Monday, March 1, 2010

Yes it's been ages . . . .

Yes it's been ages since I've blogged . . . I've been busy with my ongoing gig as a part of a creative services team (which includes copyediting and copywriting) via telecommuting, and other things . . . and other things currently include a reformatting gig and some intermittent volunteer copyediting.

I've sort of run out of things to write about but then again I really need to blog consistently, about good writing and problems and solutions.

Good writing first. Here's a good example, from William Zinsser's On Writing Well:

BREEZINESS. There is a kind of writing that's so seemingly relaxed that you think you hear the author talking to you. E.B. White was probably its best practitioner, though many other masters of the form--James Thurber, Lewis Thomas, Virgil Thomson--come to mind. I'm partial to it because it's a style that I've always tried to write myself. The common asssumption is that
it's effortless. Just the opposite is true: the effortless style is achieved by strenuous effort and rewriting. The nails of grammar and syntax are all in place; the English is as good as the writer can make it, and the total piece has a design that pulls the reader along from start to finish (Zinsser 123).

Now, this paragraph exemplifies what he's writing about: the grammar is correct and used with effect, and the writing is relaxed, unfolding the definition of breeziness sentence by sentence, beginning with examples and then getting down to what's most important--the thought and work that goes into it and the effectiveness of the careful design.

Now for the problems and solutions . . . this is just plain ol' incorrect: an apostrophe with a decade or century written as a number instead of words, as in 1800's when the context doesn't call for a possessive, as in My great-great grandfather was born in the 1820's. Written correctly, the sentence reads My great-grandfather was born in the 1820s.

Here's an example of both: The 1860s were a turbulent time in Searcy County, Arkansas.
1861's violence culminated in the arrest of seventy-one members of the Arkansas Peace Society who were chained and marched to the county seat Burrowville (later renamed Marshall) then to Little Rock.

Now, I don't know of anywhere else, other than that sentence I just wrote, of a sentence being started with a year. But those sentences do illustrate the proper use of an apostrophe with a year.

And, by the by, I was writing about something that really happened--seventy-one members of the Arkansas Peace Society, including my great-great grandfather and his brother, were put in trace chains and marched from their homes to the county seat then to Little Rock in the winter time, all for being loyal to the Union. My grandmother (1906-2002) said her father said he would never forget the sight of his father marched off in chains. A copy of a copy of a copy (etc.) of a photo of my gg-grandfather in his Union army uniform (yep, he joined the Union later on) sits on my desk.


Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.

No comments:

Post a Comment