Sunday, March 16, 2008

Of Split Infinitives and Dangling Modifiers

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to write - of all the skills I learned in school, that has the most relevance to my work right now. It’s a good thing I paid attention to my classes in English and Communication. “You are more articulate when you write than when you speak,” a friend recently observed. I must agree. I revel in stringing words together but bumble when they need to be orally expressed.

My fascination for writing goes way back in grade school when I learned about the ‘evils’ of splitting infinitives and ending my sentences with prepositions. That’s also when I discovered how to use, big, unpronounceable words for added flourish.

In college, I unlearned all of those things. Dangling modifiers are not acceptable but sentences containing split infinitives or ending with prepositions are. Going against those old precepts is a violation of convention, not of principles. Big words are often not only mispronounced but also misused. As the rule goes: "Don’t use a big word where a small one will do!" So why use discombobulate when you can use confuse, instead? Writing is about all clarity. It is perfectly acceptable to split infinitives or use smaller words to make our writing more intelligible.

Writing can be viewed as a metaphor for our lives. Why stick to old precepts if they only lead to more ambiguity?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why use equanimity when you can you use sangfroid, instead?

Angeli said...

because the latter is more difficult to pronounce? :)

Anonymous said...

Cormac McCarthy wins the Pulitzer Prize and his inconsistent usage of punctuation is so annoying and distracting.

They should take away his punctuation license. :)

Angeli said...

his use of punctuation comes with his poetic license. :)

 
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