I’ve recently acquired a copy of Dreyer’s English, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far. Dreyer’s funny, well aware of the foibles of copyeditors and authors alike. His comment about writers’ pet sentence constructions was, like, a huge mental relief, because my until-recently-unconscious love of a particular sentence structure is the bane of my existence right now. It was nice to know I’m not the only writer in the world writing different sentences in the same exact way, over and over again.
Dreyer is not a proponent of two spaces after a period, and that … well. Sorry. I’m old, and I’ve been typing since I was eight, so thirty-odd years of habit are going nowhere.
But here’s a story: I got into a silly Facebook “fight” with someone over the two spaces after a period–one of those silly things that was all in good fun, no big deal.* Except at some point it stopped being fun, mostly because I realized I actually don’t care. Like, I do this out of habit. I was taught to as a kid, whatever. Some editors care, some don’t; the ones who do care are usually kind enough to say so in their guidelines, which means I do a find and replace. Because money will always trump any stylistic preference I have.
I do use the Oxford comma. I do not care. You can tell me I don’t need it. You can bring up AP style. I refuse to skip the comma before the ‘and.’ You and those strippers dressed like JFK and Stalin can go skipping the Oxford comma all you want, it’s cool. I’ll be over here with my babies, tucking them in at the ends of lists.
On the whole, I don’t want to be a dick about grammar. In high school, first quarter I would always get a B in English, and it was entirely due to how the curriculum front-loaded grammar every year. Drove my mother nuts. It wasn’t until I started teaching grammar that I started to really get it–one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it, I think–but I still don’t want to diagram a sentence.
And, you know, nobody has perfect grammar. Nobody catches every typo (I think it was Neil Gaiman who said the easiest way to find a typo in your published book is to open it. Because that will be the first thing you see). But, at least in the case of this book, it’s fun to read about people whose job it is to try.
(Oh, and one of my other favorite things so far in the book: “Sometimes sentences don’t need to be repunctuated; they need to be rewritten” (25). Ain’t that the truth.)
*For the record, the battle lines fell pretty much generationally. Gen X and above are pro-two spaces, the youth of today are all one-spacers. It was kind of hilarious.
Dreyer, Benjamin. Dreyer’s English. Random House, 2019.