Losing the will to live…

[Jewels from Page 8]

A land of green valleys and coal mine’s…

Julian Ruck, we call upon you to stop using apostrophes to form plurals. You are causing real pain both to your readers (or to both your readers) and to the innocent apostrophes themselves. You may well be in breach of the Geneva convention with regards to cruel and unusual punishments – we have sent several of our best monkeys to Geneva in order to find out more. If you continue to use apostrophes to form plurals, we will not hesitate to prosecute you to the fullest extent permissible by law.

Her mother was a traitor, she had forsaken her Welshness.

Two independent phrases need more than a comma to bind them together; this is semi-colon territory again. Like the one we just used there; see how it works? Be honest with us, Julian; haven’t we given you enough examples? If you need more, do let us know; we live to serve.

…Lise took a job as a chambermaid in one of the grand hotels for the rich that settled sedately and with an eye for trouble, in the main High Street of the town.

Ouch. That comma is probably unnecessary, although it’s hard to tell since the sentence is already in terminal difficulties by that point. Who is settling sedately, Julian? Is it ‘one of the grand hotels’ or ‘the rich’? It couldn’t be a hotel with an eye for trouble, could it? How would that work? Would it sneak into the bars of other hotels and knock their drinks over deliberately? But ‘the rich’ wouldn’t settle sedately in the high street, would they? Unless perhaps they were trying to experience life as a tramp.

[Yes, we know that there are a great deal of question marks in that paragraph; but please believe us when we say that they only represent a tiny fraction of our bewilderment.]

Truth be told, even more than your wilful abuse of apostrophes, commas and semi-colons, it is this kind of rambling and largely incomprehensible sentence which makes it clear that you didn’t get an editor (or even a decent proofreader) to work on your manuscript, Julian.

An editor would have told you to stop trying to be clever all the time; to stop trying to fit too much information into a sentence. An editor would have told you to focus on clarity of thought and clarity of expression. If you were our responsibility, Julian, we’d have you doing basic descriptive drills – first of all, to get you in the habit of stripping out all the unnecessary gunk, and then to show you how far a single adjective can go when you’re not trying to put extra ham on everything.

I’m afraid we can’t take you on as a writing student, though, Julian; our monkeys are too busy producing the entire works of Shakespeare.


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Filed under The Society for the Preservation of Commas

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