." He genuinely thanked me for having instilled the proper spelling of the word in his vocabulary, but that recollection taught me a lesson: to be more tactful and - whenever the urge to flash the grammar police badge couldn't be sufficiently nipped in the bud - to do it privately.

A humorous blog is a wonderful thing: it makes it far easier to forgive any misspellings and usage errors while I'm laughing my head off. Then there are those rare, unintentionally-hilarious online usage slip-ups that manage to out-Levine even Ken:

"I reached down and touched my toes, counted to ten, then raised myself back up and put both hands on my waste..."

the外國人 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hamid said...

As Ralph Wiggum once said (back when The Simpsons was still funny): "Me fail English? That's unpossible".

By the way, though I asked a Friday question yesterday re. the Cheers title sequence, I wanna scratch that and ask a different one, as I realized next Friday is the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, so my question is what are your recollections of that day?

Corey said...

Hey Ken,
when you mentioned the mis-spelling from your earlier book... you completely missed a G O L D E N
opportunity to do another of your famous, shameless plugs... for your new book. Shame on you...

Corey said...

So, did we feed you and Deb Salmon when you were last here (a gazillion years ago) and is that why we haven't seen you since????
Note: Spencer always thought that was the case... who knew

Paul Duca said...

Something about that picture seems inappropriate...


I read that News Corp's FXX cab;e network has signed a deal with sister 20th Century-Fox Television that could be worth a billion dollars, for them to air THE SIMPSONS. How much of that will you and David get?

Kay said...

Jon88 wrote, "I grant you that people don't always talk in grammatically correct sentences, but it would be nice if movie and TV characters could distinguish between 'you and I' and 'you and me' at least one time in ten (to pick only one common error)."

With respect, you've revealed the answer to your own complaint. If professional writers forget the distinctions, how many lay people are likely to remember them? If the characters are supposed to be average people, then mistakes are appropriate. OTOH, if the script contains a scene set at an editors' meeting for the Chicago Manual of Style...

Albert Giesbrecht said...

One would hope that by the time your manuscript reaches the proofreading stage the copy editor would have caught the grammar mistakes.

Breadbaker said...

I noted one error in your blog post. The principal is not your pal. If he is, he'll get fired.

Johnny Walker said...

I think there's a general movement to try and improve grammar because people can see it slipping. Not just in blogs, but in magazines, advertisements, even newspapers. The fact that "literally" can now also mean "figuratively" is a prime example for many of this growing ignorance.

But, stepping back from that, language changes and evolves. When Samuel Johnson wrote the first ever dictionary his goal was to chart the language as it was, not to impose heavy rules on it. In an effort to reduce confusion he tried to write a guide that would aid understanding.

Somewhere along the way the roles got reversed, and many of us had the importance of this standardized version of the language drummed into us at school. It makes sense, I guess, if we all speak exactly the same language, confusion will be reduced.

But if there's no confusion, and everyone understands what was written, then pointing out mistakes often appears to come out of a desire to look superior -- and that's not a great reason to do something.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Kelsey Grammar: You're not entirely right. For one thing, British and US practice differ substantially on this. For another, the relative positions of . and " depend to some extent on percentages and usage. So,

He said, "It's a proofreading nightmare."

BUT

He called it a "proofreading nightmare".

Jon88: The problem I have is that in some shows - for example, MAD MEN, which is set in the period in which I was going to school and being taught the correct usage of "lie" and "lay" and "you and I", I find it really jarring when the characters say something that's grammatically incorrect because I can't tell if it's a character note or the writers' own modern error. So I wish *those* shows would hire me to fix those things. :)

wg

Igor said...

Re the photo of Natalie, and with allusion to one of my all-time-favorite movie lines (Sean Connery to Jill St. John in "Diamonds Are Forever")...

I wonder if the puppy matches the pussy?

Laughs galore.

Waves of Gray said...

I agree that attention to proper grammar and spelling is (and should be) secondary to getting ideas onto the page. However, before the material is distributed, whether it's a script, newspaper article, or blog, the errors should be corrected so as to not distract someone who reads it. While a typo or two slipping through the cracks is understandable, allowing any more than that is simply unprofessional and disrespectful.

JT Anthony said...

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wrod as a wlohe.