7.27.2006

All Mistakes Are Forgivable...but these are not words to live by

Ms. Snark, (1)


You have written many times that when you read a partial or full, you make your determination whether or not (2) to represent the author on the strength of the writing first and foremost.


But, just out of prurient interest, of the manuscripts you eventually chose to represent, could you estimate the average number of typos/grammaticals (3) that you recognized (4) as you read through the first draft sent to you? On average? Less than five? Less than 20?



I assume that anything that looks as if it has (5) been typed by a dyslexic chicken does not spend much time on your desk, but I'm curious as to your (and by proxy other agent's) threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops." Does a single misspelling or punctuation faux pas guarantee a trip to the circular file?

Well, you've got five here and I'm answering so it seems the answer is more than five and fewer than six.

The actual answer, to quote Mr. Henslowe, is "it's a mystery". I read more rather than less if I like the idea; if you came with an introduction from Grandmother Snark's cabana boy, or other published novelist; if I'm not in a really crabby mood; if there was a good sale at Barneys and I have clever new boots; if you're the only thing I have to read on the train.

It's subjective beyond quantification. The best I can say is don't rely on sliding by. Some days the answer is Z for Zero.

Mostly though, the typos/errors are just the leading indicator of writing that needs a good solid scrubbing. Your letter is a classic example of that. Here's a redraft:

Dear Miss Snark,

When you read a partial or full, you decide whether to represent the author based first and foremost on the strength of the writing - that's very clear from your previous posts.

I'm curious: of the manuscripts you eventually chose to represent, can you estimate the average number of typos or errors you see as you read through the first draft sent to you? An average? Fewer than five? Fewer than 20?

I assume anything that looks like it was typed by a dyslexic chicken does not spend much time on your desk, but what is your (and, by proxy, other agent's) threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops?" Does a single misspelling or punctuation faux pas guarantee a trip to the circular file?






Red key:
1. Miss Snark. Getting my name wrong counts as a mistake.
2. Whether implies or not.
3. Grammaticals is not a word as far as I know. You mean "errors"
4. recognize, not recognized.
5. had, not has (and "was" instead of "has been" is stronger)

and of course I know you dashed this off, and it is not an accurate reflection of a query letter you would send. Think of this as a "floor model" query letter; not for sale, but good for a quick demonstration.

69 comments:

fmxpz said...

but what is your (and, by proxy, other agent's)

...that would be other agents' ... plural possessive.

and i might refer to punctuation errors, not faux pas. aren't faux pas more like social or behavioral missteps?

yes, this comment is full of errors (all lower case, extravagant and erroneous use of ellipses, french not italicized because my mac won't do it in comment mode). my apologies! thanks for the instructive revision, miss snark.

Adrian said...

I find leaving the "or not" out of a phrase with "whether" very grating on the ear. I know that technically it's optional, but it just sounds incomplete without it. Besides, I believe the question was about actual errors, not style issues. (Of course, I understand style issues may turn you off as well.)

I think you're mistaken on number 4. Since the first part of the sentence uses "chose" (past tense, not present tense "choose"), then the second verb should indeed be "recognized" rather than "recognize".

Anonymous said...

It sticks in my mind that a question mark is one of the few punctuation marks which go outside a quote, unless they're punctuating what's inside the quote. If so,

...threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops?"

should be

...threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops"?

Anonymous said...

I'm a little frustrated on a submission I sent out as I've since found a sentence that should've been deleted on an edit pass and somehow I missed it.

I've also continued to find small typos (i.e to vs. too) even though I've gone over the ms. in hard copy and e-copy several times (I went through 3 printer cartridge which is $100 of ink). It's really frustrating when you try so hard to get it all right and problems keep popping up.

Hopefully, if the story is good enough an editor or agent won't hold small typos and minor errors against the writer.

Anon-a-ninny

Kanani said...

