Woe unto the world. I have a new pet hate. A trend is arising within the bowels of the internet that I cannot abide. Every time I see it I want to spew my bile across the web, for there are some things up with which we will not put.
I’m speaking, of course, of inserting a comment after ‘But’ at the beginning of a sentence.
And a MegaDoom-article with multiple unforgivable errors:
Finally, here’s a Buzzfeed article with some slightly more amusing comma-fails
There are some of you out there who will be angry at the use of ‘but’ at the beginning of the sentence at all, but I’m sanguine about that. It’s the misuse of the comma that makes my blood boil. But (no comma) I’m coming across this error more and more as I trawl my way through blogs and news-sites. Maybe it’s an American thing – most of the culprits seem to be American, although that might just be where I’m looking – or maybe it’s simply a lack of editorial oversight. But (no comma) it must stop. Now.
I suppose I should admit to being a grammar pedant. Misused apostrophes irritate, sadden and amuse in almost equal measure. I just don’t understand the problem: the rules aren’t that hard to grasp, are they? But I’m used to them. Artistically speaking, miscomma-ing has far more impact and can jerk me out of a story in a heartbeat. Especially when a piece is supposed to have been professionally edited and a whole committee must have got together to make an incorrect decision.
[Pedantry sidebar: it has never been ‘wrong’ to boldly split infinitives that no-one has split before. The ‘rule’ came from 19th century academics looking at Latin grammar and deciding that, since it was so superior to every other language, nothing that couldn’t be done in Latin could be done by anyone else ever.]
I try not to be too anal. I know that language changes and that usage evolves and develops. That’s part of the beauty of words. Similarly no-one came down and in a single act laid down punctuative laws; the system we use is a result of millennia of experimentation. If anyone’s interested I recommend Shady Characters by Keith Houston as an entertaining read.
And language and punctuation are still changing. Just a few decades ago no-one would have dared start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But.’ I use sentence fragments all the time. I am hardly a paragon of grammar knowledge, as can be judged from my score of 30% on a test aimed at 11-year-olds.
But (no comma) bad punctuation really grinds my gears. Punctuation, much more than words, is what writing is. Woebetide any novelist who dares approach me with a published work that doesn’t get this right.
And I’d literally erase literally unless we use literally literally.