The Turtle and the Swan

The title sounds like a fable, doesn't it? It is, in fact, a random phrase I used to break the ice for writing this. I use this trick regularly to start writing, otherwise, I tend to just stare dumbly at the keyboard and fret over the perfect beginning. I never start. Generally, I go back and change it after the writing begins and I have some idea what I'm writing about (should that occur). I'm not going to change the title today.

One thing I'm sure of is that this will not be a fable. I'm not prepared to come up with a thoughtful little story with the requisite parts to draw a moral conclusion, especially one that would be enriching to the young or chastening to the old, who have their heads firmly up their asses. I've reached that portion of my life where I've passed the point of becoming philosophical in a kindly and patient way. Or maybe that comes later when I have a life changing visit from the agents of the almighty who remind me of what happens to my ilk. If that's what happens, then I'll just have to go with the flow.

For now, we'll just wrap up the payoff of the piece's title and go right to the "moral of the story" as they use to say in the little golden book of fables that I cut my widely spaced teeth on. The moral is; Get your head out of your ass.

You see what I did there? I not only provided everyone with a valid and thought-provoking moral, but even more cunningly, I used a semicolon in a sentence and, so far at least, I have not been struck palsied by the God of the Written Word (if he or she exists separately, as I've always suspected).

Interestingly, as a side note, I just checked (finally) the rule on The Period and the Parentheses, which would have also made a good title for this piece. Honestly, for those of you who do not regularly concern yourself with writing stuff, there's an entire world out there concerned with sentence structure and punctuation. It's much larger, much geekier and much farther underground than all of the StarWars, StarTrek, Dungeons and Dragons and comic book worlds that gather at Comic-Con events everywhere.

Like the Comic-Conners, the people obsessed with writing style try, but also cannot pass for normal because their nervous behaviors and twitching give them away quickly wherever the written word exists. Go into a place where people read and you'll hear sudden outbursts of sniggering and tsking, people shouting minced obscenities and holding newspapers, magazines, and books aloft while pointing out written errors to the people around them. Most of whom, could care less whether the New Yorker omitted the Oxford Commas in an entire essay or that the period lies outside the closing quotation mark on a bit of dialog. It is very close to a parallel universe existing within and among our own common paths.

Anyway, I thought I'd check the consensus style "mavenalia" to see where they stood on where to place the period in a sentence that contains a parenthetical portion. The Necronomicon of Writing Style is that of the Associated Press, also known as the AP Style Book. It is considered to govern professional journalism, for the most part, at least that's my take on things. But they're far from the only "authority" on writing style. There are many dozens. Probably the most famous is the little book called Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Many consider it the original canon of writing style. The EoS was put together William Strunk, in 1918, as a cheat sheet to help his students learn to write and pass his Cornell University class. As I understand the story, he had rules and he got tired of repeating them. Later in the 1950's, E.B. White (the same guy that wrote Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little), who had studied under Strunk, updated the little book adding additional rules for writing.

Over time much more has been added to the simple little book but the best portions are the original and anyone needing to write more than a shipping label (meaning everyone) should look up the simple rules from the original. The most beautifully concise being: "OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS". A rule I break with a regularity I wish I had in other parts of my, um, life.

I've really wandered off from the campfire here. The path I set out upon, four paragraphs ago, was that I went online to check style for periods and parentheses (I do like that phrase) and the first one I clicked was the online style guide of the APA, which while it sounds a bit like AP (Associated Press) is instead the style guide of the American Psychological Association. Now, while I'm sure this organization publishes a great many papers and is justified in their need to have oversight upon the syntax of articles put out under their name, it struck me as humorous and paradoxical given what I suppose is my jaded view of organizations that like to "control" and fixate on the strictness of rules concerning some aspects of life, if you follow my thought. I hope I don't have to go further into the explanation of this.

It seemed funny at the time but now, not so much. I wasn't expecting a big laugh at the end of this, but I did feel I had to make through to the end. So Mission Accomplished.

I guess that's all I wanted to say, except that the style guide says the period should come after the closing paren in sentences which have an enclosed parenthetical portion, whereas the period should appear before the closing paren in sentences which are entirely within parentheses. Just as I have always done it. But now it's official, at least within the APA style.

That and that I need to get my head out of ass.

Originally Published on Rising-Gorge on 6/20/2016


Popular Posts