Does a single misspelling or punctuation faux pas guarantee a trip to the circular file?

I have a tic. I love writing its'. I know there is no such word but my little finger has this urge to joyfully overuse commas and apostrophes where they're not needed.

This is where my friend Emma comes in. Emma is anal. She's the sort who saves milk cartons to toss away left-leftovers in before putting them into the trash can. Once I saw her (I swear, this is true) eat a peach. She took the pit, wrapped it in a paper towel and put it in the milk carton. I have another friend, Steve, who has kept a log of how many miles between gasoline fill ups for the past few years. He will also straighten out racks in stores as he shops. Steve has also been known to clean my car as I drive.

Anyway, the OP needs to find a friend like Emma or Steve who will read through your stuff before you send it out. How you repay them is up to you. But if you decide to have sex with them, you might want to bring your own towels.

Daisy said...

Grandmother Snark's cabana boy is a published novelist? Boy, times really must be tight in publishing.

Nick said...

Wow. I caught four out of five without having to look at the explanations.

-Nick

GrandMere Snarque said...

Perhaps my cabana is just highly desirable to men with big word hoards.

gdotcom said...

And your sentence-ending periods are supposed to stay inside your endquotes.

delilah said...

Kanani - loved your comment about the towels. Will keep it in mind if I meet a well-read, obsessive compulsive. Thanks for the tip.

mozartgirl said...

should also read "agents'" not "agent's"

Maria said...

With very little research, you can answer this question for yourself.

Join a writer critique group--or even better, go check out the Gather.com short story contest that Miss Snark blogged about a few days ago:

http://amazonshorts.gather.com/viewGroup.jsp?grpId=3659174697239512

(You have to be a member to vote or comment on the stories, but you do not have to be a member to read them.)

I've been reading those shorts--there are many with misspellings, runnons, etc. There are many with perfect spelling and grammar and zero plot. There are also good stories.

Keep track of what you read. Pretty soon, after, oh, about four stories, you'll notice a strange thing happens to you three or four paragraphs in: The brain spell-checker hits max.

If there's been too many typos or other problems, you'll find yourself likely to back out and go to another story. After all there are hundreds to choose from.

If the story is sooo compelling even with errors, the brain spell-checker is automatically subdued and you'll read on...maybe 4 or 5 more paragraphs...and so on until either the spell-checker wins or the plot does.

Let's just say that the times the plot wins...hmm. Not many. Not many at all.

overdog said...

I notice you replaced "less" with "fewer" but didn't mention it. "Fewer" is grammatically correct in the context, whereas "less" is incorrect.

As you said, in a tossed-off e-mail we're less strict (that's correct usage).

Nessie said...

but i dont write the same with emails... maybe I should start!

Anonymous said...

"...anything that looks like it was typed by a dyslexic chicken..."

This should be "as if it were," just as the author of the post had it originally.

Anonymous said...

The word "prurient" is misused. "Prurient" refers specifically to interest in sexual subject matter. For me, errors of usage such as this stand out even more than grammatical errors or typos.

Jude Hardin said...

Dear Miss Snark,

When you read a partial or full(MANUSCRIPT), you decide whether(OR NOT) to represent the author based (first and foremostDELETE) on the strength of the writing(.) (T)that's very clear from your previous posts.

I'm curious(.) (O)of the manuscripts you eventually chose(CHOOSE) (to representDELETE), can you estimate the average number of typos or errors you see (as you read through the first draft sent to youDELETE)? (An average?DELETE) Fewer than five? Fewer than 20?

I assume anything that looks like it was typed by a dyslexic chicken does not spend much time on your desk, but what is your (and, by proxy, other agent's(AGENTS')) threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops?"("OOPS"?) Does a single misspelling or punctuation faux pas guarantee a trip to the circular file?


Another exam. Thanks a lot, MS. :)

Anonymous said...

Whether MUST take not. Use IF instead.

