Rant Valerie Grove
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 It has been replaced by the ‘comma splice’.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