Rant Va­lerie Grove

The Oldie - - NEWS -

Comma splice A friend, sud­denly be­reaved of her youth­ful, pop­u­lar GP hus­band, has re­ceived sacks of sym­pa­thetic let­ters. There were also some ready-made con­do­lence cards, one of which bore the words: ‘It’s Sim­ply Not Fair, Shar­ing in Your Sor­row,’ in­scribed with a gilded flour­ish.

Per­haps a full point af­ter ‘Fair’ would have de­prived her

fam­ily of what be­came for them a jokey re­frain. But the full stop is be­com­ing ob­so­lete. It has been re­placed by the ‘comma splice’.

Instructions at our hol­i­day villa in­cluded: ‘There is a re­cy­cling col­lec­tion for tin, pa­per and plas­tic on Tues­days, please put th­ese in the blue bags found un­der the sink.’ Its guest book was spat­tered with comma splices and ex­cla­ma­tion marks: ‘There are 345 pieces of crock­ery in this house, I un­packed each one of them!’

The DVLA con­firmed my road tax pay­ment: ‘The law has changed, you do not need to dis­play a tax disc, there­fore we will not is­sue one to you.’ The sen­tence is clunk­ingly in­el­e­gant. ‘Hi Va­lerie,’ writes a

PR. ‘I hope this finds you well, I want to give you a heads-up on Sarah’s new show…’

‘Dear PR: Your first six words are un­nec­es­sary, but at least they form a sen­tence. Give them their full point!’

‘Thank you ev­erso much for the Ban­gles, they are a very ple­sent con­tri­bu­tion for my megar Col­lec­tion.’ This let­ter from a fif­teen-year-old girl was cited – too kindly – by Robert Burch­field in his The

English Lan­guage (1984) as ‘charm­ingly rem­i­nis­cent of El­iz­a­bethan English’. Dr B won­dered, had English teach­ers no longer the power to put this right? Bayliss’s School Cer­tifi­cate

English (1934) put it sim­ply: ‘The full stop sep­a­rates com­plete thoughts.’ It has a rhetor­i­cal func­tion too: di­rect­ness, vivid­ness. His first ex­am­ple was: ‘Ser­vants are a prob­lem.’ Not a likely sub­ject for class­rooms to­day. But the full point makes its point. VA­LERIE GROVE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.