Anonymous said...

the real question is whether the stuff is literature or not

archy

Jude Hardin said...

I think the editing notes on my previous post are confusing. Here's how my revision would read:





Dear Miss Snark,

When you read a partial or full manuscript, you decide whether or not to represent the author based on the strength of the writing. That's very clear from your previous posts.

I'm curious. Of the manuscripts you eventually choose, can you estimate the average number of typos or errors you see? Fewer than five? Fewer than 20?

I assume anything that looks like it was typed by a dyslexic chicken does not spend much time on your desk, but what is your (and, by proxy, other agents') threshold tolerance for the occasional "oops"? Does a single misspelling or punctuation error guarantee a trip to the circular file?



7/27/2006

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark,

although not an aspiring writer I find your blog very interesting and entertaining. I particularly like it that you keep pointing out to your readers that while English is a flexible language (much more so than German, e.g.), this fact does not excuse bad grammar and shoddy spelling.

Allow me therefore to point out to you that you consistently misspell the word 'definitely'. There is no letter 'a' in that word.

This is not meant to be a facetious comment and I hope you don't take it as such.

eleora said...

A cover letter should be as grammatically correct as possible, but thank goodness there is more artistic license in writing fiction :)

One-word sentences and beginning sentences with articles can really improve a story's pacing. Of course it's important to know the rules you intend to break.

Anonymous said...

Would you really be put off by being addressed as Ms. Snark instead of Miss Snark? Or are you just being snarky?

I.J.Parker said...

Not a bad letter. I got a kick out of "recognized."

Anonymous said...

I get the importance of salutations, spelling the agent's name correctly etc., but how the heck am I supposed to be able to tell if the agent prefers Miss, Mrs. or Ms. (or Ms)? I have yet to see that information in an agentquery.com listing, agency webpage or anywhere else. And I doubt they want me wasting their time with a phone call or email just to ask. So female agents are all going to be getting 'Ms.' from me. Am I missing something?

Ken Boy said...

The word "prurient" is misused. "Prurient" refers specifically to interest in sexual subject matter.

Misused? Are we not authors?

As if it were means the same thing as like it was, only with fewer words and less of a Faulknerish (*there's another "as if" - take a drink everybody!*) thing going on.

And to see Mr. Henslowe quoted is a joy. I love that movie. Especially the bit with the dog.

Anonymous said...

Eleora, let us not confuse writing fiction with writing query letters whose purpose is to get an agent to read that fiction. These should certainly be written in standard English, with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

I think the person who sent this e-mail is entitled to a free T-Shirt:

"I was Miss Snark's bitch."

But, I suppose I'll have to settle for using that as tomorrow's blog title.

(And you pile-on Snarklings are hysterical! There is no written page in the history of literature on which you cannot perpetrate a drive-by edit like the ones in this comment section. If there was an unassailable, perfect formula for word choice and potatos/po-tah-tos diction decisions then computers could write our novels. And who wants that?

...Well, okay. There are those grammarians among you who bristle at a custom-made words like "grammaticals." These are the same people that wonder why no one ever offers to buy them a drink; people whose eyes pop out at fun, made-up words like "hugemongus" and "bazillion.")

I cop to the misplaced apostrophe on agents'. Dumb.

Gosh, that was brutal. I haven't had that many people targeting my backside since my stint in Juvie.

bookfraud said...

i've been advised to use "ms." in all correspendence, but i guess when you know it's a "miss"...

the one that bothered me most was "grammaticals." sounds like it came out of a corporate-speak seminar.

i check, check, and check any queries or correspondence going out to agents and publishers. (this coming from someone who can't be bothered to capitalize on blog responses.) if something remotely bothers me ("prurient"), i delete it. when in doubt, take it out.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

Thank dawg for word processors with spell and grammar checkers. Thank diggedly do-dawg for email clients that use word processors.

Curses on prescriptive grammarians! A pox upon those who follow them blindly!

