Tho I share the visceral response, I have also learnt that comma
splices are required in much legal discourse. Apparently lawyers
believe that judges believe semi-colons separate clauses to the point
where they may not modify each other (semantically), so they
intentionally use commas where the handbook rules require
semi-colons. Given their situated purposes, I certainly would want
any lawyers representing me to continue with their comma splices.
I agree with the various responses about spelling that are based in
situated rhetoric (and thus genre). As an immigrant to Canada, I
learned to spell words like 'labour" with a 'u' on the chalkboard
because that seemed to say something that mattered to my students (at
least in the 70s and early 80s)--even though they didn't seem to care
how their Canadian-born instructors spelt these words.
I think it is important to distinguish venial from mortal
sins. Perhaps because they are viewed as elementary--apostrophe
errors, along with "sentence sense" errors like comma splices and
errors that indicate non-elite or immigrant social status seem to
upset many readers more than most handbook errors. Cf., Maxine
Hairston's classic College English article, "Not All Errors are Created Equal."
You probably know this, but I'd also suggest that, when doing media
interviews, one should keep it simple, prepare two or three points
you want to make (and examples to support them), and keep focussed on
them despite all the pet peeves about "English" this topic is likely
to evoke from callers.
At 11:55 AM 8/27/2008, Ginny Ryan wrote:
>Greetings to everyone on this list! I have just been invited to sit
>in as the "visiting expert" on a CBC radio "Cross-talk" show on the
>topic "Does Spelling Matter?" It sounds to me like Pandora's box is
>once again to be opened in the province of Newfoundland. With equal
>parts delight and terror, I said "yes," and now I'm turning to all
>of you for positions, epiphanies, and metaphors. You see, they
>wanted someone who "sees both sides of the issue," and in me they
>found such a someone. I am old enough (and old-fashioned enough???)
>to feel that yes, it matters very much (in many contexts). But I
>also listen every day to brilliant and passionate young tutors who
>argue for simplicity and accessibility, and who point out that
>deliberate, alternate spellings shouldn't matter if they do not
>interfere with understanding (as Charles Shultz once put it in one
>of his cartoons, "If K-A-T doesn't spell 'cat,' what /does /it spell?")
>This issue is forcing me to try to resolve a dilemma I've carried
>around for years. For example, I absolutely hate comma splices, but
>I've never quite determined whether my hatred of them stems from
>some justifiable philosophical principle that I haven't yet managed
>to articulate, or rather from simple snobbishness and adherence to
>rules-for-the-sake-of-rules. Similarly, and more to the point, here,
>I hate the sign outside the garden centre that says "Begonia's for
>sale," but wonder whether my reaction is really justifiable, since
>any reader will understand that all the sign /means/ is that there
>is more than one begonia being sold.
>Now, I understand and can readily explain to any call-in guest that
>in the context of a student paper submitted for a grade at a
>university, while misspellings generally (not always! I know!) do
>not interfere with meaning, they are also generally considered
>unacceptable by the intended readership and so should be avoided.
>But the bigger questions are _why_ are such spellings
>unacceptable? Do they matter outside of academia (and business)?
>And if they matter, why do they matter?
>I welcome any and all reactions, apologize for my own lengthy
>silence on this list, and hope that despite it you'll be vocal!
>The Writing Centre
>Memorial University of Newfoundland
>St. John's, Newfoundland
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