On Poor Editing and The Glamour of Grammar

Greetings, folks! Happy Easter to those who celebrate.  To everyone else, happy Sunday!

          Currently, I’m reading an anthology called A Convergence of Birds, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer.  Each of the pieces in the anthology are based on different pieces of artwork by Joseph Cornell.  While the pieces that make up the anthology are quite good, I find myself distracted, nearly to the point of becoming infuriated, by errors.  Back seat is back sear.  Another error read something like “In the tank was a branch of coral, which usually be in the bottom of the sea.”  Another error in the text currently escapes me, but each was in the same particular piece.  What baffles me is that the text has gone through two or three editions by the time of the publication of the edition I have.
More after the jump!

          I once purchased a collection of poems by Sergei Esenin on Amazon.  What I didn’t know is that the book was published by an individual on Amazon with little editing.  The hasty, messy translation, full of errors and odd line breaks made for distracted reading.  Though Esenin is a celebrated poet in Russia, my introduction to him was not a memorable experience.
          I had read another novel, a translation of Edouard Leve’s Works, but there must have been and error in setting the print, as words ran together on each line, seemingly a last-minute edit that affected the entire novel and escaped notice.
          It’s understandable, of course, that errors happen, but the fact that such obvious mistakes escape notice is baffling.  Certainly, I don’t mean to be a jerk, but it’s the kind of thing that gets stuck in my head and undermines an entire text.
          Anyway, let’s move on to a lighter note.
          While I progress through a few novels, I just wanted to offer a few words regarding Roy Peter Clark’s The Glamour of Grammar. First and foremost, I’d like to say that Clark’s book is not a grammar manual. Instead, Clark discusses a variety of ideas regarding written English, covering everything from using “the period to determine emphasis and space” to things like irony and different standards. Through the five sections (Words, Points, Standards, Meanings, and Purpose), Clark covers a lot of ground, and he does so in brief chapters ending with reminders or points he calls keepsakes. For example, when it comes to the section on complex sentences, the list of keepsakes reads as the following:

     -Complex sentences create a connection between clauses that are unequal and dependent.
-Compound sentences balances the scales with clauses of about equal weight.
-The punctuation of complete sentence depends on the position of the subordinate clause. That advice seems abstract, but the application is quite easy. If the weaker clause comes first, use a comma to separate it from the main clause. (As I just did.) You will usually not need a comma if the weaker clause comes at the end of the sentence.
-Equal clauses need stronger connectors than a comma. Tie one clause to another with a semicolon or with a comma plus a conjunction such as and or but.

Clark attempts to instill these grammar lessons through funny anecdotes or by connecting grammar to popular culture. In one instance, Clark uses the world of Harry Potter. In several other instances, Clark refers to his own writing or that of other writers. Generally, the lesson connects to pop culture in some manner.

I’m not exactly sure where to place The Glamour of Grammar. On one hand, it’s rather entertaining—at least, moreso than you’d expect a book on grammar to be.  On the other, it’s still a book about grammar. I appreciate Clark’s attempts to instill the lessons by means of humor, but the book is not exactly exciting reading, and it’s not as useful or handy as, say, a grammar handbook, so Clark is in fairly odd territory. Certainly, I don’t fault Clark. He does an admirable job of making relatively dry material interesting, and even though I’ve read the book fairly closely, I find it a bit difficult to retain everything he writers.  Then again, I’m more of a practice learner, a hands-on learner, anyway.  In any case, The Glamour of Grammar is a nice reminder of all of the rules from elementary school that we’ve since forgotten.

Best wishes and Happy Sunday.

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2 thoughts on “On Poor Editing and The Glamour of Grammar

  1. The Glamour of Grammar definitely sounds interesting. I guess I’m just confused about who his target audience is? Like is he writing this for writers of for the layman who is curious about grammar (still confused about what that demographic would look like).

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    1. I feel like he’s writing for an adult crowd looking to get into writing. He makes some older references that I’m not sure the younger crowd would get, but some of the rules are actually rather basic. I suppose we could all use a refresher. Maybe it’s one of those books that try to make a boring topic interesting, but I think Clark deserves a bit more credit than that.

      I actually had my professor recommend it to me about 2 years ago, so I’m really not sure. I’m thinking more of a refresher for writers, but he also says “if you’re looking for writing, turn to…” so I feel like he’s trying to reach a general demographic but also has enough to be at least interesting for writers.

      Does that blabber make sense?

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