Get ONE style guide and follow it. I like Chicago, that toddling town. N.Y.T. irritates me, and I don't care who knows--the guide, not the newspaper. Little Brown should be burned, all four billion editions. Don't get me started on APA, MLA, PDQ and UYA.

This all starts in the ivory tower with those who publish or perish and are never read by anyone but coerced students and fellow ivory towerites. It gets worse within corporate mahogony jungles.

However, use a formal style in letters. That's pretty standard, and if stylistic things don't work, oh well. It was a bad day.

The journalistic style works for narrative. Your characters have unique styles, don't they?

I seldom read a published book that doesn't have some mistakes in it. I'm convinced that supernatural gremlin thingies are at work. The idea has a lot of truthiness to it.

Anonymous said...

Kenboy, your usage of "like it was" is common; but it happens to be incorrect. "Like" should never be used with clauses, since it's a preposition.

Dwight, you're a good sport. However, I must disagree with you about us grammarians: many people buy me drinks, and I happen to LOVE custom-made words--just not in a formal query letter.

Be glad you're learning, otherwise you'd be dead.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Pixies like bazillion. I'm pretty sure a Pixie invented the word.

Kanani said...

Dearest Delilah,
Expect to brush your teeth after the initial snog, just before you hop into bed. While you are doing this, he or she will close all the windows so that neighbors don't hear. Nevermind that it's 85º in the room.

Your Steve or Emma might drift off into their own sexual time frame. Your orgasm is their duty. They might miss all the subtle"oohs and ahhs" coming from you. Feel free to edit those out of your boudoir repertoire if you're tired or have had a particularly heinous writing day. Besides, the grunts could be taken as clichés, someone like Steve or Emma will appreciate them, but they're really not necessary.

After the shag, you will take a shower. Thus, the towels. You wouldn't want to mess theirs up, and you really do value their editing help.

It's all about being a considerate writer.

Anonymous said...

The word "recognized" is correct as the sentence is written. Though the sentence would be more clear if it was entirely in present tense.

But, just out of prurient interest, of the manuscripts you eventually chose to represent, could you estimate the average number of typos/grammaticals (3) that you recognized (4) as you read through the first draft sent to you?

Stacy said...

I force myself not to comment on posts like this one, because I know I have a problem. I was never normal, happy and playful like other girls. No, I cared where my commas were. By the time I was 16, I was guilty of walk-by corrections. That's when you overhear a stranger make a mistake as you walk by and yell out the correction - without stopping. I eventually sought treatment for this, and by the time I was 30, actually had friends!

No, 7 years later, I am now an editor, and all my symptoms are back. I tried to reread one of my favourite stories this weekend, and wondered where all the spelling errors came from - did elves put them in as I slept? I can't read the newspaper without making a mental list of dangling modifiers and misused words - out loud.

I need some peace, and so do the people around me, so as part of my treatment, I will not participate in comment trails about the finer points of punctuation. No matter how much I want to.

But jude hardin's version was lovely, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Not to pick nits here, but the number "five" was spelled out while the number "20" was written as the number in Miss Snark's reply.

JerseyGirl said...

Not to pick nits here, but the number "five" was spelled out while the number "20" was written as the number in Miss Snark's reply.

Actually, I learned that's the way it's supposed to be. The numbers one through nine are written...well, as written here (heh). Ten and above, are written as numbers (unless, of course, you start out with the number as I did).

Meh. Boredom brings out the snarky admin. in me. ;-)

~Nancy

Cara said...

Hey! Don't knock the Little Brown Book....when someone asks for help righting a letter, I hopefully hit them in the head when throwing, I mean tossing, the book!
Why don't American's use the word 'shag' more? It sounds so dirty and fun!
My daughter says hugemongous and I love that word....sometimes her teachers hate me.

Anonymous said...

