Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I’m reading #102

There is a Facebook group of New Zealand editors and others interested in editing. It is a useful group, and useful to observe.  Some posts ask for a ruling on which usage is correct – this or that? The answer, imho, is almost always “Either – just be consistent.” That is, style rules. And what you think is correct is what you learned at school from a teacher who learned from a teacher who learned from a teacher…. So it’s possibly not best practice in 2013. As always, the Economist (which is very often my style guide) has a view. Quote unquote:
Some people seem to think love for language means memorising the longest possible list of grammar rules and style shibboleths. This is too often coupled with smug self-congratulation. But a real understanding of language acknowledges which rules are truly ironclad, which ones are in dispute and which ones are mere style choices.
Matt Nolan on Max Rashbrooke on poverty. Matt is an economist, so is all about trade-offs. Quote unquote:
Many people who believe that we can take money off the rich to feed the poor simultaneously believe we are “stretching the limits” of the earth’s ability to produce food and other goods and services (such that the ‘costs’ of making more of these necessities will rise strongly if we aim to boost production significantly).  These two views implicitly contradict, and we can only understand and try to measure the true trade-off with an honest view of the change in prices!
Harping on this theme of New Zealand’s vanishingly small degrees of separation, Max might have been the colicky baby who kept me awake at nights when I lived in York Bay in 1979 next to a very nice couple called Rashbrooke.  

You probably know the Vampire Weekend hit “Oxford Comma,” in which Ezra Koenig asks, “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” Koenig has said that the song was inspired by a Columbia University Facebook group called Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma—and he claims that the song “is more about not giving a fuck than about Oxford commas.” But Koenig’s disdain for this bit of punctuation—which is disregarded by publications that should know better, but agreed upon by right-thinking usage nerds everywhere—appears to be shared by all of his professional peers. By calling their new album Now, Then & Forever, Earth, Wind & Fire seem intent on rubbing it in.
My bold of everything that is wrong there. See above: it’s style, neither wrong nor right. It’’s a choice. I have edited for Oxford UP and used it; I have edited for everyone else and not used it. David Cohen will start arguing with me about this within seconds on Facebook. I’ll put the timer on.

Scribd as the Netflix or Spotify for books. Well, yes. Someone was going to.

$40 million for a tablet edition of a magazine you’ve never heard of. Quote unquote:
Some $2 million of the investment went on research into how consumers interacted with content and ads. One of the most important lessons they learned was that interactive ads captured a user’s attention for an average of 9.4 seconds, compared to just 3.4 seconds for a static ad.
Ads in the edition, served every three or four pages, are designed with this in mind, such as a nail polish colour tester that enables you to try different shades on the model in the ad, or a slider showing tooth colour change.
David Thompson does a round-up of recent opinion on funding of the arts and how it favours one political side more than the other. Who knew? Quote unquote from David Mamet:
It is only in state-subsidised theatre (whether the subsidy is direct, in the form of grants, or indirect, as tax-deductible donations to universities or arts organisations) that the ideologue can hold sway, for he is then subject not to the immediate verdict of the audience but to the good wishes of the granting authority, whose good wishes he will, thus, devote his energies to obtaining.
This networking thing isn’t new, says David Bodanis in the Literary Review about Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years. Quote unquote:
Authors have it hard. Publishers scarcely exist, copyright is impossible to enforce and books become known not through stores or proper advertising, but by scattered personal recommendations. Even once-famous names end up trying to get their works noted by popular sites. The agony is not just that of our present digital era, but that of Cicero’s Rome. And 17th-century England. And pre-Revolutionary France.
On a more cheerful note, via Mick Hartley, a mural by Natalia Rak in Poland:


Paul said...

What is this thing called, love?
(copyright D. Norden)

helenalex said...

The Oxford comma is important when it affects meaning, but usually it doesn't.

I went to uni with Max and vaguely remember him being from Eastbourne. So it probably was him.

Stephen Stratford said...

I agree re the comma and use it for clarity. Otherwise, not. Flexibility rules.