As I write and edit, I constantly find myself scratching my head about American English and wondering how anyone manages to communicate or, moreso, how someone learns it as a second language.
The job of an author is not easy. Let’s skip over the plotting and character development and structure… all the easy things. Let’s assume all that is perfect. Then comes the part of putting it down on paper. The words an author uses have to convey his/her thoughts. And that’s where it gets hard. The picture is of James Joyce’s editing effort on just two pages from Finnegans Wake. That’s insane! If he had been working on a computer, the delete button would have been worn out.
But I think an author has an advantage over someone trying to have a conversation. The author gets to use the delete button, or a red pen. When we are speaking, we can’t delete the words. How many times have any of us said, “Well, that’s not what I meant.” And how many have led to arguments? …just because of miscommunication.
And those instances are between people who speak the language. For those who are trying to learn it, the following examples are on my list of headscratchers. See if you agree. Some are interesting rules. Where grammar is an issue, and not just a lack of any sense, I defer to Webster and/or the Chicago Manual of Style. [Read more…]