Ms. is a commonly accepted salutation, but in this case, the blog name is Miss Snark, so there should be no mistake. I think if the letter was addressed Ms. AgentX, AgentX being Miss Snark's real name (whatever that is), she'd have no problem with Ms. I think the lesson is - pay attention to detail: don't use Mr. when the agent is a woman; don't spell it Kathy if her name is Cathy; etc.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

While Snarklings across the literary-wannabee landscape fill out insurance claims for glass house damage...

...I still don't know the percentage of manuscripts hitting Miss Snark's desk she considers 100% error-free.

How many of you Snarklings consider your submission manuscripts 100% error-free?

Sinceriously. (Needle, needle.) Who among you is without typographical sin? And -- for the sole purpose of my salacious curiosity (Needle, needle)-- from whence does your prose infallibility spring?

sarahsbooks said...

I recently attended a lecture/reading given by Augusten Burroughs. He said (I paraphrase) that his first manuscript came back from his editor with red pen marks on every sentence. Every. Sentence. He went on to say that he could have done better with his grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc., if he had actually progressed in school further than the sixth grade. This just goes to show if the writing is compelling, and if the tale is compelling, the rest is secondary.

Anonymous said...

Dwight, in my critique group, which consists primarily of published novelists, I am considered the grammar expert. That being said, my submissions are ALMOST NEVER without some error. There is no such thing as infallibility. There is only assiduous checking and re-checking of everything one submits, and when one is submitting to an outside authority (such as an agent), one generally also asks other people for help. Do your best, and learn from this and other opportunities. And always remember, don't dis grammarians!

HawkOwl said...

Ok, "from whence" was just to taunt us, right?

LOL

I would say that good spelling comes from good pattern memory, good grammar, syntax and usage come from studying the language, and good typing comes from practice and proofreading. Does that answer your question?

Feisty said...

This whole error thing just gives me a headache. I will now go back in my cave.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

Sinceriously. (Needle, needle.) Who among you is without typographical sin? And -- for the sole purpose of my salacious curiosity (Needle, needle)-- from whence does your prose infallibility spring?

Not I! If I want something grammatically and spelling-wise correct, it's copy & paste into Word if the checkers aren't built in.

I absolutely love editors. Not sure if shagging one would be fun. No, wait, I've already done that. It was fun and I went back for more and more, and there you go.

[threw the comma away from the compound on purpose cuz sometimes it looks stupid]

Pepper Smith said...

Hmm...the dictionary lists 'grammatical' as "having to do with or in accordance with the rules of grammar," so it would have been correct to use "grammatical errors," but "grammaticals" doesn't quite convey what the writer was trying to say.

And no, Dwight, my grammar isn't perfect, but it's right much more often than it's not.

Cara said...

Thanks Ray! Loved it and you give me hope!

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Stacy - you are not alone.

My daughter blurted out to me one day, "Commas: You get 'em or you don't." I think she was in middle school at the time. She used to bring home semi-literate communications from her teachers and principals that she'd already marked up with a red pen.

During her freshman year at college, in Mississippi, my daughter alienated some of her dormmates by correcting their spelling of "y'all". It's obvious where the apostrophe goes, she said, it goes in the place of the "ou" left out of "you-all". Stung, they told her that being from Tennessee, she might as well be a Yankee. There was coolness on both sides for weeks.

Anonymous said...

Word's grammar check is HORRIBLE. I turned it off. I'd rather shove my work under someone's eyes - Word kept wanting me to change things that didn't need changing, based on its inability to tell a noun from a verb.

The dictionary isn't much better. I double check words it underlines against entries in my Mac's dictionary; I wish I could just tell Word to use that one by default.

And sentence-ending periods, or end stops, are outside the quotes if you are in Great Britain, btw.

Ken Boy said...

Anonymous,

"Like" in this sense is an adverb, I believe. Though I understand that there is some dispute among grammarians on this issue.

jaywalke said...

No one is perfect, and we are all casting the first stone (myself included, or me too, or something).

