April 25, 2004

Stylish punctuation. Edmund Morris gives a pretty bad review to the brilliantly titled book about punctuation, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

Memorable observation from Morris: "The greatest stylists -- those who 'hear' as they write -- punctuate sparingly and subtly." This observation is followed by some wonderful examples of subtle punctuation by great writers and a dig at editors bound to present-day style manuals:
I just reread ''Middlemarch,'' alternating between old (1891) and new (Modern Library, 1992) editions, and was disconcerted by the latter's willingness to alter Eliot's original marks. For instance, Dorothea Brooke, in 1891, was ''troublesome -- to herself, chiefly.'' A hundred years later, that long, corrective dash is gone, and so is the comma emphasis. Qualification is now changed to consequence. This is not editing: it's rewriting.

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