Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't Be a Condescending Twit

From Lawrence Auster's recent post on how to write when commenting on his blog:

Mathematical symbols should also be avoided. For example, many people today will write “30+” instead of “more than 30.” This is not desirable. Our medium of communication is the English language.

My advice:

People take more kindly to explanations of the rules when you don't do it in a way that makes you look like a condescending twit.

In fact, that is the biggest problem I have with Mr. Auster.  He has a lot of good ideas, but he gets a particular bee in his bonnet (like the split infinitive) and starts acting as if anyone who does not share his preferences is somehow subhuman or an illiterate.

By the way, there is no actual rule against the split infinitive, and the reason people don't like splitting it is because in many languages it is a single word.  Yet, I have never seen people argue that "I am not going" is a bad construction (as compared to "I am going not") because it splits a present construction that is a single word in many languages.  I really would not be annoyed if not for his statement (in one of his first posts on the subject, one I cannot find at the moment) that if there is no way to avoid splitting the infinitive without being ambiguous, that you should just jettison the adverb altogether, meaning that obeying a non-rule guideline is more important that expressing your precise meaning.

That is all.


Anonymous said...

Fully agree. Auster is completely humorless and it does a great disservice to his ideas - many of which are worthwhile.

Peter said...

Ending sentences with a preposition is another example of supposedly bad grammar that actually isn't bad at all.