That said, there are lessons to be learned here:

- The Ms. vs. Miss snarkiness is, I believe, a not-so-gentle nudge to "know your audience". If you don't do your homework, you deserve what you get.
- No one's grammar will ever be perfect. However, poor skills in that area will make me (and probably others) think you are a numbskull. It's not just writers that receive this scrutiny. If you send me an email at the office full of errors, I will put you on the moron list and look for a reason to kick you off my team. I have grazed at a minor-league slush pile and faced a hundred submissions a week. In that setting, no piece with misspellings and grammar disabilities on the first page will be read past that point. That's the way it is.

Dwight The Troubled Teen said...

Pepper,

Yes. I know. "Grammaticals" is a made up word. I have a Master's Degree in English and I scored a 31 on my ACTs.

It's an adjective posing as a noun; my own twisted brand of gerund and a jewel fit for the crown of Satan himself.

I'm not dogging grammarians. I love grammarians. I thank doG for grammarians. If I look around an editing circle and realize that I'm the ranking pseudo-grammarian, you can hear the despair leaking out of my ears.

True grammarians are rare birds. I've been in the writing bidnezz for 20 years and I've only met three solid grammarians. They are priceless people to know and I revere them.

Beth said...

To Cara, who wanted to know why Americans don't use "shag."

They do. The difference is, here it's a kind of dance. I see respectable, middle-aged ladies at the gym who belong to a dance club wearing t-shirts with such slogans as "I love to shag" and "shagging the night away."

Nobody blinks an eye. They probably don't know that shag is near the top of the BBC's list Really Rude Words.

I've been debating whether to tell them.

Anonymous said...

Kenboy, the disagreement has only to do with whether its incorrect usage ought to be accepted as correct now that so many people use it that way. However, I believe the vast majority of grammarians would agree that its use is inappropriate in a formal communication such as a query.

Anonymous said...

Dwight, it's spelled "potatoes," not "potatos." I'm taking away one of your ACT points for that one, mister. Take heart, though. Your spelling skill qualifies you to be an American vice-president (remember Dan Quayle?); however, you would require a much lower ACT score to become president if you go by our current White House standard.

Anonymous said...

Jesus! It's all about the story. Well,maybe not all,but mostly.

Georgia Girl

Anonymous said...

It IS all about the story, but the language is the medium through which the story is conveyed. Therefore, if you want to tell a story well, you must learn how to use the language well.

Elizabeth said...

Just as color, paint and brushes are the artist's tools, words, syntax and sentences are the writer's. Finesse with these tools is as critical to a writer's success in reaching her audience, as finesse with paint and brushes is critical to an artist's success.

If readers have to stumble over awkward sentences, typos, incorrect syntax and inconsistent style, then it will be very hard for them to ever get TO the story, much less enjoy it.

Would you tolerate a stray Van Gogh-like brush stroke on a Michelangelo? Or a poorly varnished Degas leaving splotches of gloss interspersed with dull matte over all those lovely pastel ballerineas?

Not hardly. Nor should your agent tolerate an overabundance of glaring errors, or even a minor scattering of annoying ones.

Feemus said...

Dwight-
I am completely on your side.

But...using an adjective as a noun is a *substantive* use of the adjective and not a gerund, which is, of course, a verbal noun.

The important thing, I think, is transparency, which "grammaticals" certainly has in this context.

So, with the throttling hands of death at strife,
Ground he at grammar.

Anonymous said...

"As if" is standard English. "Like" is considered nonstandard (or substandard).

It is one thing to be anal. But only be anal if you are right! Leave the copy editing to the copy editors.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Miss Snark forgot to correct that misplaced possessive apostrophe.

I'm stunned. Horrified, even.

It will take many months of snarkiness to restore my confidence in her agentship.

HawkOwl said...

It may be all about the story to you, but to the publishers it's all about the money, and fixing your grammar, spelling and typos is gonna cost them money. The more money it costs to get your book to a marketable state, the less they want it. Also, errors are distracting to the reader. Enough errors and the agent isn't gonna read through your manuscript, no matter how fabulous the story, so it's not gonna be sold. No matter how much you believe that you can be simultaneously a brilliant writer and an incompetent speller, grammarian and typist, it pays to send the agent a manuscript that's grammatical, spelled right, and typed accurately.

(That being said, someone needs to come up with a verb that means "to use correct grammar" so that I could write "a manuscript that's spelled, typed and grammared right" instead of having to break my mirror construction. Dwight, that sounds like a job for you.) :)

Annie Dean said...

Learn the rules. Then break them to use language more evocatively. If you dangle your participle in the wind, let it be for the thrill, not because you didn't know any better.

Feemus said...

oh--and I want to defend the use of "prurient," which commonly, but not *necessarily* refers "to interest in sexual subject matter."

It's radical meaning is "itch," and while often used to suggest lewdness can also mean simply to have and itching desire of any variety.

Chumplet said...

Hawkowl,
"That being said, someone needs to come up with a verb that means "to use correct grammar" so that I could write "a manuscript that's spelled, typed and grammared right" instead of having to break my mirror construction."

How about "grammaticized"? That sounds Canadian - would the American version be "grammaticised"? No, that looks stupid. Uh, let's try "grammatisised". Oh, crap, that looks even worse.

BuffySquirrel said...

I never in my life saw a ms, or indeed a published book, that was 100% error free. I'm still blushing over "waiter" for "water", which my husband caught. I don't think I would ever have seen it (the eye sees what it expects to see).

One of my favourite errors in someone else's book is in my copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's Warrior Scarlet, where, in the very first chapter heading on the very first page, it says 'Scarlet on the Loon' instead of 'Loom'. How many people missed that, I wonder?

kis said...

OK, so did anyone here not get what Dwight meant by the word "grammaticals"? Was anyone actually fooled for a moment into believing he was talking about proper grammar, rather than grammatical errors?

And for all of you who say it's not OK to use made-up words in a formal query letter, since when is an email question to Miss Snark's blog a formal query letter?

I can understand her irkiness (dig, dig) over the use of Ms. instead of Miss, especially in light of the fact that she's made a B F-ing D about it more than once. I believe her picking apart his email for errors was meant to be ironic, however, not a bitch-slap. I've seen questions here from non-nitwits (and even answers from her snarkiness, thank you very much) that are riddled with errors, and no one bats a freaking eye. Geez Loise, you people, leave the poor child alone.

And for crying out loud, he's a troubled teen. All his curiosities are prurient.

Now come on over here, Dwight, and get some cookies and a hug.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

The Grammarians Funeral(abridged)

Eight Parts of Speech this Day wear Mourning Gowns
Declin'd Verbs, Pronouns, Participles, Nouns.
And not declined, Adverbs and Conjunctions,
In Lillies Porch they stand to do their functions.
With Preposition; but the most affection
Was still observed in the Interjection.
The Substantive seeming the limbed best,
Would set an hand to bear him to his Rest.
The Adjective with very grief did say,
Hold me by strength, or I shall faint away.
The Clouds of Tears did over-cast their faces,
Yea all were in most lamentable Cases.

.....

What Syntax here can you expect to find?
Where each one bears such discomposed mind.
Figures of Diction and Construction,
Do little: Yet stand sadly looking on.
That such a Train may in their motion chord,
Prosodia gives the measure Word for Word.

Anonymous said...

Feemus, I luv Dwight, too. But your defense of his use of "prurient" makes little sense. A word's etymological origins don't necessarily apply directly to its present-day usage. Morever, it seems clear from the way in which he used it that he was simply mistaking its meaning. There's no sense of yearning or urgency implied in the phrase, "Just out of prurient interest...." Indeed, it implies the opposite--a casual interest.